BALDRIGE QUALITY PROGRAMME
Published on December 30, 2009
The quality-management criteria of the United States Foundation for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards (MBNQA) have been applied in more than 70 countries around the world. The Foundation of Thailand Productivity Institute (FTPI) has modelled its Thailand Quality Awards on the Baldrige formula. The executive directors of the US foundation, Thomas Schamberger, and the Thai institute, Panich Laosirirat, spoke recently of some of the challenges and developments in the quality-management arena. The Nation's Pichaya Changsorn reports.
The head of the US foundation was quick to point out that the Baldrige criteria for performance excellence were not a prescriptive formula, because there was no single route recommended for achieving excellence. The focus, Schamberger said, was on the "roadmap" or "the journey", rather than the destination, because there was no such thing as a perfect organisation.
He said that since organisations had become much more globally connected, companies had accepted that they could not really accomplish quality improvement at headquarters without making an equal effort in their operations elsewhere.
In other words, he said, "quality has become global". Therefore, the US foundation has realised a new role of acting more like an ambassador for the programme throughout the world.
Organisations that have applied the Baldrige framework suffered only "little slippages" during the global economic crisis because they constantly looked for ways to innovate and improve their systems and processes and to retain their workforces, customer satisfaction and performance results, Schamberger said.
The foundation still receives the same number of applicants, despite the crisis. However, while the MBNQA programme has gained more interest from the healthcare sector, which now makes 55 per cent of all applications, manufacturers, especially large ones, are losing enthusiasm for adopting the quality-improvement criteria.
"They [large US manufacturers] tend to look for easy ways and quick results," he said.
The biggest challenge for the Baldrige foundation is to encourage organisations to remain patient and maintain the performance-improvement journey, and not to do it just for winning awards, Schamberger said.
He gave examples of companies applying tools like Kaizen, Lean or Six-Zigma purely "to be fashionable", without knowing what the tools actually were, or seeing an overall roadmap.
Panich said there was a similar problem in Thailand, of encouraging companies to perceive and use the Thai Quality Awards criteria as a means to continuously improve their performance, rather than simply for winning awards.
Unlike its counterpart in the United States, which is far better established, the FTPI is also finding difficulty ensuring the continuity of the Thai Quality Awards programme and encouraging the government to recognise the programme's importance. Panich said the programme was currently a project that received an annual budget from the government, and this support could be discontinued at any time.
He said the FTPI would like to encourage more small- and medium-sized enterprises to adopt the quality-management criteria, despite complaints that they would not see any profit gain within a short period.
To make sure the prime minister will be easily able to present next year's Thai Quality Awards despite a busy schedule, the awards ceremony is to be held at Government House, Panich said.