Documenting an IMS

The integrated management system should define processes that can affect the planning, operation and control of all of the system standards that the organisation has adopted. The process definition should describe what, who and how well something is to be done, which in standards terms are inputs, outputs, responsibility and criteria. Do not define processes for obvious activities or those that professional people are trained to know how to perform.

For each individual process, all of the organisational, standard and regulatory requirements – from the various different sources – are combined into the single process definition, in a coherent way. For example, we do not create management review processes for each the quality system and the environmental system; but instead we create a single process that reviews quality and environmental systems together, in one activity. The related processes documentations are further combined into a single ‘process manual’, or whatever you may choose to name it, as opposed to separate quality system and environmental system manuals.

Formal management standards, such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001, do not prescribe any particular documentation structure. They do define a shared High Level Structure (HLS) and core language, which enables their integration.

See an example integrated Process Manual here.

As part of effective internal communication, I believe it is good practice for the process manual defining the organisation’s overall core process(es) in a single representation, recognisably incorporating all the key elements of the Integrated Management Model. This gives people the understanding of the wider interrelationships, to enable them appreciate the contributions and impact from their own localised decision making.

Documenting an IMS

Processes documentation and relation to management system requirements model.

The integrated processes documentation has a hierarchical structure, which more or less reflects the cascading order in which they should be developed. For example, there is little point in defining the details of sub-processes, until the organisation’s objectives and the core flow is clearly defined. The implementation of the management system model is governed by the organisation’s strategy and policies, which may periodically change and thereby influence a rethink of the processes.

Level 1: The organisation’s purpose should relate to customer, interested parties and legal requirements.

Level 2: The structure of core processes should relate to the Level 1 requirements and also incorporate the High Level System (HLS) model elements.

Level 3: Individual processes and sub-processes should relate to the Level 2 structure and should also reflect the single process model.

Level 4: Records and evidence produced from the system should meet the requirements for governance, traceability and demonstrate a measurement of processes conformance and result.

The term ‘governance’ means “the framework of rules and mechanisms for checks-and-balances, by which an organisation is overall directed and controlled”. Governance ensures that the organisation and its processes lawfully and fairly balance the interests of the many parties – including its owners, customers, finances and legal requirements.