Building a Quality Management System
As a company that is just over three years old, we have often done things on the fly, with what works best at the time, but as our company grows, in both numbers and business, we had come to a stage where we needed to have a more formalised and sustainable approach. We needed to start making our business more repeatable and less about reinventing the wheel every time.
Get our policies & procedures in one place they said – it will be easy they said.
Our biggest problem due to the rapid growth was that we had things in lots and lots of places. For those who were with the organisation as things developed, we knew how to find them, but team members coming into the organisation later sometimes struggled to find the information they needed or understand why it was in a particular place.
Building out the ‘why’ we do things and the ‘how’ we do things, now known as our Quality Management System, took time, sourcing from all these various places, but we also had to really think about the infrastructure on how we would pull it all together – we decided to use the technology at our fingertips.
Our considerations were:
How will the documents be reviewed and approved?
Where will they be stored when they are final?
What templates are required to make it easy for people to use?
Where will we talk about new policies & procedures?
How will we make people aware and compliant?
The infrastructure needs to be solid
As an organisation that has virtually eliminated Outlook from internal use, we knew we had to have a place to start working up the various policies and procedures. We are very familiar with using MS Teams for internal projects and client project work, so it was a natural step to create a Microsoft Team to deal with our Work In Progress (WIP) Policies & Procedures. We then created channels – as different parts of the team would be working on different areas, both from a review and approval standpoint. We also knew that a good quality management system is based on ongoing growth and improvement, so we created a channel just for Business Improvement.
Now a lot of this was worked out as we created our first procedure – How to create a procedure. A draft was worked up (though I did create a template afterwards, so it is easy for others to follow), and it is added to the procedures channel and we @mention the appropriate reviewers. Because of the multi-access benefits of working in MS Teams – the file doesn’t get stuck in someone’s inbox awaiting discovery. All those who are interested and responsible reviewed the document within the identified timeframe. The document was now ready for Approval.
As the owner the business, Paul Woods is the “Owner” and therefore “Final Approver” for these documents, however, like most small business owners or senior executives, Paul is a busy man, and we wanted to make this process as easy as possible for him and us. Paul had already nominated four leads across the business with responsibility and accountability directly related to our strategic pillars. Part of the process of reviewing these documents is to ensure that the responsible lead has accountability for the policy or procedure and so they had to sign off before it even gets to Paul.
And so, from the approval point of view, it was easier to book time with Paul for an hour and go through all the procedures that needed approval, than it was to ask him to find time to review all the documents directly. The author of the procedure pitches the idea to Paul and one of the leads, it is either approved, or refinements are requested. And because Paul knows that the leads have reviewed it – so far – it is easily approved – now the document needs to be published. But where…..
Build it, and they will come
We chose to create a new SharePoint Communication site (OK well Paul did), and I just followed along. Now I must admit – I have not had a great deal to do with SharePoint lately and previously had great SharePoint administrators to help me with the hard stuff. But this time I was a bit more on my own – in a new version – and our resident SharePoint expert was neck deep in client work – so I did my best with some great help from Maddy Dunn our Success Co-Ordinator.
There were lots of stops and starts and maybe even a frustration tear or two shed, but we got there.
Although challenging, it was possible, without the support of a SharePoint admin, to work with the new SharePoint communication sites and make it more visually appealing than previous SharePoint implementations I have worked with. (There may have been some googling done).
Is it the best it could be? – No, but it was a good start. And as part of the business improvement and refinement process, we will continue to add smarts and make it easier to use.
Making compliance easy
A QMS, Policy or Procedure is not about the document; it is about making sure that our staff know and understand our policies and procedures, which is why, as part of the process, we have associated material.
We have a SharePoint page with the approved documentation and related links such as a process map for those who prefer a visual of a process, and we have FAQs – which again are currently a Word document that is linked on the page and we will eventually be building a QnA Bot that will work over the top of these FAQs. For each procedure, we create an awareness screen capture and voice over video, which is stored in Microsoft Stream and linked in the SharePoint page, with one of our team members providing an overview of the procedure – which we hope will be particularly useful to new starters in the organisation.
We then added our first policy – POL-Quality Management System and our first procedure – PRO‑How to create a procedure to our QMS Register – which started as an Excel spreadsheet to make sure we got the columns right. Ultimately, this will become a SharePoint list that users can filter. We also nominated when the document will be next reviewed as part of our business improvement process.
But it still doesn’t end there.
Communication is everything
Relying on people to read Policy and Procedure is risky – just because they opened it – doesn’t mean they read it or more importantly understood it.
So, we have a couple more steps. We let everyone know that a new policy or procedure is available with a link, using Yammer. We then head back to MS Teams and schedule a meeting in our Business Improvement Channel inviting the organisation – no travel – no meeting room – yet everyone on the same page. We have recorded the meeting when the process or procedure is explained, and questions can be asked from a group. For those who missed out due to other meeting conflicts, they can watch the recording later, as it is linked back to the published procedure.
So now I am continuing to write our policies and procedures, using the infrastructure and process in place, which I knew we had to get right the first time, so we can document as we go, save time and effort. For those who join us in the future, they can have a much more straightforward experience finding out why and how we do things at Adopt & Embrace.