ISO9001:2015 states “Top management shall review the organization’s quality management system, at planned intervals, to ensure its continuing suitability, adequacy, effectiveness and alignment with the strategic direction of the organization.”
Management review takes inputs of system performance and converts it to outputs that drive improvement.
Just about every standard and guidance aligns with the ISO9001:2015 structure.
The Use of PowerPoint in Management Review
Everyone makes fun of PowerPoint, and yet it is still with us. As a mechanism for formal communication it is the go-to form, and I do not believe that will change anytime soon.
One of the best pieces of research on PowerPoint and management review is Kaplan’s examination of PowerPoint slides used in a manufacturing firm. Kaplan found that generating slides was “embedded in the discursive practices of strategic knowledge production” and made up “part of the epistemic machinery that undergirds the know-ledge production culture.” Further, “the affordances of PowerPoint,” Kaplan pointed out, “enabled the difficult task of collaborating to negotiate meaning in an uncertain environment, creating spaces for discussion, making recombinations possible, [and] allowing for adjustments as ideas evolved”. She concluded that PowerPoint slide decks should be regarded not as merely effective or ineffective reports but rather as an essential part of strategic decision making.
Kaplan’s findings are not isolated, there is a broad wealth of relevant research in the fields of genre and composition studies as well as research on material objects that draw similar conclusions. Powerpoint, as a method of formal communication, can be effective.
Management Review as Formal Communication
Management review is a formal communication and by understanding how these formal communications participate in the fixed and emergent conditions of knowledge work as prescribed, being-composed, and materialized-texts-in-use, we can understand how to better structure our knowledge sharing.
Management review mediates between Work-As-Imagined and Work-As-Done.
The quality management reviews have “fixity” and bring a reliable structure to the knowledge-work process by specifying what needs to become known and by when, forming a step-by-step learning process.
Quality management always starts with a plan for activities, but in the process of providing analysis through management review, the organization learns much more about the topic, discovers new ideas, and uncover inconsistencies in our thinking that cause us to step back, refine, and sometimes radically change our plan. By engaging in the writing of these presentations we make the tacit knowledge explicit.
A successful management review imagines the audience who needs the information, asks questions, raises objections, and brings to the presentation a body of experience and a perspective that differs from that of the party line. Management review should be a process of dialogue that draws inferences and constructs relationships between ideas, apply logic to build complex arguments, reformulate ideas, reflects on what is already known, and comes to understand the material in a new way.
Management review is a textually mediated conversation that enables knowledge integration within and across groups in, and outside of, the organization. The records of management review are focal points around which users can discuss what they have learned, discover diverse understandings, and depersonalize debate. Management review records drive the process of incorporating the different domain specific knowledge of various decision makers and experts into some form of systemic group knowledge and applies that knowledge to decision making and action.
Alvesson, M. (2004). Knowledge work and knowledge-intensive firms. Oxford University Press.
Bazerman, C. (2003). What is not institutionally visible does not count: The problem of making activity assessable, accountable, and plannable. In C. Bazerman & D. Russell (Eds.), Writing selves/writing societies: Research from activity perspectives (pp. 428–482). WAC Clearinghouse
Edmondson, A. C. (2012). Teaming: How organizations learn, innovate, and compete in the knowledge economy. Jossey-Bass
Kaplan, S. (2015). Strategy and PowerPoint: An inquiry into the epistemic culture and machinery of strategy making. Organization Science, 22, 320–346.
Levitin, D. J. (2014). The organized mind: Thinking straight in the age of information overload. Penguin
Written procedures with their step-by-step breakdown are a fundamental tool for ensuring quality through consistent execution of the work. As a standardized guideline for tasks, procedures serve many additional purposes: basis of training, ensuring regulatory requirements are met, ensuring documentation is prepared and handled correctly.
As written prescriptions of how work is to be performed, they can be based on abstract and often decontextualized expectations of work. The writers of the procedures are translating Work-as-Imagined. As a result, it is easy to write from a perspective of ideal and stable conditions for work and end up ignoring the nuances introduced by the users of procedures and the work environment.
The day-to-day activities where the procedures are implemented is Work-as-Done. Work-is-Done is filled with all the factors that influence the way tasks are carried out – spatial and physical conditions; human factors such as attention, memory, and fatigue; knowledge and skills.
Ensuring that our procedures translate from the abstraction of Work-as-Imagined to the realities of Work-as-Done as closely as possible is why we should engage in step-by-step real-world challenge as part of procedure review.
Work-as-Prescribed gives us the structure to take a more dynamic view of workers, the documents they follow, and the procedural and organizational systems in which they work. Deviations from Work-as-Prescribed point-of-view are not exclusively negative and are an ability to close the gap. This is a reason to closely monitor causes such as “inadequate procedure” and “failure to follow procedure” – they are indicators of a drift between Work-as-Prescribed and Work-as-Done. Management review will often highlight a disharmony with Work-As-Imagined.
The place where actions are performed in real-world operations is called, in safety thinking, the sharp-end. The blunt-end is management and those who imagine work, such as engineers, removed from doing the work.
Our goal is to shrink the gap between Work-as-Imagined and Work-as-Done through refining the best possible Work-as-Prescribed and reduce the differences between the sharp and the blunt ends. This is why we stress leadership behaviors like Gemba walks and ensure a good document change process that strives to give those who use procedure a greater voice and agency.