Managing approval of Level II procedures - Moving to Electronic Signatures

T

tschones

In our organization (500 people) when a Level II procedure is being approved we route it around in a folder to each approver. After an approver signs it, he/she passes it on to the next approver, so on and so forth until everyone who needs to sign has done so. Needless to say, from a QSM's perspective this can be troublesome since some approvers like to let these procedures sit on their desks and grow mold. How does everyone else manage the Level II procedure approval process in their organization so that the approvals take place in a timely manner? I am particularly interested in hearing from those organizations that use either Adobe Acrobat or MS Word and electronic signatures to manage this process.

Tom
 

Mike S.

Happy to be Alive
Trusted Information Resource
Tom,

Sorry I do not know much about e-signatures in Adobe or Word, but I understand your problem very well. In a small organization (< 250 people) it was possible, but nevertheless a pain, to manage by sneakernet to get all the approvals. We went from one extreme to the other and now have whiz-bang proprietary software from a consultant for e-approvals, but it is so unwieldy and slow to upload and approve the docs now IMO I would prefer the sneakernet.

Another option I was gonna try was e-mail approvals where I e-mail the doc. (which is read-only protected) via attachment to the reviewers and ask them to send their approve/reject opinion back via e-mail. The e-mail would serve as a record of approval or rejection. And I could easily "remind" anyone who is late on their decision. I never got to try it, but I think it could work in many organizations where there aren't lots of confidential procedures, etc. to be concerned with.
 

CarolX

Trusted Information Resource
Tom,


I am going to go at this from a different perspective. Why do you need so many approvals? For example, and incoming inspection procedure can be written by the department supervisor and approved by the manager. I am at a small company, and I write and approve the procedures. The only document that must be co-approved (how's that for a word..LOL) is the policy manual. Requires the presidents approval in addition to mine.

Just my $.05 worth.

Carol
 
R

Rob Nix

Tom,

It seems the first thing you need to do is to reduce the number of approval signatures (as Carol points out). For the majority of your documents there should be only one signature needed. It appears you have many people there who want lots of authority but find little time to manage that authority. Tell some of them you are saving them time by cutting them out of the loop; if problems arise later, the process can always be revised.

We do like Mike proposes. I use E-mail to record the approval process (by and large with one approval per document). However, I usually drop off a draft hard copy for their review, or simply discuss the change with them in person or on the phone. Our system works very well and seldom takes more than 2 days to submit and approve any document.

NOTE: Our documents reside as .pdf or read only .docs on an HTML created Intranet site, accessible to all. Only myself and I.S. can change things there. I keep the only hard copy binder of policies, procedures, and instructions.
 

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
Rob Nix said:
Tom,

It seems the first thing you need to do is to reduce the number of approval signatures (as Carol points out). For the majority of your documents there should be only one signature needed. It appears you have many people there who want lots of authority but find little time to manage that authority.
. . .
Our system works very well and seldom takes more than 2 days to submit and approve any document.
. . .
NOTE: Our documents reside as .pdf or read only .docs on an HTML created Intranet site, accessible to all. Only myself and I.S. can change things there. I keep the only hard copy binder of policies, procedures, and instructions.
[off topic] Niggling point, Rob, I KNOW from the ASQ Forums [sardonic laugh, here] you are a vocabulary and grammar maven. Review your use of the reflexive pronoun "myself" and take twenty lashes with a wet noodle. Otherwise, I agree with most of what you write about this topic.

On topic:
An organization determines the number of approvals necessary prior to releasing a document for use. Some documents need no more than one signature (the inspector on an inspection record), others may need approval from every department affected, a product design change, for example (engineering, customer rep, manufacturing, purchasing, Quality, accounting, government regulation, legal for copyright, etc.)

If the organization still uses sneaker net or shoe leather modem, regardless of size, we need to remember that organizations managed these things before computers. (I sure did back in the 60's and 70's.)

One organization in my memory had one clerk who kept a matrix chart of documents in process of approval (who, date out, date due, next in line, etc.) The document would come back to clerk after each approval for distribution to next in chain. If the document wasn't back to the clerk at the due date, he found out where it was. Clerk bucked any problems (death, absence, loss) to the 'owner' of the document (creating department), who followed up. It wasn't pretty, but it was effective in a 2,000 employee manufacturing plant.

I happen to LOVE software-manipulated Document Control. That does NOT make it mandatory for anyone else to use the same I do. Consider the soft costs of complete change to implementing a minor change like giving responsibility for tracking progress through the approval process to one person (or department, for huge operations.) Sometimes the risk of creating a bottleneck is preferrable to the status quo where the approval delays create crisis and internal dissent and finger-pointing.
 
R

Rob Nix

{Whisper} Wes, only you and "myself" need to know about that. Don't tell anyone else. :eek:
 
B

ben sortin

The electronic approval works well if you can afford it. Our document management system has as many glitches as it does benefits but we end up dodging nonconformances everytime around. Quality Engineering handles all revisions to procedures. Just fire off a draft and if it flies you will see it in the weekly updates sent automatically to all affected. We even route failure mode effects analysis. Our system can handle all Microsoft and Acrobat files. You are only as good as your templates and the last obselete document you used to make the right quality decision.
 
M

mshell

Electronic Approval

Microsoft Outlook 2002 has an approve/reject feature. If you are using this version, simply insert the document into the mail, click the view button, select options and choose use voting buttons. You will then select the recipients and send it for approval. Outlook will automatically save acopy in your sent items folder and there will be a page that shows who the message was sent to, who has responsed, what the response was and the response date.

We were using the same method that you are until a few weeks ago and I had absolutely no control over the process. The method described above works well and I know exactly who is holding up progress.


Note: Everyone does not have to have the 2002 version for this to work (only the person generating the approval mail must have it).

Hope this helps.

Mshell
 
A

allen ml - 2007

I hear ya tschones...

Right now our system involves running the approval process through a "redline" route, where the each department head affected by the document gets the chance to edit/elaborate/whatever on the procedure before going through the official "signoff" phase. This first phase travels around in a nice red folder with each person involved listed on the front, as well as the procedure name, revision status, date it was initiated, etc. Each person involved sends it to the next one on the list in the folder. Typical time spent on this stage seems to be measured in weeks, maybe months... :rolleyes:

After everybody's got a crack at it, I revise it and then it goes through the "green folder" stage for final approval. This doesn't take quite as long, maybe a few days to a week or two.

All the documents in question are stored in our Document Control Center as Word files, Excel spreadsheets, Visio diagrams, etc., yet the system I walked into on my first day is still being implemented via "sneaker Net" as well. Then comes the fun task of making sure all the books are changed throughout the plant. :frust:

All in all, a typical document on a good run will take about 2 months to implement in the books in a plant of roughly 500 employees. The last one I just did started in 2/03, just got it back in green folder today (10/28/03).

/rant off

I've been seeing posts concerning Outlook for verification or "polling" on the document in question, does anybody have any experience in other ways to implement an online/electronic version? At the moment, I am keeping track of what revisions are out there via a matrix in Excel, but have no way of knowing where/who has the folder in question.
 
D

David Hartman

mshell said:
Microsoft Outlook 2002 has an approve/reject feature. If you are using this version, simply insert the document into the mail, click the view button, select options and choose use voting buttons. You will then select the recipients and send it for approval. Outlook will automatically save acopy in your sent items folder and there will be a page that shows who the message was sent to, who has responsed, what the response was and the response date.

We were using the same method that you are until a few weeks ago and I had absolutely no control over the process. The method described above works well and I know exactly who is holding up progress.


Note: Everyone does not have to have the 2002 version for this to work (only the person generating the approval mail must have it).

Hope this helps.

Mshell

I have used this method as well, very efficient and effective.

A point that may be intiutively obvious, but hasn't been mentioned here, is the fact that with any of the computer-based methods it is just as cost efficient to send multiple copies for parallel approvals, as it is to route for serial approval (with the result being that the approval cycle takes less time). Whereas with paper, you have to make multiple paper copies to route for parallel approval.
 
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