One of the key tasks performed at the White House each year is to bestow the Baldridge National Quality Award to companies recognised for “performance excellence” across both public and private US organisations.
The Baldridge Criteria for Performance Excellence serves two main purposes; to identify Baldridge Award recipients to serve as role models for other organisations and to help organisations assess their improvement efforts, diagnose their overall performance management system, and identify their strengths and opportunities for improvement.
Scotland has a real opportunity to champion our quality, excellence and business improvement success, but the Scottish Government needs to take time to understand that “performance excellence” is no marketing buzz-phrase. It must be viewed as a highly-engaged discipline that has its place much higher up the political agenda than we currently witness.
At Quality Scotland, we actively promote business excellence to be a national characteristic – ensuring it is woven into every fabric of our practices and it allows us to announce proudly our pedigree.
Those organisations that embrace a programme of continuous improvement and pursue a vision of excellence appear better equipped than most to succeed.
When management talks about business improvement frameworks, business excellence and quality procedures, staff might appear to grasp the general gist of what’s being discussed – they are buzzwords we tend to generally understand – but few would admit to having any real grasp of how to effectively manage the process.
It is, after all, slightly intangible. These issues cannot be considered a product, nor could they really be identified as a fundamental core service. Moreover, cynics may suggest they have no real impact on the bottom line. Some might even say they are just another layer of management procedural diktat that adds no tangible value.
A smart, successful Scotland
Like anything we don’t fully understand, we have a tendency to close our ears and back off. But, being a little more informed, we soon begin to understand that Scotland’s smart and savvy organisations get the message that in order to truly succeed in the public, private or voluntary sectors, we need to sharpen our thinking on becoming “excellence” businesses. The vision is to get more businesses and organisations thinking about quality and business improvement measures and how they can have a profound impact on how we go about our daily business lives.
We all want a smart, successful Scotland and to be one of the best in Europe, extolling “excellence” as a way to enhance our business leadership qualities and people management. This would give us the self-belief to be more efficient and diligent in our processes and to cut out all aspects of unproductive time/man hours and unnecessary waste. Shoring up discipline in an organisation to keep it in a robust and healthy state should be our continuous goal.
The pursuit of business excellence is about leadership and creating an environment within an organisation that allows the concepts of working better, being more efficient and, of course, the use of quality. If leadership allows these things to happen, the organisation develops and improves.
Over the years, Quality Scotland has taken pride in supporting communities in developing continuous improvement in small local organisations.
This reflects Quality Scotland’s vision by not only working with large and medium-sized organisations across the three sectors (private, public and voluntary), but by supporting small local community businesses.
There is variable support for these small, often micro organisations which are vital to wealth creation and employability in their communities and which also provide essential services to citizens. For example, in 2012, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations calculated that the third sector contributed £4.5 billion to national GDP. The efficiency of the sector touches everyone across Scotland.
Adopting an excellence framework is not just about gaining plaudits. Besides achieving high performance through the improvement of management systems and practices, the excellence framework is also a great tool for motivating and energising staff to strive for a better quality of work life.
It has been happening for years in Scotland, but we just need our government to realise that we have a golden opportunity to prominently raise our game in a global proclamation of how we continually achieve this.
The United States embraces business excellence, quality and continuous improvement. It runs all the way to the top of government. That doesn’t appear to be the case here ... yet!
• Dave Bradley is chief executive officer of Quality Scotland