Total quality management has become one of the most discussed management concepts in the past decade, as companies focus on perfecting the development, deployment and maintenance of their organisational systems. While quality control, quality assurance and quality improvement are vital to an organisation, the methods they adopt to ensure their goals are reached are key to raising standards. This year, four companies achieved outstanding performance during the assessment process of the Hong Kong Management Association (HKMA) Quality Award. These are the Gold Award winner, Hong Kong Air Cargo Terminals (Hactl); Silver Award winner, BOC Group Life Assurance; Bronze Award winner, Cathay Pacific Catering Services; and the Special Award for SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) winner, Uchiya Hong Kong. 'The winners showed us how they position themselves correctly, remain competitive and maintain quality control despite financial difficulties, and under intense competition in their respective industries,' says Professor Matthew Yuen, chairman of the 2010 HKMA Quality Award board of examiners. The HKMA Quality Award is based on the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in the United States, with seven judging criteria: leadership; strategic planning; customer and market focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; process management; and results. 'Some companies excel in one or two criterion, but this award looks for overall performance excellence,' Yuen says. Hong Kong faces challenges from the mainland economy, while companies need to maintain a sharp sense of environmental change and stay updated with customer needs. 'Companies that have received the award may be one of the best in their industries, or in Hong Kong,' says Eric Chow, an examiner of the 2010 HKMA Quality Award. 'What we wanted to see in them is their ability to cope with changes in the environment and reposition themselves to achieve sustainability while maintaining top quality control.' The award serves as a learning process for participants, helping them enhance co-operation, communication, overall management quality, quality of products and services, and competitive edge. 'Other than focusing on total quality management, the award helps organisations make substantial improvements during the process,' says Katherine Lau, also an examiner. 'This attracts the attention of competitors to want to know more about the award and eventually helps make overall improvements in the quality of the whole industry and competitiveness of Hong Kong.' Organisations should not place most of their resources in a few areas, but rather focus on total quality enhancement so as to drive products and services to the next level and prepare themselves to meet international competition. 'We look forward to seeing further improvements in service quality in the upcoming years,' says Dr Chester Tsang, an examiner. 'The voice of customers and customer reviews are the most important factors, while an organisation's data analysis and communication between top management, middle management and all staff play an important role in shaping a quality organisation.' Ivy Leung, an examiner, says: 'Companies should have a balanced approach. The biggest advantage of a company is having good employees who can carry out the company's vision, mission and core competencies.' The consensus is that excellent corporate management makes an organisation stand out from its rivals, benefits employees and spreads a positive message throughout the company. 'It is not the award, but the process that is the most important,' says Lewis Ho, an examiner. 'Companies that want to make improvements in their operations and quality management should participate as it helps enhance internal communication, while we share our experiences and give advice to all participants.' The HKMA has presented a Special Award for SMEs since 2005, encouraging the participation of companies in any industry which employ 200 people or less in Hong Kong and are not subsidiaries of another corporation with headquarters in Hong Kong. 'We encourage SMEs to pursue total quality management based on the seven different judging criteria,' says Ray Lau, an examiner. 'We hope they can identify their unique position and comparative advantage when preparing for the award.'