Early in 2011, the National Quality Institute (NQI) board of governors decided to re-brand NQI as Excellence Canada. They had decided that the name National Quality Institute no longer related to what customers and prospects understood to be the focus of business, namely improving performance and recognizing excellence.
Take-up has been impressive. Both the new name and a total review of the services and material available are eliciting positive responses from all quarters.
Historically, the National Quality Institute has been recognized for the fine work it has done to help Canadians by promoting excellence and providing the tools to help achieve excellence in Canada’s small businesses, large corporations and public institutions.
Public and private enterprises that demonstrate organizational excellence such as quantitative improvements in productivity, quality and customer satisfaction, do so as a result of strong leadership, careful planning, and the involvement of as many people as possible from the workplace. By applying these principles, people engagements are stronger, the workforce is content, collaboration is readily apparent and innovation is exercised.
Anyone who has undertaken to manage quality will recall the history of the quality movement. Well-respected gurus like Drs. Joseph Juran and W. Edwards Deming have allowed us to move forward from excessive product inspection to quality assurance, then quality management and ultimately to excellence. For many discriminating buyers these days, quality is not enough as it tends to relate to product quality. One needs to set the bar somewhat higher and promote excellence as the goal.
NQI began life in 1992 as an independent non-for-profit organization with a vision of “inspiring excellence in Canada” with assistance from what is now known as Industry Canada and the support of a number of organizations from corporate Canada. In the early days, NQI’s focus was working with industry on ways to improve competitiveness. NQI established two main thrusts to excellence: quality and healthy workplace.
There are many CEOs in Canada who know they have an excellent product and/or provide very good services. Most of them probably feel they are doing all they need to do to continue to succeed. Unfortunately, most of them eventually will encounter obstacles they will have difficulty turning into opportunities. A number of them will find themselves in serious trouble. That is where the NQI Excellence programs can help.
NQI focuses on its Progressive Excellence Program, or PEP, a step-by-step, four level program that is progressively more challenging yet helpful to the organization with the wisdom and foresight to undertake a PEP journey.
Excellence by itself can be very rewarding to an enterprise and to its people. It can also be quite cost-effective; the pursuit of excellence is bound to result both in savings and in job satisfaction and that leads to client satisfaction – both internal and external. Excellence can be a fantastic differentiator and Canadian organizations should take advantage of this.
Many organizations now promote excellence. In addition to NQI, the American Society for Quality, the Canadian Public Sector Quality Association and others have been quite active in tailoring their efforts to the needs of Canadian organizations.
The first initiative to recognize excellence was the annual Canada Awards for Business Excellence, launched by the Government of Canada in 1984. This was followed, in 1988, by the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in the U.S. Others in Europe, Japan, Australia and elsewhere soon followed.
In November 2011, Excellence Canada hosted the 27th Anniversary of the Canada Awards for Excellence. The list of winning organizations over the years is a testament to how world class excellence can be pursued the Canadian way. Indeed, results of a lengthy study revealed that publicly traded companies that are winners of a Canada Award for Excellence enjoy vastly improved share prices than other enterprises.
As we begin 2012, may we all take a hard look at our enterprises – be they private or public – and decide how best to begin a journey to excellence. We owe it to our employees and to ourselves.
Don Wilson is the outgoing executive director for the National Capital Region of Excellence Canada.