Understanding Management Systems: a test of a conceptual framework
Paper in proceedings, 2012
Management systems can be developed in a variety of ways. General standards, such as ISO 9001 (quality) and ISO 14001 (environment), and specialized standards influence this development and have become part of the reality for many organizations. The interpretation and conceptualization of ‘management systems’ is however a challenge. In practice, the development of a management system risks ending up in a mainly normative and document oriented work, creating a type of virtual reality that does not drive actions on genuine needs. This paper presents and elaborates upon a conceptual framework designed to understand the challenges during the development of management systems. The methodology of this paper is founded on three individuals' experiences from being involved in the development and observation of management systems during the past two decades. This experience and organizational, learning and change theories provide the basis for a conceptual framework. The framework is tested by analyzing three management initiatives (QS9000, ERP and BPM) within a case company. The conceptual framework was found useful for analyzing management initiatives. The dimensions of the framework, such as ‘documentation structure’, ‘explicit normative structure’ and ‘tacit guiding structure’ served as a foundation for the comparison of the initiatives and provided insights for interpreting practical outcomes in the case company. These dimensions were also useful for analyzing interactions between the different initiatives. This paper provides a conceptual framework that can be of value both for the academic community and for managers trying to understand what kind of factors impact behavior in practice; including why actions sometimes do and sometimes do not provide intended results.