Successful business and quality go together, chairman says
Quality is a characteristic that every company aspires to be associated with, but only the very best are awarded the sought-after Hong Kong Management Association (HKMA) Quality Award.
'Companies that win a prestigious HKMA Quality Award work hard to build and maintain quality systems and services and fully deserve the recognition they receive,' says James Thompson, chairman of the 2012 HKMA Quality Award organising committee. He adds that successful business and quality go together.
'Any business that hopes to sustain itself for the long run has to be focused on quality service and products,' says Thompson, who is also chairman of Crown Worldwide Holdings.
Launched in 1991 and based on the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in the United States, the HKMA Quality Award recognises achievements across seven criteria: leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; workforce focus; operations focus; results; and measurement, analysis and knowledge management.
Thompson says the HKMA's exacting criteria standards and the robust assessment processes, ensure that credibility and integrity are ingrained in the awards programme. 'The evaluation process conducted by the Quality Award board of examiners is thorough and methodical. There is no easy route to winning an award,' he says.
Adding weight to Thompson's observation, while a gold and two bronze awards were presented this year, the board of examiners decided that no company met the criteria to secure the silver award.
'Past, present and future winners know they have achieved something special if they are presented with an award,' Thompson says. 'The fact the board of examiners decided not to make a silver award adds strength and standing to the programme.'
He says Hong Kong's predominance of service-oriented companies is one of the reasons the HKMA strives to bring attention to those organisations that have achieved outstanding standards of quality and make a lasting commitment to quality management. 'Quality is not just something spoken about in management meetings, it needs to be understood and implemented at every level and every stage of customer engagement,' Thompson says. He cites friendly and helpful answers to customer questions and concerns; products and services that deliver what they are supposed to; and follow-through on delivery times and dates.
'A lot of factors come into play in measuring quality,' Thompson says. 'However, companies that tend to be around for a long time are not necessarily those that produce the most or have the biggest sales, but those who understand the importance of delivering quality.'
He also believes small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have as much to gain as larger companies from participating. Although evaluated using the same seven criteria, a separate SME award is made to participating companies with 200 or fewer employees. He says that most small businesses achieve success not only because they bring an innovative product or idea to market, but rather because they engage with customers through quality service.
Thompson likens the pursuit of quality to the experiences outlined in Moments of Truth, Jan Carlzon's story of how, under his leadership as president and CEO of Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS), quality became the benchmark for SAS's pursuit of excellence. 'Quality is journey, which you never complete; if you think you have got there, you will probably find yourself facing some tough challenges,' Thompson says.
To help companies on their quality journey, participants receive consultation and advice from quality evaluation experts. Furthermore, companies that are shortlisted receive detailed feedback that provides a description of strengths and areas for improvement based on the evaluation criteria.
'This valuable information can be put to good use to implement improvements,' Thompson says. In a similar way, he says the data gathering and internal analysis undertaken by companies applying to join the award can also be used in conjunction with expert feedback to make improvements.
He says participation in the HKMA Quality Award signals a strong commitment to the implementation of quality, continuous improvement and customer satisfaction. 'An indication of how the awards are viewed and respected can be measured by the number of companies that take part for several years without winning an award, but keep making improvements until they achieve success,' Thompson says.