What Does ‘Top Management’ Commitment Mean for Management Systems?

What is Top Management Commitment?

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Understanding this information is essential for members of your management team, and also important for the rest of your organisation to know that ‘top management’ is taking care of business.
If your organisation is certified to any one of the ISO management system standards (eg. Quality, Safety, Environment, Information Security, etc), then this this is an important aspect of your management system that needs to be clearly understood and the associated roles and responsibilities clearly defined and documented.
Watch the video above, or read on to learn about the responsibilities of the management team.

There’s often some confusion, even apprehension, within organisations when asked about top management commitment in the context of one of the ISO management system standards.

Who Is Top Management?

The implementation of a management system should be a strategic decision by top management. But commitment from top managers is not always clearly understood. So what exactly is considered to be “Top Management”?

Top Management Definition

Within the ISO 9000 series of standards, “Top Management” is defined as the person or group of people who directs and controls an organisation at the highest level.

Within the Quality Management System standard, ISO 9001, the responsibilities for Top Management include the following requirements:

That’s a lot of actions, objectives and ‘ensuring’ for Top Management to do! And, yes, the above list is just a superficial summary of the clauses from the ISO 9001 standard. In this post I’m not discussing these specific requirements, their implementation or demonstrated effectiveness. That’s another article.

A Strategic Approach

But if you seriously consider it, who is responsible for any strategic planning within your organisation? They are the “Top Management“.

Often Top Management is the board of directors, and it is they who should consider the above requirements when reviewing and setting the company vision and objectives.

In particular, note the link between meeting customer requirements and organisational objectives. This alignment should be visible throughout the organisation. All operations and business processes should be aligned with the organisational objectives and with meeting customer requirements.

A Pragmatic Approach

Looking at it from an even more pragmatic point of view –
replace every instance of the word “quality” in this article with the word “strategic” …

does “Top Management Commitment” become clearer?

Like many commitments, it may be easy to promise, but takes hard work and continued focus to deliver.

Professional Services Case Study – Internal Audit

The Brief:

To conduct a series of internal audits for a professional services organisation in line with the requirements of the ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems standard.

The organisation had its annual surveillance audit scheduled within four months of contacting us. It’s management system was said to be well documented, but planned internal audits had not been completed due to a lack of resources. Demands on staff had increased in recent months with the organisation expanding its product delivery into more markets.

What we did:

We reviewed the findings of the last external audit and saw that there had been a number of recommendations noted in the audit report.Generally, these centred around documentation control and refinements to record keeping. Many of these recommendations had not been implemented.

We reviewed the register used to log non-conformances and improvement recommendations and noted that there were a number of outstanding issues that dated back more than six months.

We identified at least six key documented procedures and conducted internal audits on them and their associated records. Concurrent with this was a review of the Quality Manual, various policies and gaining a greater insight of the overall management system and workflow.

Our Findings:

The findings of our audits reinforced the requirement to tighten up some of the record keeping, but also identified the need to update some of the documented procedures. Part of this included an opportunity to also rationalise some of the documented procedures.As with many organisations, and in particular those that have undergone recent expansion, the completeness and timeliness of record keeping had lapsed a little. In addition, the procedures themselves had been originally documented more than two years earlier when the overall business structure and strategy were different. The organisation had moved on, but the procedures had not been consistently updated.

The Outcomes:

In identifying gaps in records and changes in documented procedures, we were able to focus the management team on specific changes that could be readily implemented.Specific records and logs could be updated and procedures revised to reflect current practices.

As with many projects, a by-product was the increased communication and collaboration among the management team and between management and other staff. In improving the level of understanding across all staff, the management team were able to rectify some misconceptions and poor practices that had crept into the workflow. It also raised awareness of how the management system underpinned their operations and the need to keep procedures and records up to date.

After completing the internal audits, we were able to provide resources for guidance and facilitation of our recommended changes. We also assisted in establishing tools for data analysis and templates for improving various record registers and schedules.

And, YES, the organisation maintained its certification, without any non-conformances, following the subsequent external audit.

When Customer Service Fails

Do you know what your customer service staff say to your customers?

How are your customers really being treated?

Every day, staff are interacting with customers.

What impression do customers take away from their experience with your staff?

Consider the following interaction between the service staff at a car dealership and a long standing customer requesting a routine car service.

Customer drops off vehicle for service

Customer: “How long do you need the car for?”
Staff Member: “We should have it ready for you to pick up by 4pm.”
Customer: “That’s fine. Can you also look at the lock mechanism on the front passenger door. It sometimes takes a couple of goes to get it to lock.”
Staff Member: “Yes, we can take a look at that for you.”
Customer: “Can you also look at the brakes? There’s a slight pulsing in the pedal, particularly when braking to a complete stop.
Staff Member:  “Sure. We’ll check it out and let you know.”
Customer: “Ok. I’ll see you at 4. You have my phone number if you need to contact me during the day.”
(Staff member confirms correct phone number.)

4pm – Customer returns
Staff Member:  “I’ll find out what’s happening with your car. There’s a waiting room upstairs if you’d care to wait.”
(No further feedback provided.)
[social_quote duplicate=”no” align=”default”]I won’t be coming back again! -the result of bad #custexp[/social_quote]
Customer: “Can you let me know how much longer?”
Staff Member:  “I’ll check to see for you.”
Staff Member:  “It should be ready soon.”

Customer (to others waiting): “This is ridiculous!”
Fellow Customer: “Yes, I won’t be coming back here again!”

Staff: “Your vehicle is ready.”
Staff Member:  “We completed the service. You need new tires. We couldn’t find the problem with your brakes, but you need new pads soon, so that should fix it.”
Staff Member:  “The problem with the passenger door lock is that the mechanism needs to be replaced.”
Customer: “Why didn’t you let me know? Don’t you have the tyres and brake pads in stock? What about the door lock?”

customer experience mechanic
Staff Member:  “Oh, we ran out of time. No, the door can’t be locked at all now. We can book it in to have the part fitted next week.”
Customer: “That would be good. (I think.)”
(No apology for the lack of contact, or the delay in the car being available, or any clarification on parts required, or the fact that the vehicle can no longer be secured!)

Some days later …

Customer: “I’m here to have the new door lock fitted.”
Staff Member:  “Ah yes. Let’s get that done for you right away. Sorry for the problems last time. We were really busy. Our survey department received your customer feedback form. We hope you will give us full marks for today.”
Customer: “We’ll see.”
Staff Member:  “You know, we receive a bonus when we get good scores on customer surveys. And we get the best scores in the city for our service. I actually share my bonus with my colleague, and he shares his with me, so we always come out on top.”
Customer: “Hmmm.”

Later that day …

Staff Member:  “All done. Be sure to give us a positive report when our customer survey team contact you.”

[social_quote duplicate=”no” align=”default”]Your customer’s experience IS your brand! #custexp[/social_quote]


Is this how staff treat your customers or clients? What incentives do you provide your staff for satisfying your customer’s needs? If your staff are not placing the interests of your customers first, then your customers will not stick around.

Your customer service, and more specifically, the experience of your customers, IS YOUR BRAND!

Infographic – Customer Experience

Take a look at this recent post, Wake-Up – Take customer experience seriously by Torben Rick. It includes a great infographic with 8 key points to consider about customer experience.


No, the customer has not returned to that dealership. In fact, attempts to obtain good customer service from another nearby dealership were also a dismal failure. And to cap this off, the issue with the brakes was remedied by an independent brake specialist for one-third the cost of the quote provided by the original dealership, without replacing any parts. In addition, a visit to a local tire specialist resulted in the purchase and fitting of four new tires.

This customer will not be purchasing another vehicle of this make any time soon; and definitely not without some solid evidence of a major turnaround in their customer service attitude and training.

Given that this has proven to be an endemic issue with this organisation, there’s obviously a need for change at the top management level. It’s important to recognise that within any organisation, the attitude of its staff is a reflection of the attitude of its leaders.

How much is the attitude of the leadership in your organisation contributing to bad customer experience?

How much is bad customer experience costing your business?

customer experience waving goodbye

Process Mapping – its role in business process improvement

Business process mapping is one of many tools used in developing a process based management system. It provides a pictorial representation of a process. In this context, a business process is a series of steps within a specific activity that combine to produce a required outcome. Clearly understanding, defining, and mapping a business process is always the first step down the path of continuous improvement.As a representation of “the way things are done”, process maps are important as a communication tool for providing:

It is the first or second generation of process documentation that organisations often struggle with, and which is the focus of this article. The goal of the initial creation of a business process map is to benchmark the process for reference and future improvement.

The goal of the initial creation of a business process map is to benchmark the process

How to create a process map

If you’ve never analysed a business process or tried to map a process, then the prospect may be daunting.

As in many areas of business, there are a number of recognised standards that may be used for process mapping. A quick search for business process mapping will uncover information on “flowcharts”, “workflows”, “BPMN”, “swimlane diagrams”, and “process modelling”, to name a few. (Refer to the list of Abbreviations under the Resources menu.)In the first instance, the standard or format that you use to create a process map should be the one that is easiest for you to implement. Follow the principle of keeping it simple. After all, the initial purpose of process mapping is to create the content and communicate the content – capturing individual’s ideas and creating a record of what is known about a process.The medium you use to start creating your process map will often be a large sheet of paper or whiteboard, remembering that you are likely to make multiple changes before you settle on a working version.
Simple Business Process Map
The other reason for initially drawing a business process on a whiteboard, is that this an exercise best undertaken by a group, where all team players contribute by brainstorming the steps that make up the process – it is rare that only one person is involved in a given process; involving all stakeholders will facilitate buy-in across the team.Once the content of your process map is agreed upon, then you can transfer it into a drawing package that can be used to create and manage the agreed version and future changes.
Questions and Answers - Q and A

Questions, Answers

Q: “What program should I use to draw my business process map?”

A: “Which ever drawing software you have available and are most familiar with.” Often the easiest to use is what you already have available. In many instances, this will be one of the applications from the Microsoft® Office suite – Word, PowerPoint, or Excel. While none of these are specifically just drawing applications, all of these have drawing capabilities as part of their functionality. (If you need to enhance this functionality, you may consider an add-in such as Flowbreeze for Excel by BreezeTree Software.) Open source office software suites have comparable drawing functionality.

Be aware that there are also some good cloud-based (SaaS) solutions emerging. Depending on your organisation, and how your workers interact with resources, these may be viable considerations.  One which we have found to be particularly effective is Miro.

As process documentation matures within an organisation, the additional features of applications such as Microsoft® Visio can be beneficial. The advantages of applications such as Visio for drawing business processes, is the capacity to define specific meta data that sits behind each object in your process map. Such data effectively becomes a database of information that complements your process map. The point at which this becomes beneficial will depend on the complexity of the processes and the number of stakeholders involved (or size of the organisation).

Q: “Should I map my process from left to right, or top to bottom?”

A: “It makes no difference. The specific process itself may dictate that it is easier to format in one orientation than another.”

In developing a process map, remember that it is as much about identifying the steps that exist within a process as it is about identifying the order in which the steps occur. The orientation or layout is secondary to the steps and their order.

A business process map should be considered as a dynamic diagram – it is not set in concrete; it changes over time as people, processes, and technologies change. Ideally, the validity of process maps should be regularly tested and adjusted where required.

How does process mapping improve my business?

light bulb ideas depicted on a blackboard
By documenting your process(es) through process mapping, you are creating a benchmark to work from and improve upon. Quite often, the very act of brainstorming your business process among the relevant team members and stakeholders, will raise questions, improve collaboration, and uncover improvements. Depending on how well established a process is (its level of maturity), and whether or not there are any recent changes that impact on the process, there can be benefits in mapping out an initial process, then re-drawing it to represent the way that it needs to be. This is sometimes referred to as drawing both the “as-is” state and the “to-be”, or “future” state.

Once you’ve completed an initial process map, ask whether there are steps that are redundant or steps that can be rearranged to improve efficiency.

The important aspect here is to provide a basis for ongoing, continuous improvement. Something that can be refined over time, as and when influencing factors change. Factors that can impact on your now documented process map(s) include:

Draw on the experience of others

As with many challenges, trying to find solutions by yourself is not always the best strategy. This is definitely the case when it comes to business process mapping.  It can often be that business process improvements are more readily identified through a fresh set of eyes, by someone who is impartial to the situation.

This is where an experienced business process improvement consultant can provide significant value. The short term cost can lead to significant long term gains.
If you have a specific Business Process Mapping project requirement that you feel we may be able to assist you with, either now or in the near future, then tell us about your project here. We love helping others solve the challenges of business process mapping and process improvement.

Further reading: Business Process Improvement

(Microsoft, Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Visio are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.)

Business Process Training by BP Group

BP Group Business Process Training

In March 2012, BP Group have scheduled business process training sessions in Australia.

Certified Process Professional, CPP, sessions 1&2 have been scheduled in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne for March 2012.

At the end of March and again in May, sessions have also been scheduled for New Zealand.

Business Process Training Dates

Check out the training dates and the session nearest you at the BP Group site

Anyone who is involved in managing business processes within their organisation will benefit from this business process training and most likely walk away viewing business process management in a completely new light.

Update (May 2012): link updated to latest schedule on BP Group site – indexed by city

Uncommon Service – Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business

A Refreshing and Pragmatic Approach On How To Deliver Excellent Customer Service

“Uncommon Service – How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business”

Uncommon Service - Customer Service through customer centricity
By Frances Frei & Anne Morriss
Published 2012
By Harvard Business Review Press

– Create an environment within your organisation where all employees focus on delivering excellent customer service.

In this recently released book, Frei and Morriss identify four key dimensions to achieve excellent customer service. Organisations need to both recognise and manage each of these areas effectively.

Customer Service Dimensions

Four dimensions of business for delivering customer service:excellent customer service feedback
– defining your service offering and how customers will perceive customer service excellence
– defining the mechanism for funding customer service excellence
– defining the employee management system to allow employees to deliver customer service excellence
– defining the customer management system to facilitate the improvement of customer experience

Service models need to be designed around all of these dimensions.

Each dimension is broken down, analysed and backed with relevant, contemporary case studies.
Case studies are drawn from organisations spanning finance, retail, travel, healthcare and freight services.

The authors contend that customer service excellence comes at a price, and that price is the tradeoff between being good at everything or being excellent at your core competency.

Trying to be the best at everything is counterproductive to customer service excellence. Deliberate tradeoffs can lead to delivering excellent customer service in those areas that your customers value most.

The key to this approach is in identifying those service attributes on which you are competing for customers, then determining how to fund service delivery in those areas, define management systems and business processes to facilitate employees in delivering excellence in those areas, and finally, managing the customer experience.

Customer Service – Link to Leadership and Organisational Culture

The strength of this book lies in linking the identified four dimensions with the requirement for a strong organisational culture; a culture that has clarity of purpose, is consistent with the organisational strategy, structure and operations, and is effectively communicated and universally understood within the organisation. This requires leadership to create a culture and environment that reinforces the service model at every touchpoint.Organisational Culture - happy customer service team

Frei and Morriss conclude by highlighting that “employees are yearning to be of service, customers are eager to do their part, and organisations can, in fact, change overnight”. As with most challenges in life, change commences with a clarity of vision of what is possible, and the unwavering belief in realising that vision.

It is this pragmatic approach in “Uncommon Service” that is refreshing.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is delivering a customer service.

Australian and New Zealand customers can purchase this book through the link on our Recommended Reading page (under Resources).

Please share your comments below!

Read more here: http://uncommonservice.com/

Return to: Customer Experience Services

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