Quality Scotland is an organisation whose vision is to make excellence a national characteristic of Scotland, and the most effective way to do this is to teach other organisations how to assess and improve themselves, without recourse to external organisations. After all, no external organisation can possibly know how you work better than you do.
Quality Scotland is the Scottish national partner for the European Foundation for Quality Management, and our Excellence Model is a phenomenal weapon in the war against complacency and organisational inefficiency. You might wonder why you need an excellence model if you are enjoying a satisfactory level of success today. But it’s not enough today to be efficient and successful – organisations have to be constantly thinking about why they are successful now and how they can continue to be successful going forward. It’s essential to have a clear understanding of how current actions link to your 3-5 year strategic plan – a lack of understanding leads to a lack of control. What if external circumstances and conditions change? Can you respond in the right manner? Complacency is a real risk – and the best time to strategise successfully about the future of an organisation is now.
The dictionary defines excellence as “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good”. It is not uncommon for organisations to measure excellence by the state of their bottom line. This is a short term view, especially for organisations who are measuring their own “excellence” trend in short term time chunks, for instance by tax year or, even worse, quarterly. There is no overnight path to excellence – it is a journey rather than a destination. It is risky to utilise profitability as a sole measure of excellence. It fails to take into account all the enabling factors of that final outcome, for instance strategic aims, people performance and process standardisation. There are also a raft of softer enablers such as how proud people are to work for the organisation, corporate social responsibility, and ethical treatment of stakeholders.
For those organisations striving for excellence and serious about getting there, it can be tricky to know where to start. In order to truly benchmark your own organisation, you need to look outside of your own four walls, and you need to look in the right places. To be truly excellent you must first develop a solid understanding of what you do well and where you need to improve, which necessitates a good level of capable self-assessment on a regular basis. Self-assessment is a discipline which quickly becomes part of the DNA of excellent organisations. It isn’t hard to do, but sometimes the messages are hard to hear.
However, once the discipline of self-assessment is fully embedded in the organisation it just becomes “what we do”, and at that point you have a solid foundation on which to build and improve. The difficult part is working out how to benchmark – it doesn’t need to be an organisation doing the same as you; in fact you will often find more insightful synergies with organisations in completely unrelated markets or sectors.
Helen Keller stated: “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much” – excellent organisations share experiences and are always keen to draw on those of others. They are humble enough to acknowledge that someone else might do something better than them, and clever enough to try and learn from them.
l Sara Keane is Account Director of Quality Scotland. To become an excellent organisation,visit www.qualityscotland.co.uk.