Judges recognise star performers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 July, 2008, 12:00am

Businesses in Hong Kong attach increasing importance to quality management. This is reflected by the growing recognition given to the HKMA Quality Award, organised by the Hong Kong Management Association.

'The award has established credibility and received growing recognition since its debut in 1991,' said John Chan Cho-chak, chairman of the HKMA Quality Award organising committee. 'We see increasingly enthusiastic participation by the local business sector.'

While the award's appeal to the business sector has grown, its scope has also expanded. Not only had world-renowned and large corporations taken part in the award, but government departments and not-for-profit organisations had also participated, and some had been honoured, Dr Chan said. The award also attracted and recognised the outstanding performance of smaller scale corporations by introducing the special award for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) several years ago.

Dr Chan, who is also one of the award's seven judges, said they had thoroughly reviewed the assessment reports of the board of examiners and held discussions with the individual winning companies. 'We could feel these companies' intense enthusiasm and dedication to achieving quality management,' he said.

'They have made a tremendous effort and deployed a lot of resources [to integrate quality management into their operations]. We are glad to see significant improvement in these companies' business performance as well as the progress they have made in the building of a corporate culture [that emphasises quality],' Dr Chan said. 'We believe all the participating companies should be able to learn a lot and benefit from their participation.'

All shortlisted applicants received a detailed feedback report on their strengths and weaknesses based on the award's judging criteria.

'We feel that we have contributed our part [in promoting quality management],' he added.

The mission of the HKMA Quality Award is to help Hong Kong businesses enhance their competitiveness in the local and international markets by promoting the concept of quality management, according to Dr Chan.

The underlying spirit of the quality management concept is the constant pursuit of excellence. 'The winning companies have received recognition for their outstanding performance ... and this honour helps enhance their reputation,' he said. But the real benefit is that these companies have adopted the award's spirit. 'They should continue to innovate and improve themselves by adapting to the changes in the global economy and society.'

Using the United States' Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award judging criteria, the HKMA Quality Award also provided a platform for Hong Kong businesses to compare their performance with those of some of the best international corporations, Dr Chan said.

The seven criteria of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award assess such areas as leadership, strategic planning, customer and market focus, workforce focus, process management, and results. These are applicable to all businesses regardless of their geographic location or scale. Dr Chan said some fine-tuning in the marking process had been made to reflect changes in the global marketplace and the needs of consumers. 'For instance, more emphasis has been placed on the working environment for staff and on the customer and market focus in recent years.'

The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) was also reflected in the seven criteria, Dr Chan said. 'For example, how much resources should a company deploy to fulfil this responsibility when it is formulating its business strategies? It is about how a company integrates the concept of CSR into its overall operations.'

A concerted effort of the management and staff to pursue the company's vision is a common trait of all the winning companies over the years. 'The top management of these companies provides effective and visionary leadership,' he said. 'Through effective internal communication, the management is able to motivate all staff to contribute their efforts to achieve the common goals which are aligned with the quality management concept.' The well co-ordinated co-operation of various departments in a company is essential for it to achieve the best results. 'It is easier said than done. Like a dragon boat team, a company will definitely lag the others if all team members are not well co-ordinated,' Dr Chan said. '[Achieving quality] requires the long-term commitment on the part of the management and its staff and a shared belief in the goals they have set.'

A company also needs to develop ways to foster empathy in its staff so that they will act and think in the interest of the company.

'The most commonly used and direct method to achieve this is to reward the staff based on their individual performance. A company should instil in its staff an understanding that the reward they get is proportionate to the contribution they make,' he said.

One of the biggest challenges facing local businesses was high staff turnover, Dr Chan said.

'This is the time when a company needs team spirit and quality management to tackle these challenges.'

When a company adopts total quality management, it benefits all the stakeholders, including the management, staff, other enterprises working with the company and customers. 'The immediate beneficiaries are the customers when the quality of the products or services improves,' he said. 'Because their salaries are based on their individual performance and the sales of the company, the staff will also benefit.

'They will gain ... when the company is able to deploy more resources to develop training programmes and upgrade the working environment.'

As a company achieves significant business growth and builds a good reputation, the management and shareholders benefit.

'This is a 'multiwin' situation,' Dr Chan said.

To achieve excellence in quality, companies should adapt to the emerging trends of the corporate world. Among them is a heightened awareness of CSR.

More companies come under increasing public scrutiny to see whether they fulfil their CSR.

The concept of environmental conservation will also make a big impact on the way businesses are operated.

'Manufacturers are required to incorporate systems to minimise pollution to the environment and contribute their part towards environmental protection. This has gone beyond purely commercial considerations. The trend reflects a growing concern for the future of mankind,' Dr Chan said.