Management Systems: An Introduction

Management Systems: An Introduction

Melanie Dixon January 12, 2022

This article provides the perfect introduction to best understand management systems, covering the following key topics:

What are Management Systems?

What are the typical elements of a Management System

How to ensure your Management System is effective

ISO 14001:2015 – Environmental Management System (EMS) 

ISO 45001:2018 – Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) Management Systems

Integrated Management Systems (IMS)

Why are Management Systems important?

What are Management Systems?

A management system is the way in which a business manages the interrelated parts of its operations in order to achieve its objectives. These objectives can relate to a number of different business aspects including health and safety, environmental performance, product or service quality, operational efficiency and many more.

The level of complexity of the management system will depend on business specific context. For some organisations, especially smaller ones, it may simply mean having strong leadership from the business owner, providing a clear definition of what is expected from each individual employee and how they contribute to the overall business objectives, without the need for extensive documentation. More complex businesses operating, for example, in highly regulated sectors, may need extensive documentation and controls in order to fulfil their legal obligations and meet their organisational objectives.

What are the typical elements of a Management System?

Management systems are tools for managing complexity. They are about setting goals and considering organisational conditions, deriving actions and measures from the goals, and reliably completing tasks to achieve the goals through clear processes and responsibilities.

Management systems are made up of a series of interconnected elements that drive continual improvement of a particular discipline or aspect of an organisation such as safety, quality and environment. These elements all serve to support the overarching purpose of the system which is to drive continual improvement toward a policy, vision or value expectation.

In order to deliver continual improvement consistently across an organisation, measures are required that affect all areas – from top management to trainees. Management systems, therefore, are typically based on a four-phase cycle: Plan, Do, Check, Act.

Management Systems - Four-phase Cycle: Plan, Do, Check & Act. Applied Environment & Safety
Four-phase Cycle: Plan, Do, Check & Act

Here are the phases of the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle explained in simple terms:

1. Plan

The first step to any system planning or process improvement is to figure out what you need to do. Like any project plan, this includes a variety of information, including:

– Objectives and success metrics

– Deliverables or end result

– Stakeholders

– Timeline

– Any relevant risks or constraints

2. Do

Once you have a plan, the next step is to try it out. We would suggest implementing your plan on a small scale to ensure it works.

3. Check

Review the implementation of the Do phase to ensure everything went according to your plan. More likely than not, you will identify things to improve on during the Do phase. After all, it is called the continuous improvement cycle and the Check phase is critical to finding these small things before they get too big and problematic. 

4. Act

After the check, move to the Act phase, which includes rolling out the full plan or process improvement. Don’t forget that this is a cycle, if you need to, return to the Plan phase to continuously improve your project or processes.

How do I ensure my Management System is effective?

One of the best ways to ensure that your management system is effective with all the applicable processes is to refer to a standard set of requirements. Management system standards (MSS) are codes, guidelines or processes used by organisations to formalise, systematise, and legitimise their activities or tasks.

MSS can improve business performance by specifying repeatable steps that can be implemented to achieve goals and objectives. As well as create an organisational culture that engages in a continuous self-evaluation, correction and improvement through employee awareness and management leadership and commitment.

Key Management Systems Standards (MSS) You should Know


There are internationally recognised standards for management systems including ISO 9001 Quality Management, ISO 14001 Environmental Management and ISO 45001 for occupational health and safety. These standards define processes, procedures and records required for a successful management system.

These management systems can be the subject of ISO certification. Further details on key MSS are provided below.

ISO 14001:2015 – Environmental Management System (EMS) 

ISO 14001:2015 helps organisations achieve the intended outcomes of their environmental management. This includes enhancement of environmental performance, fulfilment of compliance obligations and achievement of environmental sustainability objectives.

ISO 45001:2018 – Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) Management System

ISO 45001:2018 provides a systematic approach to managing health and safety in the workplace. This Standard helps organisations to establish, implement, and maintain processes to eliminate hazards, minimise risks and address nonconformities. It provides guidance on how to use management processes to prevent work-related injuries and ill health, as well as how to proactively improve workplace health and safety performance.

Integrated Management Systems (IMS)

An integrated management system (IMS) is a single system designed to manage multiple aspects of an organisation’s operations in line with multiple standards such as quality, environmental and health and safety management.

Ultimately, safety, environmental management and quality control have many common points, and all work towards the goal of making your organisation more effective and efficient. Therefore these systems can be integrated to minimise duplication or creating extra work for staff. 

In practice, an integrated management system involves merging existing formal systems and implementing specific best practices organisation-wide.

Why are Management Systems important?

A management system is an effective method of documenting processes and ensuring consistency in implementation. As well as identifying opportunities for improvement.

The benefits of an effective management system include:

– More efficient use of resources and improved financial performance

– Improved risk management and protection of people and the environment

– Ensuring compliance with regulatory and best practice obligations

– Increased capability to deliver consistent and improved services and products, thereby increasing value to customers and all other stakeholders

Do You Need Assistance?

We have vast experience in the review, development and implementation of management systems.

Our experience includes:

– Management system review and gap analysis

– Development of management system documents including policies and standards

– Environmental management procedures

– Safe operating procedures

– Forms and checklists

– Auditing of management system compliance and opportunities for improvement

Contact us if you need further support or have detailed question for our team of experts.