Claire Ford: Is your business truly excellent?

It has recently come to light just how much excellence and continuous improvement used to be in the press, which got me thinking '“ where is it now?

Claire Ford, Chief Executive Officer, Quality Scotland

Quality Scotland was established in 1991 with an in-depth article talking about “if Scotland is to avoid being marginalised it needs a quality ­culture”.

This was the view of 11 of Scotland’s biggest organisations which came together to establish Quality Scotland – 27 years on we are a not-for-profit organisation supporting more than 250 businesses from all sectors every year.

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However, we want to support ­every organisation in Scotland and get excellence more on the agenda.

Excellence is a word often bandied about, whether it’s in communication or on the front page of websites, but are we using it correctly and what are we doing to ensure we truly are striving to be excellent?

Where does excellence feature in business today? Are we all too busy keeping on top of things to look at the bigger picture and involve our staff to take the organisation to an even higher level of performance? Our vision is to Make Excellence a National Characteristic of Scotland – but is ­excellence a national ­characteristic we truly see today and, if so, then why aren’t we shouting about it?

We sadly lost our previous CEO, Dave Bradley, very suddenly a few weeks ago. Dave was great for ­maintaining the history of Quality Scotland and how right he was. We have come across article upon article in a range of highly-regarded national newspapers talking about the importance of excellence to Scottish business in the 1990s but look now and you will struggle to find a ­handful of articles across a year.

Where is the appetite of today’s insightful and influential leaders in Scotland to have excellence at the forefront of business? We could be leading the way but my view is that there is still a culture of not wanting to uncover what we need to improve but of keeping going just as we know it.

How many businesses can truly ­survive like that now and truly meet the needs of stakeholders and ­customers? Is it because change is the norm now, unlike in the 90s when things seemed more constant and stable?

However, if we reflect on how much major transformation has taken place, is it more visible now? I would say appears to be less focused on excellence in many cases. Are we now in a situation that we are transforming because of need rather than desire?

Quality Scotland has evolved and is in many ways a very different organisation than that of 1991 but we have always transformed with excellence in mind, to be the best organisation we can be for the benefit of stakeholders, customers and the all-important people who make Quality Scotland what it is. We have ­created new partnerships with organisations that will support us to deliver our vision and offer enhanced value to our membership.

People like Dave Bradley with his passion, enthusiasm and a dedication to excellence in business are ­sadly no longer with us to build on that history.

But where are our young people being told about the importance of not just running a business, but of running an excellent sustainable business, that there are models, tools and a whole network of people to help them?

We need our next generation of leaders to see excellence as a fundamental of sustainable business and to support them to be leaders who will shape the future and lead with vision, inspiration and integrity.

In the Year of Young People, how are we ensuring that our future leaders are equipped with the knowledge, skills and desire to run an excellent organisation?

We wouldn’t be where we are without the European Foundation for Quality Management excellence model as the foundation to everything we do. We are an enabler for your business and can support you to grow, transform and develop in a way that suits your needs. We have a wealth of members who will share their experiences of how they and their organisations have been impacted and that excellence is now top of their agenda.

So, I ask you all to think, where does excellence feature on your agenda? It may be a word on a piece of paper or your website but is it truly part of your culture? Quality Scotland is here to support you to take your business to the next level.

We don’t want to go back to the 1990s but we do need to ensure that the passion, commitment and enthusiasm for excellence of Scotland’s top leaders hasn’t somehow been lost or downgraded.

Claire Ford, chief executive ­officer, Quality Scotland.