Sunday, 1 January 2012

2012 is A Year of ‘Give And Take’

A new year wish of thinking beyond Singapore Quality Award for a balanced and harmonized give and take.

Happy New Year - 2012 will be a year of give and take?

If you visit the websites of LTA, PUB, HDB, HPB, URA, and many other government related organizations, including top schools and government linked companies, all have one comment feature at the bottom of their homepage, the logo of SQA or SQC.

They are in the same thinking framework. National quality or award was quite popular in the past, especially in the western industrial countries and Japan.  However it is beautiful and good to have one but it is no more sufficient. Businesses know that they need to go beyond this quality class to achieve higher growth or to co-operate with others to have a harmonized growth.

Therefore, our wish for the New Year is that the PAP government can go beyond SQA. The SQA model of business excellence has been in Singapore for nearly 20 years.  It has helped to maintain the productivity but hardly improve the productivity growth.  This is the challenge PM Lee mentioned in his NY message and the SQA model seems to suggest using population increase to improve the productivity. Hence, you need to think out of the SQA box.

The explanation for issues related to MRT breakdowns, floods at Orchard Road and even the housing board flats is very standard Singapore Quality replies and answers. 

Spirit of give and take – top down or bottom up

When the government is asking for consensus or asking people to accept difficult trade-offs, will it be a top to bottom approach of SQA model or the bottom to top approach of people power?  It has been noted in too many occasions that the government has not explained the policy changes or not even consult the people thoroughly. Getting feedback from the government appointed grassroots organizations has proved not successful. These PA organizations are just a political tool of the PAP; same can be said for NTUC.

So, when asking people for the spirit of give and take, it is most likely to be a one-way traffic from top to bottom or otherwise?

Spirit of give and take - competition or co-operation

Growth is not achieved by competition but co-operation.  Like the population issue, it has resulted to competition between the locals and foreigners.  The foreigners are supposed to support our economic growth but it ends up creating tension between the two. Is this the SQA way to achieve ‘business excellence’?

The success of evolution is by co-operation, co-existence and not competition.  More and more businesses have begun to realise that there are social responsibilities, and partnership for growth.  Killing competitors will end up killing yourself.  Business excellence is not achieved by competition alone.

Perhaps, this is what PM Lee has described as difficult trade-offs, give and take, not able to please everyone and once a decision is made we will go ahead. He seeks to find co-operation way of business excellence, isn’t?

Business Excellence and Give and Take

2012 will be a difficult and challenging year. If we continue to push business excellence by using SQA framework, we will not be able to look after the people who will be suffered under the economic uncertainty.  The public administration will continue to exercise the SQA practice and as usual it will demand citizens to bear with the ‘give and take’ without consultation and real feedback.

We have yet to see the ‘give and take’ measures and policies.  However, SQA is just a framework less humanity. In time of difficulty, we need change engine and flexible thinking.  Perhaps, just like the article on ‘When one business model isn’t enough’ ( has described, we need more and different models to cope with different situations.  SQA is just one of the business excellence models!

Government as a servant must know and realise there are exceptional cases or special cases that the usual framework or SOP will not be able to solve. 2012 will see more of these cases.

SQA, SQC and citizens as customers

What is SQA? According to Spring Singapore, it was launched in 1994 with the Prime Minister as its patron, the Singapore Quality Award (SQA) is the most prestigious award conferred on organisations that demonstrate the highest standards of business excellence. The Award aims to establish Singapore as a country committed to world-class business excellence. 

And of course, before SQA, you need to know the meaning of SQC. Again, according to Spring Singapore, it was launched in 1997. Singapore Quality Class (SQC) is the certification for the overall business excellence standard. Based on the internationally benchmarked business excellence framework, the SQC provides organisations with a holistic model for managing a business for excellence. It has 7 categories, namely, Leadership, Planning, Information, People, Processes, Customers and Results. 

Like examinations, to quality for a SQC, you need to obtain 400 points and above.  For SQA, it is 700 points and above.  By qualifying for SQC and SQA, the organisations can then display the logos of the SQC and SQA respectively.

Business excellence framework:
(Source: Spring Singapore)
Under the SQA framework, customers are important but it is not sure whether our citizens are treated like customers.  If it is a top down approach, then the customers could be investors, foreign talents, high net worth earners, tourists and etc.  However, this model requests the support of the people, i.e. wiling to give and take.   

This is why there is a need to think beyond the SQA model.

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