Magazine article New Zealand Management

Batting for Baldrige. (Opinion / Opinion Leaders)

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Batting for Baldrige. (Opinion / Opinion Leaders)

Article excerpt

"It's not for small businesses." "It's not for service providers." "It's not for public sector entities."

Rationalisation abounds when it comes to not adopting Baldrige. In Trade New Zealand, when we told our board in 1998 that management was going to adopt Baldrige as our framework for continuous improvement, the last two of the above reasons were among the objections trotted out by one or two directors.

However, adopt it we did--and now, four years later, we've been rewarded with an external assessment telling us we're doing pretty well. And the board is enormously supportive of what we are doing!

The rationale for using Baldrige was not to win an award, but for other reasons. Firstly, of all the systems we examined, Baldrige was the most comprehensive framework for measuring all aspects of our business. This was important because we are driven by customer service rather than profit, yet we have to operate efficiently and be able to "walk the talk" with our commercial customers.

Second, it provided the opportunity to benchmark against international best practice, not just against what might be regarded as acceptable in New Zealand.

And thirdly, Baldrige was a framework that enabled us to progress our improvement initiatives at our own pace, but gave us clear signals as to where we were weak and the specifics of what we needed to do to improve.

Trade New Zealand is, by local standards, a big business. But by international standards, with fewer than 400 staff, it is a small business. So where does that leave the average-sized Kiwi company, of which 90 percent have fewer than 20 staff?

Still in the Baldrige camp, I say.

Baldrige can work regardless of business size, product, business model or location.

For example, size is not an impediment to developing and employing good processes. Quite the contrary--small, lean businesses cannot afford to have inefficient processes. Arguably, fewer hands on the wheel mean a higher risk when inefficiency gobbles up time.

Often the neglect of good process development is a factor of time in a small business. Yet the investment of a small amount of time can save both time and money down the track. Just because a company is small and lean is no reason to rely on casual exchanges of information or unstructured approaches to dealing with routine procedures.

Baldrige is a gold mine for companies wishing to enhance their processes and systems. …

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