What is a Management System? — Part 1

| May 8, 2007

Since OHSAS 18001 is intended to set a framework for an OH&S management system — like ISO 14001 sets a framework for an environmental management system and ISO 9001 sets a framework for a quality management system — it is probably worthwhile to explore just what a “management system” is.


To enjoy standard-setting is to enjoy defining terms.


There are a variety of ways you can go about deciding what something is.  You can ask an expert, you can ask several experts, you can take an opinion survey or you can look it up in a dictionary.  Part 1 of this series takes the approach of looking it up in the dictionary (or more accurately — a dictionary of dictionaries — www.dictionary.com).


A Dictionary Definition

If one approaches this as a tautological exercise, one can break the term “management system” into its component parts of “management” and “system,” define each and then combine the two definitions back together again into a single definition for a “management system.”


Using this approach, one can define the word “management” as the act or manner of managing; handling, direction, or control and the word “system” as a group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole.  Combining these definitions, one gets the following definition for a “management system” — the act of managing a group of interacting, interrelated or interdependent elements forming a complex whole.  This is a traditional, and predictable, definition.



On the other hand, by combining a different set of definitions for “management” and “system”, one can get the following, entirely different, definition — a social, economic or political organizational form used by corporate power elites who are distinguished primarily by their distance from actual productive work and their chronic failure to manage. For those who appreciate Dilbert cartoons, this may represent a more “real world” definition of a “management system.”


Given the variety of choices set out at www.dictionary.com, which dictionary definition do you prefer?

Category: FAQ, Standards & Certification

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