• Andrew Thornhill

How to Reduce Administrative Burden of your ISO Management System

Updated: May 18

In this video, I'm going to take you through our top eight strategies for reducing the administrative burden that sometimes builds up around a management system we put in place.


If you keep watching right to the end of the video, I'll take you through a process you can step through regularly to help you trim the fat out of your management system.


One thing consultants often see is a company calling us in and they've got an existing management system, which has grown overtime and got excessive documentation behind it. These 8 strategies should help you manage that situation.

1. Only do what's helping you achieve the compliance objective

You need to ensure the procedures in place are either a requirement of the standard/regulation, or they help you to achieve your compliance objective.


Essentially, if they're not contributing to your objectives and not required, what are you actually doing it for? They are just going to contribute to that administrative burden.


If you're unsure whether you have procedures that are not needed, you can think about the ones that are 'covered in dust' that no ones looked at in 2 or more years. That then stands out as something you could revise or completely cut out.


2. Focus on the Outcome, Not just the Process

Oftentimes we see people focusing just on the process or procedure, but you need to go further than this and start to think about the outcome.


If the procedure is on traceability and recall from a food safety perspective, you need to start with thinking about what you're trying to achieve. What's the outcome you want from this? That then helps you design a fit for purpose, process and procedure to support that because you know what you're aiming for.


A really simple example can be seen with safety induction - when you're focused on the process, you will probably start to measure what percentage of staff have completed the safety induction. That's well and good but what's been a better focus is to think about what the outcome will be once these people have been inducted.


This way, you will end up with an outcome that staff are aware of the key hazards in their work area and know how to manage those hazards. That's the kind of thinking you need to be focused on.


3. Integrate Your Management Systems

A further option for reducing the bulk of our system is to integrate your management systems.


There are pro's and con's of doing this, but if we think about all of the management system standards, they have quite a lot of common requirements, such as:

  • Internal Audit

  • Corrective Action

  • Management Review


If you've got a safety system, an environmental system and a quality system, you don't need three different management review processes or three different corrective action reporting processes.


There's no reason you can't just use the one process which can be used to raise a corrective action in relation to quality, safety or environment through that.


The ISO standards actually encourage you to integrate your management system into your strategic and business level processes and your operational processes wherever you can.


And by that, I mean, if you've got some established process (the team already know how to test raw materials and inspect raw materials when they arrive on site), then why do you need a great big procedure telling them what they're already doing effectively?



A great way that you can start to integrate your processes is through the use of an online compliance management software.


4. Risk Based Thinking


Using the example of food safety, you need to start thinking about where the risks are, which ones are critical, and whether you need documentation to guide people on what to do. For lower risk areas, you don't need to over-document that.


5. Understand the Process

We have started to touch on the next tip already, which is related to having a solid understanding of the process.


If you read the standards carefully, right in the introduction of the standards they encourage you to establish and implement processes for those standards. Whether that be food management, safety management or environmental management, the focus of ISO is actually on the process.


Using an environmental example for incident reporting, what's your process to report an incident when it occurs? That's what you need to plan, manage, implement and sustain.


It's not just a procedure. A documented procedure or form might be part of the controls you need to support that process but it's not the process itself.


6. Standardize Your Workflow

Have a standard workflow where people have to go through the steps in a consistent way.


Using the example of accident incident reporting, we often work with companies that have got a 12 page procedure on it. By using a software option, they've cut that down to half a page.


Go to your software product, raise your accident report and that's got a built in workflow and mandatory steps which is a much more effective process.


7. Focus on Improvement, Not Just Compliance

When looking at the documentation, you need to focus on improvement rather than just compliance. We see a lot of instances where people think here's a record we need to make, we must document something for it. But you must think more broadly and start to consider how you can improve your performance.


If you've got an environmental management system and can demonstrate you've got the mandatory documentation for environmental performance, then you can have a pretty sleek and streamlined system to support that we're achieving what we aim to achieve.


8. Consider the Audience

The purpose of a procedure is to guide people on how to perform certain steps they need to do consistently. So you need to think about the audience and how they learn, then use language or visual elements to suit that.


Some people learn visually, not through a 15-page procedure, even if they have signed off to say, "Yes I'm aware of this procedure", it doesn't mean they’ve taken in that content and understood it.


In short, give instruction where they need instruction, and cut out the waffle. You'd be surprised by how many times we get a 14-page procedure which we then cut back to what's critical and all of a sudden its only two and a half pages.



A regular step you can go through to make sure your system is streamlined is to do an annual review and take that risk focused approach that we talked about earlier.


Also think about the evidence of your performance. I mentioned that incoming inspection and testing and raw materials. If you decide that you need a procedure now, you may need to come back 2 or 3 years down the track to consider whether that is still required.


Look at the evidence of performance

  1. Have you been performing that process consistently and effectively?

  2. Is it detecting the kind of problems with raw materials that are not fit for purpose that you would hope that process to pick up?


If it is, then you can make a choice. Do you need the documentation or perhaps can you get rid of it? Because clearly the team know what they're doing, they're achieving the outcome you're looking for.


If you are finding this series informative, we encourage you to subscribe to our YouTube Channel. We've got a whole range of videos to help you develop your knowledge and support you on your journey to certification.


Thanks for watching.



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