Excellence strategies essential for business

Adopt a broad plan to progress performance, says Claire Ford
An organisation is only as good as the people who work in it. Picture: Rob McDougallAn organisation is only as good as the people who work in it. Picture: Rob McDougall
An organisation is only as good as the people who work in it. Picture: Rob McDougall

Just who does your business answer to? Whether it’s a group of investors or shareholders, board of directors or another entity, are they solely interested in their yearly share of dividend or profit? If that is the case, what measures are taken inside the business to optimise and deliver this profitability, especially in the face of balancing short-term demands for these dividends against the long-term sustainability of the business?

To deliver on the continual need to keep the customer or client base ‘delighted’ [note – I don’t use ‘satisfied’ here, it sounds so limiting, whereas ‘delighted’ gives the impression that much more has been achieved!] I believe there is a need to deliver excellent customer service to ensure retention which, appropriately, helps to protect and enhance the reputation of the business.

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An organisation is only as good as the people who work in it. First and foremost, you need them to be your ambassadors or your evangelists. If there is a need to attract, retain and fully engage staff, they need to have opportunities to grow.

They also need to feel cared for; that their efforts are praised and appreciated. Moreover, they need to be proud of the organisation they work in, the products and services they deliver and feel that they are making a positive contribution to the world around them.

So, the ability to attract and retain talent isn’t just about what goes on inside, it’s also about the contribution to, and perceptions of external influences – principally – the customer. In most organisations, there will be key stakeholders who either influence us or who we may want to influence.

They might be potential customers, partners, employees or investors. If you want to be attractive to them, you need to have a strong brand reputation and demonstrate you adopt the highest standards of ethics.

However, there is a need to have transparent and proactive communication and reporting to build this trust. To achieve this, you need business leaders who continually inspire trust and are role models for the organisation’s values and integrity. These leaders will be expected to have a clear vision for the future; develop the strategies that will achieve these goals and engage the stakeholders in the journey.

The organisation needs robust internal processes to ensure they manage their resources efficiently and engage the right partners and suppliers to deliver. Of course, no one can deliver everything everyone wants all the time; that’s why there is a need to create a dialogue to effectively balance these different, sometimes conflicting expectations and come up with a plan that works for everyone. This should then focus the mind on how this level of complexity is managed. How is it possible to co-ordinate the activities of the organisation to achieve the ‘juggling act’ required to balance the different stakeholder needs? It’d be great if there was framework to help make sense of this?

Frameworks, such as The EFQM Excellence Model provides this methodology to assess how effective the development and delivery of a stakeholder – focused strategy is.

And as what is considered excellent today will only be considered as adequate tomorrow, there is a continual improvement loop, feeding back learning from results achieved and using creativity and innovation to drive increased stakeholder value.

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Glasgow Housing Association, one of Europe’s largest social landlords, is a standard bearer for the EFQM Excellence Model. Throughout their excellence and improvement journey it continues to demonstrate a belief that clarity of objectives and structures of delivery are critical to service improvements. They were clear from the outset, on where they wanted to go and had firm strategies, policies, procedures, deployment and monitoring arrangements in place to ensure they meet their desired excellence objectives.

Fundamentally, Glasgow Housing Association has a vision, values and stakeholder experience on the wide array of services it provides. It deploys these with performance plans that capture areas such as staff insight and ‘lean’ thinking and it is rightly proud on how well it has developed a culture of innovative excellence.

Groups big and small need to adopt ‘excellence’ strategies to ensure they face 2015 with a confidence that gives them the potential to optimise performance at every level.

Claire Ford is chief operating officer of Quality Scotland www.qualityscotland.co.uk