“…one of the main clues to corporate excellence has come to be specific incidents of unusual effort on the part of apparently ordinary employees…” – Excerpt from the introduction to the book ‘ In Search of Excellence’ by Thomas Peters and Robert Wateman which was first published in 1984.

The social partners in Barbados have launched the National Initiative for Service Excellence (NISE). It has been formally recognized that enhanced productivity and service excellence are paramount for the achievement of increased competitiveness and holistic sustainable development. NISE is a vision. However splendid a vision might be, it will have no lasting impact on a community until there is buy-in by members of the community, and there is an action plan established and managed to success.

We must remember that a manifestation of public or private sector excellence is ‘an unusual effort on the part of apparently ordinary employees’. If this behaviour is continually witnessed then the chances are that it spells excellence for the culture of the organization, because after all, a major factor in an organization’s image is the interface between customer and front line service experience.

For example, if a waiter in a restaurant, a receptionist in a hotel, a sales clerk in a store, an immigration or customs officer at a port of entry, a check-in clerk at an airline counter, a telephone operator for any organisation exude service excellence, then the customer will remember the ‘NISE’ experience and the organization will be exalted in their memory. The result – repeat business and referrals redounding to the benefit of the organization. The customer is likely to assume that the organisation is paramount in its service excellence from tip to toe.
On the other hand, if these front line employees slip up once, the customer who experiences this specific incident of poor service is likely to brand the entire organization as wanting in service excellence, will seek an alternative provider of service and will certainly steer friends, acquaintances and colleagues away from such an organisation. For all we know this organisation might have had excellent management staff and might have spent considerable time and effort in instilling a culture of service excellence but was exposed by a specific incident of poor quality from a single employee. An organisation which can boast of 100% service excellence, 100% of the time must therefore have exemplary front line employees. It is unlikely that this can be achieved unless the organization has a good culture of service excellence throughout its structure.
It has been reported in the press that the social partners have proposed a national consultation in the near future to effect an appropriate buy-in by all the Barbadian stakeholders. This is an excellent idea and of course must be well managed. I have also noted in the press an advertisement for a CEO for NISE.
The traditional approach to institutional development is to begin with a strategic visioning session which addresses the requirement of buy-in from the stakeholders but also uses the opportunity to get the diverse views of these stakeholders- young and old, public and private sector, professional and non-professional through a process of interactive dialogue. As the Japanese say “everybody has a head” and hence we want to hear all opinions before we conclude on the best direction to proceed. The next step would be to have a business plan prepared and identify the capital required to mount NISE effectively. Then the social partners would get together and provide the seed capital required to get NISE off the ground and establish the organization as a specific type of corporate entity, presumably a Charitable Trust. A Board of Trustees should be established from the stakeholders and a consultant co-ordinator appointed to get the organization running. A significant mandate of this co-ordinator would be to manage the selection of an appropriate CEO for recommendation to the Board. The timing of the NISE national consultation and the advertisement for a CEO for NISE does not appear to be in-keeping with the above recommended procedure.
Last week Barbados welcomed a delegation comprising private sector businessmen from the People’s Republic of China in an initiative to encourage investment opportunities in Barbados. There is an institution in China called the Centre of Organisation and People Excellence (COPE) which was formally established in September 2004 by the China Europe International Business School and which has the blessing of the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS). EQUIS is the leading international system of quality assessment improvement and accreditation of higher education institutions in management and business administration. Its fundamental objective is to raise the standard of education worldwide. Working closely with the corporate world, COPE aims to generate practical and impactful knowledge, frameworks and tools that enhance the capacity of corporations in China to execute their business strategies and create business competitiveness through cutting edge people and organisational management practices. The Barbados social partners would be well advised to solicit some form of partnership with COPE as a result of the visit of the Chinese businessmen.
Service excellence will not be achieved without the appropriate underpinning of management quality.