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Quality is one of the most complex concepts to be understood as there is no universal definition to it. Everyone views quality in their own subjective manner. Moreover, the views on quality very much depend on the different criteria used to evaluate it. For instance, Deming, a well-known and influential quality management guru, did not define or describe quality specifically. In one of his last books, he stated that ‘a product or a service possesses quality if it helps somebody and enjoys a good and sustainable market’.
Business excellence is often characterized by principles, practices and techniques in managing the organisation and achieving results, based on a set of fundamental concepts or values. Many countries have developed their own models and frameworks to evaluate and recognize organizations for their efforts in business excellence through awards programmes. In Singapore, for example, the Business Excellence (BE) initiative was started by Spring Singapore to assist organizations strengthen their management systems and processes for high performance through the adoption of the business excellence framework.
In my opinion, “Quality is a means to an end for business excellence.” essentially means that, ‘quality is a tool to achieve the objective of business excellence’. In this context, quality is marked by ‘a concentrated expenditure of involvement, concern, and commitment’. An example is the National Library Board (NLB) which oversees both the National Library Singapore (NLS) as well as the Public Libraries Singapore (PLS). By anchoring quality as one of its cornerstones, NLB has received numerous Business Excellence Awards from Spring Singapore.
The Business Excellence Framework consists of seven criteria categories such as Leadership, People, Planning, Information, Processes, Customers and Results.
The leadership criterion concentrates three main areas: senior leadership organizational culture and corporate responsibility. Senior management has to demonstrate that they lead by example when it comes to pursuing business excellence through quality.
In NLB, the senior management plays a pivotal role behind its commitment in transformation into a top quality and world-class, user-friendly library network. This common vision shared by the senior management, is articulated in the strategic priorities of its strategic plan. NLB’s NLB’s vision is to ‘build a knowledgeable and engaged society by inspiring lifelong learning, bringing knowledge alive, sparking imagination and creating possibility for a vibrant and creative Singapore’. To communicate and disseminate their plans and directions, the senior management will engage in brainstorming sessions with the middle management at the annual Corporate Planning Retreat. The purpose is to anticipate new customer needs and plan for new services to meet those needs. Other channels of communications include feedback sessions, in-house newsletter, websites and new media.
The senior management team has consistently advocated a set of core values related to NLB’s role of serving the community at large. This set of core values were reviewed and formalized as shared values, as well as incorporated into the NLB’s Performance Management Programme (PMP). As a result these core values are indoctrinated in every employee when performing their day-to-day operations.
In fulfilling its corporate social responsibilities, NLB is dedicated to serve the wider public, included the less privileged. Such projects include Project Delivery where volunteers are ferried by volunteer cabbies and the annual Charity Book Donation where used books from the libraries are donated to over one hundred charities.
The planning criterion concentrates on the...
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