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Four Kiwi Champions In Business sector's Ironman

Four Kiwi Champions In Business Equivalent Of The Ironman

Four New Zealand organisations have taken pole position in the world’s most gruelling process of business performance assessment, proving they measure up to high levels of international competitiveness.

The national Business Excellence Awards assessment, administered by the New Zealand Business Excellence Foundation, compares participating organisations with the world’s best. The assessment is based on the internationally recognised best practice model for business, the Business Excellence Framework, also known as the Baldrige criteria.

The organisations – Trade New Zealand, Auckland Regional Council, Livestock Improvement Corporation Ltd and Accident Compensation Corporation’s Healthwise business unit – all emerged from the national Business Excellence Awards assessment to learn that they can cut it with the world’s best.

Top performer this year was Trade New Zealand, which earned an Achievement (Silver) Award – equivalent to four times the performance of the average New Zealand company. It is the first New Zealand Government agency to achieve a Silver Award and only the third business in New Zealand to do so since the Baldrige Awards have been used here. Auckland Regional Council and Livestock Improvement earned Commendation Awards (three times the average performance) and ACC Healthwise earned a Progress Award (twice the average).

Business Excellence Foundation chief executive Mike Watson says the main benefit of being assessed is that participants gain measurable knowledge about their performance, particularly strengths and areas needing improvement, benchmarked against the performance of the world’s best.

“These organisations are among the few in New Zealand that actually know – beyond ad hoc key performance indicators or balance sheets – exactly how their performance compares with their global peers and competitors,” he says.

“These organisations not only have a culture of high achievement, but they have also found in the Business Excellence Foundation’s assessment methodology a way to measure and improve their performance so it reaches an internationally competitive level.”

Business’s lingua franca

The Business Excellence Framework measures performance in the areas of leadership, strategy and planning, customers and markets, information and analysis, employees, processes and results. Unlike process and documentation standards like the ISO series, the framework addresses the entire business and all the linkages that create synergy and overall capability.

The Baldrige criteria were developed by a former US Commerce Secretary in the 1980s and remain the world standard for excellence.

Mr Watson says New Zealand businesses must take the criteria seriously because they are the lingua franca of excellence in international business, enabling them to attract better customers, suppliers and staff than their competitors.

He says there is a lot of rhetoric about international competitiveness, but the Baldrige criteria represent the only methodology for converting rhetoric into results. And the results can be significant - Baldrige Award winners around the world attract double their non-Baldrige competitors’ operating profits and return significantly better dividends to shareholders and stakeholders.


Trade New Zealand: exporting itself to excellence

Trade New Zealand’s assessment revealed that the export promotion agency has very effective leadership – in some areas equalling the best practices in the world. Staff are highly motivated and have an excellent understanding of roles and alignment to the organisation’s strategic objectives. The Awards evaluators considered Trade New Zealand’s internal processes to be of a very high standard and praised its culture of leadership, trust and honesty.

Trade New Zealand chief executive Fran Wilde says the Silver Award is the result of five years’ work for the organisation, which set out to become a world-class agency following a major strategic review in 1997.

“We aspired to be outstanding because we are working with companies that need outstanding business practices to be successful in the global marketplace. Unless we ourselves demonstrate business excellence we cannot show true leadership,” says Ms Wilde.

“The intention was to be more responsive to client needs, more proactive with finding and passing through trade opportunities and more expert in the advice we give. This has required major upgrades of systems and processes and a significant culture shift to ensure we perform just like a fast-thinking company.”

Ms Wilde says the award demonstrates Trade New Zealand’s ongoing commitment to improvements that meet the needs of clients both in New Zealand and around the world.

“In return we have been rewarded with greater loyalty from our clients, who increasingly recognise the value of our service and the positive contribution we make to their business.”

Trade New Zealand has been using the Baldrige criteria for a number of years to help shape its Export Awards and Brand New Zealand programmes.

Auckland Regional Council: two-thirds of the way to best in the world

Auckland Regional Council chief executive Jo Brosnahan says its Commendation Award – its second in as many years - indicates it is two-thirds of the way to its goal for world-class excellence. The council improved its performance significantly on the previous year.

“Increased competitiveness is not something peculiar to private industry – we feel those pressures as keenly as anybody. Our customers are expecting more and more from us, and they are never going to say to us – ‘you should have waited longer to become the best’,” she says.

Livestock Improvement: excellence - no bull

Livestock Improvement is one of the reasons New Zealand dairy farmers enjoy the lowest cost milk production in the world, a result of the highest technology transfer rate in the world, national farm management and breeding strategies and the highest rate of genetic gain of any dairy industry in the world.

Chief executive Stuart Gordon attributes the Commendation Award to the performance of the organisation's staff. He says the company has always set the standard for herd improvement around the world and it is challenging and rewarding to pitch itself against the demanding international standards of the Business Excellence criteria.

"New Zealand pastoral dairy farmers are the best in the world – and they own this company. They've come to expect leadership from us in terms of the products and services we deliver and are beneficiaries of their company being ranked against the best in the world in terms of its business processes and operations. We are delighted to have such a positive endorsement of our performance standards and to demonstrate to our co-operative owners that we're performing well.

"This Award is a win for everyone involved in the company. We have a very strong culture and every member of the team has a part in all our successes," he says.

ACC Healthwise: Walking the talk for health providers
ACC Healthwise, which is New Zealand’s second largest health purchaser, manages healthcare contracts for 1.5 million injured claimants each year. It maintains data on more than 13,000 providers and manages 1400 contracts covering 48 different health services, ranging from home help to elective surgery and trauma care. The business unit manages an annual budget of $840 million.

General manager David Rankin says ACC Healthwise became involved in business excellence because management realised the division needed to walk the talk when it came to quality.

"ACC Healthwise adopted the Baldrige criteria two years ago to ensure the division helped ACC claimants receive the best possible treatment and rehabilitation. We are continually encouraging health care providers to perform to an excellent standard in the care they give claimants. We believe it is important that we also demonstrate a commitment to excellence.

"This is a wonderful achievement for our team, especially as it is the first time we have entered," says Dr Rankin.

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