Compliance Conversations: What if there's no Management Commitment?

Posted by Craig Thornton

This is part of a series of compliance conversations about how you best manage your QHSE management systems and their associated processes.

In this video QHSE Consultants from around the world discuss what you should do if there is no commitment from your leaders to the management system.

Check out the video here:


Video Transcription

If there is no commitment to the QHSE management system from my leaders, what should I do?


Gary, QSM, Australia

There are actions that you can take if there is no commitment by your leaders, however, these are likely to be quite challenging.

The starting point is to engage directly with the leaders to let them know about the issue and to identify the reasons for their lack of commitment.

Is it due to:

  • A lack of trust?
  • Past experiences with management systems?
  • Lack of understanding?
  • Conflicting goals?

Once this is done, you can discuss how these identified issues could be addressed, and agree upon exactly what leadership and commitment are required for an effective management system going forward.

Importantly, make sure that you establish a monitoring and review process to gauge improvement over time.

Nicholas, SRM, South Africa

Without joking about this, start looking for another job.

If you're not seeing commitment from the senior management team with regards to compliance, health, safety, environmental, or quality within your organisation, my suggestion is to start looking for another job.

The reason being is that leadership is responsible for setting culture.

We know from NASA, from the Challenger, and the various different ship incidents that they’ve had is that culture kills.

If leadership is not committed, and they're setting the culture, the barometer for the business, culture kills businesses and poor culture kills people.

If you're not seeing that level of commitment, and it's unlikely that a subordinate is going to be able to change leadership's particular perception, or it's going to be very difficult, it might be better looking for another organisation.


Chris, FQM, United Kingdom

It's important for a leader to understand what the purpose of the management system is.

If you say the management system is simply just there so that you can get a certificate on the wall, the likelihood of getting a commitment from the leadership team is rare.

But if you explain that there can be a huge return on investment from a management system, using case studies, as an example, use a small area where an improvement activity was worked on, and demonstrated our return on investment, use that to demonstrate to the leader why this is important. Why they need to give you the commitment and support for the resources, the time importantly, to get the management system working the best that possibly can.

Also, it's important to recognise, sometimes that certificate is really important and if they don't provide the commitment down into the management team and down through the workforce, then it's possible that certificate could be lost.

It is possible that they may have sanctions against them if you are not complying with your management system and legal obligations.

Using case studies, as an example, demonstrating a return on investment, more often than not, leaders in an organisation have to of course, consider the health and safety of their people. But they all often think with a pound or dollar acumen around everything.

So, it's important to consider ‘Can I demonstrate and get the support by using financial figures?’

Sean, Kaizen Consulting, New Zealand

It’s the same thing with the safety.

No one comes to work to hurt themselves, no one, in theory, comes to work to do that job.

No management team would intentionally want to sabotage the management system, the quality management system, health and safety management system, Environmental, Information Security etc.

The way I look at it is, aligning your focus group together so a management team can agree on the priorities.

No management team would agree that:

‘Yes, we do want to send out bad quality products.’

‘Yes, we do want to harm people.’

None of them would.

If they don't put enough resources into the management system, if they don't allocate enough time, it's highly likely that they have different focus areas and they have different priorities.

It’s really understanding their priorities, but also trying to relate them to quality and safety if you can.

For example; if their priority is to increase the output and get the products out of the door, quicker, faster, easier, you can relate that to the quality side.

You can put some figures on the number of people who are off work because of incidents and say;

‘if we keep people safe = this is the amount of time we're saving.’

On top of keeping everyone safe, if we have lower number of quality issue

  • This is the amount of money we're saving.
  • This is the impact of it on our delivery.

It's really realigning your focus with the quality and safety side of it.

A lot of times, unfortunately, people look at quality, health and safety, environmental, information security as a compliance requirement of the company and they look at it as - we need to do this just for sake of doing good.

Whereas having a good quality product is just doing good business.

Keeping people safe, also pays off in terms of the culture of the people, keeping everyone at work, not wasting time, not having downtime on investigating incidents, and so on.

Realigning your priorities with what the management team thinks is important is quite key.

Michael, Momentum Safety and Ergonomics, Australia

As a health and safety and quality consultant, over the years, I have had lots of opportunities to talk to people, who are the leaders of these systems. Management by and large.

The most traction that I've got on this particular topic is not telling him how great they are, or anything like that, but it's trying to demonstrate the influence that they can have.

And that influence can be both positive, and of course negative.

If you can start to use case studies. It depends on the manager that you're talking to, some might be more responsive to research, and some might be more responsive to human stories, that's just an individual thing. You have to work out the currency of the person that you're talking to.

But once you can make them understand that what they do, what they say, and what they support, will have a massive influence on the employee commitment and involvement, as well as the success of the management system, then I think they start to take notice.

They might start to question some of those less desirable behaviours, or some of those questionable decisions that can be made sometimes, which really don't support the management system.

You just need to get them understanding how important they are to this particular aspect of the system.

Andrew, IRM Systems, Australia

If there's no commitment from your leadership to your management system, and we do see this happen, management feels they're discharging their duties a little bit by delegating the responsibility for implementing the system to someone within the business.

You're really going to have to get a good understanding of Section 5, understand the Leadership and Commitment Requirements.

It is a bit confronting for some people, when we're in a management system or HSE kind of role, but we are going to have to go and engage with our leaders.

Help them understand what's actually expected out of the standard.

You have a little bit of leaver to say, ‘we are going to be audited on some of this, and the auditors do expect to see evidence of active involvement by top management and if it's not there, then you can coach your management - this is what's needed.

It’s a bit confronting, but at the end of the day, as a system manager, we're going to have to get out behind our desk and go and engage with those kinds of people so they fully understand what is required.

John, Many Caps, New Zealand

If there's no commitment to the management system from the leaders, you have one of two options.

  • Option one is to try and educate them.
  • Option two is you should leave.

If the management team are not involved, you can't make them and you should go somewhere that has a management team that are involved.


Mark, Business Basics, Australia

Talk to them.

Ask the question. Say to them “you've dictated we do this, but I don't feel that you are engaged in this process.”

Ask them why?

Ask them whether they believe in it?

If they can't tell you that they believe in it, ask them why not?

Redevelop it.

Challenge them.

Ask them.

Be polite, but challenge them.


  1. Identify reasons for the lack of commitment then you can agree on changes going forward.
  2. Ensure your leaders truly understand the purpose of the management system.
  3. If necessary, demonstrate a return on investment as well as using case studies, realigning your priorities with what Management team believes is important is helpful.
  4. Coach your leaders, educate them into why an effective management system is essential.
  5. Leadership and Commitment Procedure - Clause 5.1


Tags: Management System, ISO, Compliance, Risk Management, QMS, integrated qhse manual, ISO45001, ISO Certification, process approach, Compliance Conversations