Every other time I have visited Singapore I have been impressed with what this small island nation manages to achieve. And this time was no exception. During my first visit I taught TRADE Best Practice Benchmarking to Singapore government agencies as part of a pilot programme. Not only did the 7 different agencies successfully complete all their benchmarking projects but they have since rolled out the methodology across the whole of government. And their efforts in continuous improvement and commitment to excellence shows. The customs and immigration processes I experienced at the border were impressive. Usually when travelling I find many things that could be improved, but there were very few this time.
Last time in Singapore, I asked the taxi driver, while going to my favourite spot on Sentosa Island, “what is the big hole in the ground for? I recall that this was a natural area of mangroves less than 6 months ago. He replied “oh that is going to be a casino, six hotels, four attractions and a convention centre’. ‘What, in that tiny space’ I expressed with some surprise. ‘Yes we need it to avoid everyone going to China to have fun.’ he replied.
And it was to the convention centre that I was heading to. This was the venue for the 22nd Business Excellence Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner where I attended as one of the 430 guests. It was a nice way to finish off four days of training economic development representatives across 14 countries in how to engage small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in business excellence, run by the Asian Productivity Organisation and hosted by SPRING Singapore.
In his address at the 2016 Business Excellence Awards Ceremony, the Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr. S Iswaran, said “Our economic environment is being reshaped by industry and technological trends, which are disrupting business models and fundamentally changing jobs. Future growth and competitiveness will be anchored in productivity, innovation and the skills of our workforce.”
Over the past 22 years, Singapore has celebrated 106 past Business Excellence Awards winners that have distinguished themselves in the various aspects of business excellence.
There were two winners of the Singapore Quality Award. DBS Bank have embraced the digital revolution to enhance its customers’ experience, while the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore has used technology to increase the productivity and have demonstrated clean and green practices that exceed International Maritime Organization conventions winning awards for its sustainability practices both locally and internationally.
Independent school for students aged 13 – 18 years, Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) won a Singapore Quality Award with Special Commendation. This award recognises ‘past Singapore Quality Award winners that have sustained their business excellence journey and attained greater heights of excellence’. The school has moved its students beyond laboratory experiments to collaborate globally in conducting advanced scientific research to solve practical and complex real-world problems.
In addition to the premier Singapore Quality Award, awards are also recognised in three niches using the same awards framework. These niche awards are in line with the government’s future growth strategy and recognise innovation excellence, people excellence and service excellence.
There were two recipients of the Innovation Excellence Award. The first of these was the National Library Board for its innovative approaches in its operations, and engagement with the community. The Singapore Civil Defence Force also won an Innovation Excellence Award for demonstrating a strong innovation culture amongst its people, and leveraging technology and state-of-the-art equipment to strengthen its emergency response capabilities.
The Defence Science and Technology Agency won a People Excellence Award for putting people at the heart of its organisation to maximise employee potential and permeate a culture of innovation across their whole organisation.
One of the challenges facing excellence awards programmes globally is ensuring that these programmes add value and remain just as relevant to SMEs as to large organisations including multinationals and government agencies. A significant effort has been expended in engaging SMEs in the Singapore Quality Award programme and this seems to be paying off. SPRING has introduced Business Excellence Standards for organisations that score around 400 points (Singapore Quality Award winners achieve 700 points or more), or approximately twice what a company just complying with ISO 9001 certification would score. These organisations scoring 400 points are recognised as Singapore Quality Class at the holistic level, and also at niche levels for People Developer, Innovation Class, and Service Class. As Minister Iswaran reports, “In the past three years, the number of SMEs benefitting from the business excellence initiative has increased by more than 60%, with the number of private organisations certified for Business Excellence increasing from 85 organisations in 2013 to 140 in 2015.”
Chairman of the Singapore Quality Award Governing Council, Professor Cham Tao Soon said “As Singapore progresses into the next phase of economic development, business excellence plays a greater role in helping organisations strengthen business fundamentals so that they can remain agile and seize growth opportunities. This can be achieved through organisational innovation and learning, people development strategies, and sound management practices. We are encouraged to see over 1,700 organisations achieving this through the Business Excellence journey”.
It seemed to me that Singapore’s 22-year history working with business excellence had made a significant contribution to its growth over the period and this looks like continuing well into the future. The Minister summed it up beautifully when he said “The pursuit of, and commitment to, business excellence takes on added importance as Singapore gears up for the next phase of economic development.”
Many thanks go to SPRING Singapore for inviting me to join them in their awards ceremony. It was a great celebration for the many representatives from the award winners, sharing in their success over a beautiful meal. My congratulations go to all those involved.
Here in New Zealand we celebrate the achievements of both private and public sector organisations that have attained outstanding levels of excellence in the New Zealand Business Excellence Awards. This awards programme, similar to the Singapore Excellence framework, is calibrated to the US Baldrige awards and administered by the NZ Business Excellence Foundation and New Zealand Organisation for Quality.
Michael Voss is a business excellence veteran and the recognised ‘go to guy’ for unlocking the barriers to growth in companies of all sizes and across all industries. He is a frequent commentator on organisational excellence and blogs at MICHAELVOSSNZ.COM and an Associate Consultant for the Centre for Organisational Excellence Research (COER).
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