1. Singapore Business Excellence Awards 2011

    October 24, 2011 by

    Nine organisations have won the prestigious business excellence awards by Spring Singapore during the 3rd Business Excellence Global Conference.

    This year, the Singapore Quality Award (SQA) with Special Commendation was given to the Institute of Technical Education and Subordinate Courts of Singapore, both previous SQA winners.

    The SQA with Special Commendation is presented to past SQA winners who have done better since winning the award at least five years ago.

    With 9 winners of 2011 awards this year is largest number of winners since the award was presented in 1995.

    The 2011 winners are:

    Singapore Quality Award with Special Commendation:

    • Institute of Technical Education
    • Subordinate Courts of Singapore

    Singapore Quality Award:

    • Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore
    • Nanyang Polytechnic
    • National Library Board
    • Raffles Institution
    • Teckwah Industrial Corporation Ltd
    • Yokogawa Electric Asia Pte Ltd

    People Excellence Award

    • Maybank Singapore

    Click here to read the media press release

    Ahmed Abbas

  2. Project management – a necessity for business excellence

    October 18, 2011 by

    Projects are a way of transforming strategies into actions and objectives into reality. For this reason project management is an essential tool needed in all organisations. The right balance between project management elements can enable organisations to complete projects on time, on budget, and with high quality results. 

    According to Gartner Group projects worldwide cost their owners many millions of dollars more than were budget for, and surprisingly almost half don't meet their clients' expectations!

    The article below by Dr. James Harrington , one of the world’s leading thinkers on quality and business management, describes the elements of a successful project.


    By: H. James Harrington

    This post is the second in an ongoing series about organizational excellence, which consists of five elements. The first two are process management and project management.

    Processes define how organizations function, and projects are the means by which organizations improve those processes. We define a project as a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product or service. For project management, we apply knowledge, skills, tools and technology to activities to meet or exceed stakeholders’ needs and project expectations.

    Although this seems straightforward enough, it can’t be so simple, or we’d see better results from the projects we fund. The Standish Group International reports that “corporate America spends more than $275 billion a year on application software development projects, many of which will fail due to lack of skilled project management.”

    “The average cycle time for IT projects is 27 weeks,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “The ones that are cancelled are cancelled after 14 weeks; at that point, they’re 52-percent complete. Many of the project teams know that the project is likely to fail six weeks before it’s cancelled.”

    Similarly, the Gartner Group reports that “in a four-year period, an application development organization of 100 developers can expect to spend more than $10 million on cancelled contracts.”

    Most organizations’ projects are mission-critical activities, and delivering quality products on time is nonnegotiable. Even with IT projects, things have changed. The old paradigm was, “Get it out fast and fix the bugs as the customer finds them,” (i.e., the Microsoft approach). The new paradigm is, “Get them out at Web speed and error-free.” Benchmark organizations complete 90 percent of their projects within 10 percent of budget and on schedule. Information systems organizations that establish standards for project management, including a project office, cut their major project cost overruns, delays and cancellations by 50 percent.

    Let’s look at why projects fail. First, they fail to adhere to committed schedules due to variances, exceptions, poor planning, delays and scope creep. Projects also fail from poor resource utilization, including lack of proper skills, poor time utilization and misalignment of skills and assignments. Often, an organization’s portfolio of projects isn’t managed correctly because the wrong projects are selected, high-risk projects aren’t identified or the interdependencies between projects are poorly controlled. Finally, projects fail due to a loss of intellectual and/or knowledge capital, including lack of means to transfer knowledge, and people leaving the organization.

    Poor project management is one of the biggest problems facing organizations today. It’s therefore surprising that quality professionals haven’t addressed improvements in the project management process. Even ISO 9001 ignores this critical issue. Yet, in our knowledge-driven economy, an organization’s success depends upon the quality of its project management process.

    Our general attitude toward project management is similar to quality management: Everyone thinks he or she knows what quality is and therefore assumes that anyone can manage it. But just as quality managers are special professionals with very specific skills and training, so are project managers. They require skill, training and effective leadership specifically related to project management.

    The ability to manage one project is no longer sufficient; organizations need managers who can handle a portfolio of projects, selecting those that will succeed and bring the biggest return on investments. This requires an effective online reporting system that summarizes a project’s status at least once a week, if not daily. The executive team must also have access to project archives in order to compare proposed project estimates against actual costs and cycle-time data from completed projects. Management wouldn’t approve one-third of the projects proposed if it knew how long they’d take or cost. As John Carrow, CEO of Unisys Corp., says, “The best time to stop a project that you don’t know is going to be successful is when you start it.”

    Far too often a quality department will undertake a major project such as Six Sigma, TQM or reengineering without the necessary project management skills. Basic tools such as work breakdown structure aren’t used. Neither is risk analysis, let alone reasonable mitigation plans. Is it any wonder that the failure rate in quality programs is so high?

    The project management body of knowledge defines 69 tools a project manager must master. Few of the project managers with whom I’ve come in contact have mastered all of them, and only a few project managers are certified by their peers as having done so.

    As you start your next project, my suggestion is: Don’t start it without a certified project manager.

  3. Graphing Marathon Measures 2 – Run Chart Run

    October 3, 2011 by

    Here is another great article from our friend Adam Stoehr of the National Quality Institute. The National Quality Institute, http://www.nqi.ca, are a Canadian partner of BPIR.com. Adam’s article describes a personal use for run charts (pardon the pun) and their power in revealing trends.

    Graphing Marathon Measures 2 – Run Chart Run

    Adam Stoehr, MBA
    Vice President, Education, National Quality Institute

    “Run Forrest Run”… Run charts can take data over time and tell interesting stories. The chart below is a simple run chart that shows my weight in pounds from 2008 to 2011.  I have lost about 50(ish) pounds since January 2008. My strategy has been the classic “eat less and move more”. The eating less part is always tough for me so I’ve adjusted the strategy to be “move more and eat decently.”  To keep up the move more side, I have run in 7 organized races including a half-marathon over the last 2 years.  In order to finish these races you need to keep a pretty rigorous training schedule. It’s been lots of fun and I still have a long way to go. I’m not looking for a medal by the way (other than the ones you get when you finish the races).  I just thought using my marathon training/weight loss data (in pounds) would be a good way to remind people of the correct use of some simple charts.
    in our work lives charts and graphs are useful to display data in a way that helps identify a gap or a trend if one exists. Charts can also be used to highlight relationships.  Generally a picture of your data says a thousand words or numbers. Over the next few Quest for Excellence newsletters, I’ll cover a bunch of charts and graphs using data from my marathon training.

    Before we draw some graphs, let’s set some general ground rules for chart creation.

    • Rule 1: Make sure you have a clear purpose for your graph and that it will convey an important message.
    • Rule 2: Try to use simple pictures to depict complex data.
    • Rule 3: Try to make your data talk and tell interesting stories.
    • Rule 4: Remember to adapt your graph to suit the audience.
    • Rule 5: Don’t be afraid to experiment with various options and graph styles.

    In this article we’ll focus on the “run chart” which is one of the simplest and most-used charts available.

    Run Chart

    A run chart is a graph that shows changes and trends over time. It can help you recognize patterns of performance in a process and document changes over time. It should be used to show trends at a series of progressively increasing or decreasing points and shifts in consecutive points that fall above or below the average. I don’t think my daughter has tried a run chart yet (like she had with the bar chart reviewed in last months newsletter) but it should be kept simple as well.

    Basically, run charts have two rules.

    • Rule 1: The lines should represent data over time
    • Rule 2: The lines should represent data in chronological order

    Figure 1:

    In Figure 1 we have data over time from May 2010 to July 2011 compared to my goal.  I have a monthly goal to run at least 100km. According to the chart, since May 2010 I have achieved my goal in every month except for January 2011.

    It’s important to point out that the data does not represent a snapshot in time like we saw with the bar chart in Figure 2 from last month’s newsletter. The best way to explain the over time (run chart) vs. snapshot in time (bar chart) is that the data in the past on a run chart will not change. For example the number of KM’s that I ran in May 2011 will never change because May 2011 is in the past.

    Figure 2:

    Conversely for a snapshot in time, the categories would vary every time you draw the chart like in Figure 2. If I drew this chart again in 2 months all of the bars would be different (unless of course I quit running for some reason).

    Figure 3:

    Figure 3 represents my monthly weight in pounds compared to my average weight since January 2008.  Run charts are most useful to see trends over time. They allow you to easily see patterns in data.

    The first pattern to look for is if there are 5 or 6 points in a row that steadily increase or decrease. In figure 3 you can see this in both directions. For example from May 2008 to Jan 2009 you can see 7 points in a row that are increasing. Luckily for me (considering what I’m measuring) between July 2010 and March 2010 there is the opposite pattern of weight loss.

    The second pattern to look for is if 5 or 6 points in a row are on the same side of the average/goal. This is evident in figure 3 between November 2009 to present. If either of these patterns are present then it’s a pretty good sign that your process is changing (hopefully for you in a positive direction). So my running schedule and my weight loss have been trending in the right direction according to my goals.

    Figure 4:

    Another pattern to look for is significant shifts, bunching, or cyclical patterns. In Figure 4 I’ve taken the same data as in Figure 3 and cut it up year over year. We can see a couple of patterns emerging. January and February seem to be bad months for my weight as well as July and August each year. May/June and November/December are generally good months. 2008 had the most significant shifts from January to April – if this type of swing kept happening, it would be something to investigate.

    With all charts it should be pretty obvious what story you are trying to tell. You should be able to make one or two statements about the data without thinking too much.

    At the end of the day you want the charts to tell stories. For example looking at the four run charts we can make the following fact based statements.

    • Figure 1: I have been consistently meeting or exceeding my goal of running 100 km a month since May 2010. I only missed the goal once in January 2011.
    • Figure 2: Sunday is my most active day with 65 total runs and Saturday is my least active day with 33 total runs.
    • Figure 3: My weight has been trending downward and has been consistently below my 3 year average weight over the last 6 months.
    • Figure 4: January/February and July/August have been my most challenging times of year to keep my weight down. April/May and November/December have been my best months for weight loss.

    Common uses for bar charts include:

    • Any data over time
    • Revenue trends
    • Stock prices
    • Process performance
    • Etc.

    In next month’s Quest for Excellence we’ll look at Scatter Diagrams to see relationships between data.