Dr Miles Weaver: Students are now a whole lot more engaged with building excellence in the workplace
Turn on the news and you get Brexit, America First, “building walls”, “civil unrest in other parts of Europe”, “profit over people and planet” and even rockets! Whatever you think of the political and economic climate, it feels as if the world around us is becoming ever more protectionist and isolated. In the workplace, many of us are faced with cuts and constraint, while ‘need’ exists. The problems don’t simply go away, the cogs just keep turning, albeit with some grinding.
What we need is for organisations to question ‘purpose’, its ‘soul’, and realign business goals with those of society. This requires holistic thinking, the bringing of people together to see the ‘whole’ and not just the subsequent ‘parts’. At the level of the individual, the organisation, their interactions and relationships with stakeholders and the wider world around us. We must avoid “not seeing the elephant in the room”.
In the classroom, Quality Scotland has acted as a real client, getting our postgraduate business students excited about their role to make excellence a national characteristic of Scotland.
The students are learning about the importance of continuous improvement and the approaches that can be adopted to build a truly excellent organisation.
Quality Scotland has considerable reach into the private, public and third sectors in Scotland and are open to new ways to engage with organisations to help them stimulate continuous improvement and be recognised for their efforts, benchmarked against the best in Europe.
This has helped the students to engage and apply learning in the real world and to bring about results for people, customer and society and at the same time deliver real business success. We often hear the term a “unique Scottish approach” which incorporates the building of a fairer, more inclusive society while simultaneously stimulating growth. Our students and the organisations that adopt the EFQM model and work with Quality Scotland – “see the elephant” from multiple perspectives and vistas.
Our students are forming new perspectives and questioning the artificial boundaries that we place around us. They are applying relevant models and concepts, learning from successful companies which have adopted the EFQM Excellence Model and have supported the embedding of excellence as a national characteristic of Scotland.
Adopting the EFQM model in your organisation will pay dividends – not only will participating organisations be part of a vibrant community and get recognition, the model brings people together around a common purpose. It enables you to question what you do in a supportive environment and identify best practice in your sector both nationally and beyond.
Quality Scotland draws on a range of approaches and tools, such as international standards for quality management systems Lean and Six-Sigma. This learning and practical application will best place our students in the workplace to apply as well as to develop solutions and analysis that matters.
The EFQM Model places significant focus on enabling partners and resources and processes that transcend the business. Organisations are only as a strong as their supply chains and must constantly assess need and design business processes that deliver for customers. The new value proposition is in realising the potential in what Martin Christopher, a professor at Cranfield University, stresses – that it is supply chains that compete, not companies, and the benefits of co-creating solutions with customers and key business partners. To “see the elephant” our students need to understand the parts and how they make up the whole. Holistic thinking is needed more than ever in our current and turbulent environment.
In our classrooms, Quality Scotland have renewed our purpose and connection to real world application, not only as a valuable learning experience, but to meet a real client, offer new ideas and solutions that will be bought to action.
Also, in the spirit of recognising excellence the best performing students will have an opportunity to see for themselves the importance and benefits of excellence frameworks and to be engaged in the annual Quality Scotland Scottish Awards for Business Excellence, an additional benefit to get engaged with hundreds of organisations across Scotland who are also celebrating their success.
Dr Miles Weaver, associate professor in Sustainable Business & SCM, Edinburgh Napier University Business School.