No organization exists in a bubble. In fact, one might go so far as to say absent the relationships with customers, clients, partners, suppliers, and countless other entities,an organization has no reason to exist. Each relationship can be extremely complex, made more so by the myriad interrelationships that the organization must manage among all of them at once. Then there are competitors and government regulations to consider. To complicate matters, the organization must also look inward, toward its human and financial resources, plant and equipment—all the considerations known as “internal environmental factors” that have to be deftly managed on a daily basis in order to just stay in business even before growth and competitive advantage are achieved. Internal and external resources have to be managed with a view to day to day operations as well as for the long term—perspectives which often are at odds with each other. Management must be efficient and effective, all the while balancing conflicting responsibilities to all stakeholders, which include not only the owners, customers, and employees of the business, but also those affected by its operations andwho are dependent on the organization for management of its affairs in compliance with cultural and environmental considerations.
The road to excellence is strewn with so many obstacles it’s a wonder that any survive, much less excel. But excel they do, and there are many examples in Abu Dhabi that we can not only admire, but learn from.
In the Abu Dhabi public sector are many organizations that have achieveda level of excellence worthy of EFQM (European Foundation for Quality Management) recognition. They have done so with a philosophy of management that respects and is sensitive to societal and environmental impacts. As a prime example, Etihad Airways has a large number of partnerships with various other airlines that help the company provide air service to more than 300 destinations worldwide. With effective management of these partnerships and by playing on the complementary strengths they share, this state-owned airline has been able to grow exponentially and has become one of the leading airlines in the world.
In the same way, other government organizations such as the Abu Dhabi Health ServicesCompany, SEHA and Abu Dhabi Gas Industries, GASCO, seek to make efficient use of technology and resources while limiting to the greatest extent possible negative environmental and societal impacts from their activities.
But what exactly does the EFQM Model dictate when it comes to managing resources and partnerships to enable excellence?
One of the necessary factors in achieving excellence is a long term outlook. This is true for all areas of operation, including partner and supplier relationships. Firms achieve excellence at least in part by managing their relationships for the long term. As we stated before, oftentimes near-term and long-term considerations conflict with each other, but the excellent organization never forsakes long-term relationships for short-term gains. Long-term relationships—whether personal or business—are built on a foundation of mutual trust and respect.All business dealings should be straightforward and transparent; motives clear; all relevant information shared not only for legal but also for moral reasons.At times,sharing information may seem counterproductive, but in the long run, faith and good will are returned to the organization.
Relationships among partners and suppliers cannot be managed identically, as they have unique needs and requirements and should be dealt with in their own way. The excellent organization develops engagement policies suited to the unique requirements of each partner or supplier, molding the policies to suit the needs and goals vis-à-vis each one, ensuring that the maximum benefit accrues to the organization from each relationship. A comprehensive Stakeholder Management and Communication Plan—a set of documents detailing how communication is carried out with each of the organization’s suppliers and partners—is invaluable in ensuring that all aspects of communication are planned and that the organization maintains consistency even through inevitable changes in management and other circumstances.
Excellent firms have networks that help pinpoint new opportunities in the partnership arena. They know how to build and nurture these relationships to enhance their value and to provide mutual benefits to organizations and their stakeholders. Seamless processes are developed and both firms in a partnership work together for long term, sustainable excellence. In this way, the various partner firms can achieve shared goals by pooling their resources, knowledge, and expertise, while economizing on expenses and promoting mutual growth and success.
The Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADM) entered into one such partnership recently from which it is already seeing benefits and growth. As a result of a collaborative partnership with OSN, the region’s leading pay-TV network, since September 2014, ADM’s subscription based channels are available exclusively on OSN.The Chairman and Managing Director of ADM, H.E Mohamed Ebraheem Al Mahmood said while speaking about this partnership, “This strategic collaboration will reconfirm our position as one of the largest, multi-platform media and entertainment organizations in the UAE and the Middle East and will contribute to Abu Dhabi Media’s innovative portfolio and add to its success.”He went on to talk about how expanding their broadcast radius to additional regions is part of ADM’s core strategy.This partnership helps fulfill these goals.
Anyone who has been involved in the initial stages of a business knows that one of the most important considerations of surviving the startup period comes down to two words: Cash Flow. Through the miracle of accrual accounting all can appear rosy, but as they say, cash is king, and if there’s not enough of it when needed, all the excellent management in the world won’t save the enterprise. With this, the overall financial management of the firm must be based on sound strategies, policies, processes, and procedures that support the company’s goals and reason for existence. (This concept is so common in some companies that it is simply referred to as “S3P,” with no apologies to C3PO of Star Wars fame.) Then the firm reviews and revises S3P on a regular basis to ensure it is in alignment with market and regulatory conditions.
When circumstances warrant, the firm will invest excess capital in short- and long-term instruments that align with its financial goals and plans. Investing the firm’s hard-earned capital in the market requires careful evaluation of those investment vehicles and the company’s projected needs. With that said, excellence requires that the firm not only evaluate its investments from the standpoint of timeliness and absolute return on investment, but also considers those investments’ long-term societal and environmental impacts.
Stakeholders—partners, customers, and suppliers—can be vitally interested in and affected by the firm’s financial activities. The goal of excellence cannot be achieved unless acompany, especially a public one, is open, honest, and transparent in its financial management and allows its stakeholders to be fully aware of the risks involved in its operations. It must be apparent that current expenses conform to published long-term goals and strategy. These stakeholders, those who partner with and make production decisions based on long-term supply contracts with the firm, cannot be expected to plan their affairs vis-à-vis the firm that does not warrant their full faith and trust.
In addition to its human resources, a firm has various other physical resources—plant and equipment, natural resources, etc.—at its disposal to create a salable commodity. The utilization of these resources is subject to a wide array of methods. Physical infrastructure is subject to constant depreciation, wear and tear, damage from use or misuse, or even loss through natural disaster or simple theft. The excellent organization actively seeks out ways to protect and improve its use of natural resources and plant and equipment to get the most out of them, to use them most efficiently and in ways that add value to the firm’s short- and long-term goals and strategy.
The path to excellence includes consideration and effective management of issues related to public health and safety and the effect of the firm’s operations on the natural environment. Some firms, by the nature of their operations, are bound to have adverse effects on ecological systems and so must take special care to mitigate those effects wherever possible.
As a prime example, GASCO, a state-owned Abu Dhabi gas company, strives to protect the environment from adverse affects of their operations. This company has taken many steps to ensure a healthy environment and the safety of the surrounding residents. An important step toward this was the development of an Environment Impact Statement as part of HSEIA. They have also worked to reduce flaring, achieving a 73% drop since 1998 through several initiatives. In 2008 they introduce the GASCO Energy Award with the aim of enhancing energy conservation and environment preservation.GASCO also adopted the ADNOC Air Quality Emission Monitoring Programand has a number of monitoring stations at its sites that obtain air data on a regular basis. This data is used for comparison with stringent air quality objectives and standards so that improvement is constantly made. In this way, GASCO is better able to control harmful air-borne chemicals, making a safer environment for residents of nearby cities and towns.
The operations of every field can be enhanced and improved through IT and other modern technologies. Virtually every firm can make use of new technology to advance and achieve excellence. However, the technologies a company incorporates must be in line with its overall business strategy.
It is also important to note that the technology used by an organization must be up-dated constantly. The development of completely new technology, as well as the improvement of older, continues at a faster and faster pace. A firm that is not cognizant of technological developments that can improve its operations will quickly lose ground to others that are.
Here in Abu Dhabi we have an example of excellence in the use of technology. One of the strategic goals set by SEHA, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, is to “Ensure patient safety and build patient trust in the healthcare system.”They also aim to“Develop the infrastructure required to achieveandsupportworld class standards for healthcare delivery.” As evidence of their success in moving toward these goals, they were awarded the Cerner Achievement Innovation Awards 2014, a recognition of excellence in adopting Health Care IT Technology in the Middle East. They took these awards in the categories of “Achievement and Innovation in Patient Care Delivery” and “Achievement and Innovation in Patient Care Delivery in Departmental Experience.” In both cases, SEHA was able to meet their strategic goals with the use of technology, creating IT systems and using other technology to improve healthcare delivery standards, including improved diagnostics and reduced waiting time for patients.
SEHA also signed a cooperative agreement with Canada’s research hospital, University Health Network (UHN) to advance their strategy to “Build a solid foundation for Research & Development and Education within SEHA.” The two organizations will partner to share knowledge and information and carry out research that will help them keep abreast of the latest healthcare technology,facilitate the exchange of other enabling technology, and provide other benefits to both organizations.
Excellent firms are able to translate raw data into useful contextual knowledge and information that can be used to predict future trends and aid in decision making. This is a key strength an organization must foster in its leadership so that the excellence of the firm is sustained and spread throughout the organization from the top down.
Information and knowledge can be relevant to employees, and other stakeholders who may be external to the firm. While it may be necessary to share information externally, it must be done in a systematic manner and monitored, especially if the information is proprietary intellectual property of the firm.
An excellent organization will keep a sharp look out for innovations at all times. Information concerning appropriate technological developments can come from anywhere, so the firm should not be quick to ignore suggestions from even the most unlikely place. Information can come in many forms: current performance and capabilities of the people and processes, emerging customer requests or needs, and developing market strengths and weaknesses among others. All can be indicative of new opportunities or conditions ripe for advancing the firm’s technological base.
As the government of Abu Dhabi evaluates different firms taking part in the Abu Dhabi Awards for Excellence in Government Performance, the Partnership and Resources Enabler criteria will play a huge part in establishing the level of excellence of the government organizations under review. The effective management of this criteria with relevance to the firm’s stakeholder-oriented strategies can guarantee the success of a firm and enable true excellence.