Why management reviews can be a game-changer
I'll let you in on a secret: for external auditors, management reviews are like canaries down coalmines. Tell me about your last management review, and even if I know nothing else about your business, I'll be able to tell just how healthy your entire management system is.
For the most part, management reviews are annual exercises in box ticking, with the minutes showing a quick skate across a few surface issues. What leaps from the page (though it is rarely a full page) is that the review is a compulsory event that was completed as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Why? Because everyone’s too busy and there’s a mountain of stuff to do, procedures to write and spreadsheets to update. Besides, the other managers are not that interested. And no one really has the time. And … and … and …
Clearly it’s not hard to come up with some half-baked excuses. But here’s the thing: if done well - and often - management reviews are incredibly useful. In fact, they can be a game-changer.
How to get more value out of your management reviews
Here are 3 easy ways to get more value out of your management reviews:
Increase the frequency It's no secret that there’s a direct relationship between the usefulness of management reviews and the number of times a year they take place. Three or four times a year is a good start, but monthly or bi-monthly is even better. This timetable will really keep you on your toes. Knowing you have to front-up every couple of months and examine the state of your system with other managers…well, it’s hard to beat for ongoing motivation. There’s no way things can be allowed to slide for long, which is great for the health of the system - and your business in general. But getting a group of managers and the CEO together on a regular basis is difficult. There is a significant opportunity cost, because the people around the table could be otherwise making sales or out on the factory floor making savings. Managers therefore have to know that they have skin in the game, and that they will both give and receive something valuable at the meeting.
Give the customer a voice To get proper management buy-in, your reviews need to be firmly, absolutely and always customer-focused. Metaphorically speaking, give your customers a seat at the table. Discuss the impacts of all decisions on them, like they really exist. Too often reviews are run for the sake of an external auditor, but to do so is to misunderstand the point of a quality system, and the focus of business, full stop. Customers are what it’s all about so run the meeting in the customers' best interests.
Make them an open forum for discussion and decision-making Once you have managers committed to participating in the reviews, make sure you don’t waste everyone's time by faffing about discussing symptoms. Management reviews are for looking long and hard at root causes and making hard decisions (remembering you have the customer in his or her metaphorical seat). Simply tweaking the odd thing here and there is no way to operate. Reviews that are full of debate, discussion and decisions also break down silos. They are reviews that other managers won't want to miss. And if they knew about them, they are reviews that customers would thank you for.
Top tips for running management reviews
Consistent with the above key messages, here is a more specific list of top tips for running management reviews efficiently and effectively
Have reviews at least quarterly; preferably monthly or bi-monthly.
Get the most senior leader to attend every meeting.
Have a comprehensive agenda - and follow it. If something makes it on to the agenda, by definition it is important, and therefore getting side-tracked means important issues aren't being addressed. That is a no-no.
Have someone who is expert in the 'art of minute-taking' attend. If you are running your reviews effectively and efficiently, they’ll need your full concentration. Let someone else focus on the important job of accurately recording the outputs.
Put the outputs of the meeting into your improvement and corrective action process so that they are not forgotten.
Have one meeting per year as a strategic review, where you can review previous objectives and set new goals for the next 12 months.
Hammer home the fact that your reviews are customer-focused. Then hammer it home again.
Run a tight ship – too many of the managers I have observed love nothing better than to ignore systems, push boundaries and do whatever the heck they like. But it’s your customers that will ultimately pay the price so don't let it happen on your watch.