Thursday, August 27, 2009

Made to Measure: Learning from Quality and Integrating the Lessons to the Environment

When I started working, I once had a problem with working with quality professionals, I don't understand what the hell are they doing, on the other hand quality professionals sometimes don't get me, I guess they don't know what the hell I'm doing. Now that we are at the age of recession and cost-cutting, we have to tighten our belts and reduce excessive energy use (my laptop is on energy-save mode) so accredited ISO certifying bodies and management consultants have advocated the implementation of Integrated Management Systems or people may say IMS.

In my day to day existence in the corporate world, the lowly corporate person will not immediately get this when told, they often need a couple of days of training to understand IMS or a week if they have no background on management systems. Maybe I myself couldn't have known this on my own if I hadn't had some mentorship during my management consulting days but now that I have gained the knowledge and experience...I am frustrated because being young indeed pose a problem and none of my colleagues would like to accept this knowledge that I got from an unlikely mentor who I guess is equally frustrated now-a-days.

Just to note, a former boss was once agreeing with me to implement an EMS in our organization (this is what I previously mentioned in the caveat of my earlier post) but he just could not accept the fact that he is quite lost (he needs a lot of trainings but too stingy to attend even one, relying on taxpayer money to attend free government seminars which leads nowhere) and he could not even accept the fact that I was the expert. Rather than reading the standard, he sets up a number of programs that are incohesive to organizational thrusts.

When implementing management systems we must always realize that organizations have their own agenda, objectives, cultures and motives that are far stronger than our advocacy towards environmental improvement. The key is to gradually align those agenda and motives towards sustainable development and that agenda is defined by who is on top of that organization.

In working with quality professionals, I have learned that their focus is on satisfying the requirement of the customer which is quite straight forward. The key is to know your customer. This on the part of the company enables them to develop their competence to satisfy customer needs. I was once involved in a manufacturing facility where a big sign in the doorway says "Our customers pay for our salary" which is translated that non-attainment of customer requirements jeopardizes a company's profitability.

In implementing Corporate EMS do companies really understand the requirements of the environment? We must control ourselves from implementing environmental programs as if its a mystical experience because there is a tendency to become moralistic and biased. Often corporate entities lobby to create their own effluent or emission standards, which regulatory agencies gladly agree in the midst of discussions, in quality terms we are trying to manipulate our customer requirement.

Before, I thought IMS was a bad thing for environmental professionals because, customer requirements will dominate over environmental compliance. However, I found out that it is a way for companies to make sure that the environment becomes a well-loved and well thought of customer who has its specific requirements.