What stops you getting started on improvement?

West Lothian Council was the overall winner at the Scottish Awards for Business Excellence this year. Picture: contributed
West Lothian Council was the overall winner at the Scottish Awards for Business Excellence this year. Picture: contributed
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Many of you reading this may not be aware but it is in fact World Quality Week. What does that mean to you and your organisation? We are using the week to celebrate and promote all things excellent and encourage all organisations in Scotland, regardless of sector to take up the challenge of striving for sustainable excellence.

Many of you will have heard about Nokia being bought over by Microsoft. In his final speech the CEO finished by saying “We did nothing wrong, but somehow we lost.” What was great and innovative about Nokia 15 years ago is no longer the case today. The competition moved too fast and Nokia didn’t move with it. The danger in our own organisations is that we are also complacent with how things are going now and not raising our head to look up at what is going on around us and how far other organisations are moving ahead. We are too concerned with the present to think about how the future will unfold and what impact that will have on our organisations.

During a recent keynote speech I delivered to a conference of Public Sector Change Managers I asked them to write what their organisation’s greatest strength is, it’s greatest area for improvement and what is stopping them from improving. The greatest strength that the audience felt their organisations had at 59 per cent of the overall vote was unsurprisingly people. “Our people are our greatest asset” – how often do we hear that, yet do we really ensure that our organisations succeed through the talent of our people. Do we encourage them to be innovative, to take risks when necessary or do we expect them to do the same job, in the same way that has been done for years. This thinking will not enable our organisations to deal with the change that is all around us and won’t empower our people to embrace change.

When asked about their organisation’s greatest area for improvement again there was consensus with 44 per cent clearly highlighting leadership buy-in and communication of a clear vision of continuous improvement across the organisation. So what is it then that is stopping our public sector organisations from improving at a faster pace? A combination of a fear of change, bureaucracy and the capacity for change was highlighted by 50 per cent, with senior management buy-in and lack of drive for improvement accounting for 23 per cent. It seems clear then that leadership has a huge part to play in driving faster change across the public sector and we, as leaders, need to lead by example with vision, inspiration and integrity.

So while there is clearly a long way to go there is also some fantastic successes across the public sector. West Lothian Council, our overall winner of the Scottish Awards for Business Excellence this year, will be showcasing how they have embedded improvement as part of our World Quality Week Programme along with NHS Health Scotland, Xcite and West Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership.

What I have been shocked to hear recently is how much the public sector continue to spend on large consultancies. We have a wealth of expertise in all of our organisations and it’s time that we shared that knowledge and best practice more effectively to ensure that the sector has an inbuilt capacity to support improvement.

At Quality Scotland our role is very much about building capacity within our member organisations to enable them to embed true sustainable excellence allowing them to adapt to change and ensure a future focus. Our one-to-one relationships with our members, our networks, webinars, benchmarking, accredited training and European recognition are all a part of what we are delivering every day across Scotland as a membership-based, charitable organisation.

So, I encourage you during World Quality Week to take a step back and think about what’s missing from your organisation’s improvement agenda. Get in touch with us and see how we can help.

Claire Ford, CEO Quality Scotland