there's another world out there!"
2- The path to Business Excellence: dificulties involved and how to overcome
Iraolagoitia, former general manager of Microdeco, basque company prize
in 2003th EQA Award.
there's another world out there!"
I was lucky enough to be invited by Euskalit to visit UBISA, a company
in Burgos which had been awarded the European Quality Prize three years
before. After the management team had presented the company, it was
left to one of the workers to explain how a mini-company in UBISA was
managed. He spoke about PDCA cycles, 5S (which could have been a brand
of washing powder for all I knew!), problem solving methods, the deployment
. in short, things I'd never heard of in my life.
At that point, I couldn't help but start thinking that perhaps that
worker knew more about management than me. And, after looking around
at the faces of the other 40 or so fellow general managers on that visit,
it didn't take me long to realise that, indeed, he knew more than all
When I returned to my company the next day, I brought the management
team together and bravely announced to them, as Christopher Columbus
had said many years before me: "Boys, there's another world out
convinced the workers that we meant business
on the basis of our conviction we were doing the right thing, we invested
5 million of the then Spanish pesetas on a pilot implementation of 5S.
Just as that visit to UBISA had opened our eyes as managers, the implementation
of 5S convinced our workers that we really meant business, and from
then on they believed in us and began coming up with improvement ideas
recession into improved competitiveness
a crisis year for us, and job cutbacks and lay-offs were initially on
the agenda. However, we eventually chose to work together to achieve
ISO certification, and were the first company in our sector in Spain
to be certified under ISO standards and the 92nd overall. 2000 also
saw a drop in business orders, but we took advantage of this situation
to train our people in various areas, especially in working with state-of-the-art
can't force the Unions into being your friends
with Unions can be avoided by explaining things in a transparent, clear
and coherent manner, i.e. either we increase productivity to be in a
position to lower our prices and thus maintain jobs and perhaps even
grow as a company, or sooner or later we'll be driven out of the market.
You can't force the Unions into being your friends, but if they see
what you say and do is coherent, they'll eventually start taking much
more of an interest.
EQA Prize in the SME category is for a company of 92 people, and 125
of them are here with us in Helsinki" (Presenter at the EQA Award
Ceremony in Helsinki, October 9, 2003).
of the Award Ceremony and gala dinner were amazed at seeing so many
of us in Helsinki. Although it cost us a fortune to do it, we not only
took all our people but also invited our main suppliers and customers.
You can't go around saying "the company is all of us" and
then limit a celebration like this to a chosen few.
I like my work
to be recognised, just like everybody else
been many reasons for applying for recognition. I like to receive recognition,
just like everybody else, and it's good when people come up to me and
say things like "I saw you on TV the other day". But all that's
know that, to date, few other companies are doing what we're doing,
and when we were given the Basque Country "Silver Q for Quality"
Award, and later the "Gold Q for Quality", their friends and
families congratulated them. They could see and feel social recognition
for our efforts. But beware: if you go in for an award taking it for
granted that you're going to win it, and neither you nor your people
are prepared for any other eventuality, it will take you a while to
recover from the negative consequences this brings.
more, many of my customers use the EFQM model, and we, like them, have
won prizes. One of our most important contracts at the moment has come
through these channels.
I don't do even 20% of what I used to do 4 years ago
my time was spent on day-to-day activities, troubleshooting. Now, 80%
of my activities are new, and I can dedicate my time to planning and
preparing the future of the company.
is an extract from an interview with Mr. Jim Cricket, a voice of conscience
with extensive working experience in the field of Quality and Business
Excellence. With 20 years experience in a company of Excellenceville
that was taken over by a multinational in the 1990s, Mr Cricket is currently
responsible for Business Excellence for the whole of Europe, a post
which has provided him with first-hand knowledge of the situation and
experiences which the companies of his group have undergone on an international
level. Mr. Cricket has been a member of the Euskalit Assessors Club
for the last seven years.
path to Business Excellence: dificulties involved and how to overcome
would you say are the major obstacles and difficulties that managers
of organisations are likely to find on the path to Business Excellence?
first difficulty to overcome is ignorance. All of us have an intuitive
concept of what Quality and Excellence mean. We believe we already know
enough about it, and top management especially are guilty of considering
them as basically technical and operational matters to be dealt with
by specialists in the production and quality departments. Only when
a General Manager really understands that he/she, and not his/her collaborators,
has maximum responsibility for what used to be called Total Quality
Management or Total Quality, and now is referred to as Excellence, can
we say that the first difficulty has been overcome. General Managers
must have a clearer knowledge of the general concepts of the meaning
of Excellence than anyone else in the organisation. There may be others
with specialist knowledge of methodologies and specific tools, but it's
the General Manager's responsibility to have a clear overall vision
in this area.
next obstacle is fear. Running an organisation is not a mathematical
science, a world in which 2 plus 2 equals 4 at all times, in all places
and in all circumstances. Running an organisation means operating within
a climate of uncertainty. One and the same initiative may produce a
positive result one time and a different result another, whilst investment
in product development may prove highly beneficial at one moment and
a money-losing experience the next.
We can calculate return on investment on machinery but how can this
be calculated for internal communication, or for listening to our customers?
What Excellence proposes is a complete overhaul of those values and
codes of conduct which are deeply rooted in organisations, aware of
the effort that this requires but also of the fact that there's no insurance
company available to provide a safety net against failure. The capacity
to take decisions and risks is an essential requirement for overcoming
these difficulties we must be well informed and appropriately trained.
Benchmarking leading-edge organisations in the field of management (of
which we are fortunate to have several in the Basque Country), looking
at their results, speaking to their management team, taking away lessons
learnt and transferring them to our organisations are all ways of doing
this. There are also many courses on offer which explain the main concepts
and methodologies involved and provide us with the opportunity to meet
people in a similar situation to us.
also an extensive bibliography on the subject. Submission documents
of those organisations which have been candidates for Excellence Awards
are an especially good source of information on methodology, best practices
and management results.
is another difficulty. As I mentioned before, some initiatives will
work out, others won't, and you'll sometimes have the feeling of taking
one step forwards and two steps back.
The way to overcome this is through perseverance. Positive results
will eventually shine through, though this is an easier process to live
through if we live it together with others, for example, taking part
in "Training for Action Programmes", moving forward and learning
with other organisations, setting ourselves common goals and supporting
each other in times of difficulty.
last obstacle is arrogance. Once you've obtained the results, and
perhaps even been publicly recognised with one or more awards, there
is always a risk of thinking that you now know it all, that you've crossed
the finishing line and you're now in a position to teach others but
there's nothing left for you to learn.
this obstacle, we must be modest enough to see the benefits of asking
external experts to come into our organisation now and again to assess
and provide us with new perspectives and opportunities for improvement.
The fact is, the further you advance along this path, obtaining results
and becoming aware of greater opportunities for improvement, the more
rewarding the path towards Excellence becomes.
you think there are perhaps too many awards and certificates available
all Excellence Awards, Quality Certificates and other forms of recognition
have a positive role to play as long as they meet certain conditions.
To begin with, they must be rigorous, awarded against clear and publicly
transparent criteria by transparent awarding bodies which guarantee
fairness and equality in matters of access to these different forms
Secondly, an organisation must consider why it is applying for recognition.
If the reason for requesting external assessment, an audit or for putting
themselves forward as a candidate for an award is because the organisation
believes that the opinions and suggestions of qualified people from
outside the organisation will enable them to identify new opportunities
for improvement, perfect! If, in doing so, the organisation receives
recognition, even better! We all like to receive recognition; it encourages
us to continue moving forward with renewed vigour.
The problems arise when we catch "compulsive prize winning-itis",
a malignant virus which converts recognition into an end in itself instead
of a consequence of progress, and begins to eat into our resources,
time and enthusiasm. If we invested those same resources, time and enthusiasm
in improving our management, we would obtain both improvement and recognition.