9 Dec, 2020

T’was one week before Christmas, and all through the factory all of the elves were stirring, to make toys all through the day and night. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St Nicholas would soon be there.

How does Santa complete this large scale mission year on year? It’s a mammoth task that takes place up in the North Pole, with some serious elf-power behind it. Projects on a big scale have to be well manned, well managed and have proven processes in place to succeed. So what’s the secret to Santa’s success? How does he manage it?

Systems & Training – Santa needs some way of storing and sorting through thousands of letters from children around the world. How else will he remember who has been naughty or nice? A management system lets him and all of his elves, store information accordingly and proceed with the task easily. Training ensures all his elves are professionally developing and are motivated to do this.

Leadership – Santa is an expert at inspiring his workforce – you don’t see many sad elves at the North Pole. This is helped as everyone knows and understands their mission and what they are trying to achieve. The goals are regularly communicated to them through ElfMail, and Santa provides regular and timely feedback. The elves have a challenging goal to complete, but Santa trusts them to complete the job, giving them the resources and responsibility they need.

Quality – The toys have to be of high quality! We all know elves are magical, but mistakes can happen! A non-conformance is when something within the business doesn’t go according to plan, which may result in a customer complaint or a delay in the normal process, and Christmas comes once a year, so Santa can’t let the children down, can he? Nobody on the nice list deserves a broken toy. This means that he needs a way of managing non-conformances to ensure mistakes are acknowledged and corrective action is taken.

Green Thinking – Whilst the people of the world and getting their gifts to them is important, what about the immediate surroundings? Santa and the elves have to make sure they aren’t going to be affecting the polar bears’ homes living next door or polluting the air of the countries he flies through, else their Christmas won’t be merry at all. The team need to work collaboratively to ensure there is minimal waste in the workshop, and decisions are made with kindness to the environment in mind.

Occupational Health and Safety – From conveyor belts and heavy machinery, manual handling and work with chemicals and potentially harmful substances, to tripping over a bump in the floor and spilling some hot water over. Health and Safety is essential in every & any workplace! This means there needs to be measures in place to ensure employee welfare, and an accident register. The elves can’t make toys in dangerous conditions, and Santa can’t do it all himself!

Information Security, Confidential Materials, Personal Information & Business Continuity – With Christmas, comes characters that aren’t exactly routing for you, so Santa needs to be prepared for Grinches wanting to hijack his operation and be able to continue regardless of any minor or major incidents, thanks to a recovery or back up plan… The elves know the risks to quality and success and once they understand them, they can work hard to reduce them – wherever they come from, faster than you can say ‘ho, ho, ho’! Protecting important business information and being able to cope with business-related incidents is essential!

Translation – With letters and lists coming in from all around the globe, and worldwide delivery guaranteed, there has to be a way of managing translation! Google Translate isn’t quite advance enough for millions of papers coming through Santa’s letterbox. These hardworking elves in the translating side of the workshop need to be assessed beforehand and provide proof, to ensure they can accurately provide translations. They can’t afford to mistranslate and get the names of toys, or worse, the addresses, wrong!

Continuous improvement – In order to deal with a growing population, more technological gifts and changes in the marketplace, Santa and the elves need to find ways to improve on their processes year on year. Making sure Santa reviews the workshop’s quality policy, quality objectives and preventive actions as part of his management review, he can put new pro-active plans in place as he has all the information to his big red hand! This leads to evidence-based decision making based on analysis and evaluation, which Santa can rely on to help him year on year.

In order to get the best from their management system, the elves also use the PDCA model.

Plan: They set the objectives of the systems and processes, (“what to do” and “how to do it”), to deliver results that make Santa proud every year!

Do: As a team they implement and control what has been planned, so that everything goes according to plan…

Check: Both Santa and the elves monitor and measure processes and results against their policies and objectives, and report the results to Mrs Claus!

Act: Based on the performance, action is taken to improve for next year (continuous improvement) and make it even more magical than last!

As you can see there are lots of lessons to be learned from Santa and his workshop. Santa can’t be late, can’t have defects and he can’t have dissatisfied customers (they might just stop believing in him!)


Are you looking to build trust with your employees, clients and partners? Ensure quality control and move your business towards a model of continuous improvement? An ISO Management System can help.  Find a Management System here.

ISO Quality Services Ltd are proud to specialise in the implementation and certification of the Internationally recognised ISO and BS EN Management Standards.

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