1. Benchmarking 200 countries on life expectancy and wealth over 200 years

    July 26, 2013 by ahmed


    Using first class data visualization, Hans Rosling brings us through two centuries of global development. Gapminder illustrates how every nation in every continent has changed over the past 200 years, year by year in terms of life expectancy and the wealth of a country. The impact of the industrial revolution, the world wars, epidemics, the great depression, colonization and independence, natural resources, emerging economies and more are taken into account in this superb statistical animation involving about 120,000 numbers.

    Lifespan was less than 40 years of age for most every country of the world two hundred ago, except for the UK and the Netherlands. Now, longevity is well over 40 years of age with the more advanced ones having a life expectancy of over 80 years. That is double the life expectancy 200 years ago!

    Wealth has grown by a whopping 30 to 50 times on average over the past two centuries. For example, the income per person in New Zealand grew from 600 dollars to over 24,000 dollars from 1810 to 2010. That is an incredible 4000% growth.

    To find out more about how your country has progressed over this time period or how it compares with others, “click and drag” in Gapminder for a fascinating illustration. For example, I did that with Singapore and found that its growth path significantly different from that of the United States.
    Click here for Gapminder

    Alan Samuel, COER Researcher.

  2. COER News – Benchmarking and Business Excellence, July-2013

    July 13, 2013 by ahmed


    This July, the Centre for Organisational Excellence Research (COER) has issued its latest newsletter.

    The first section includes important news about the upcoming 2nd International Best Practice Competition and 2nd Global Benchmarking Award and the local competitions in Australia, India, Iran and New Zealand – closing date for entries 22 July.

    Whether you are looking to know the latest COER publications in the field or you would like to know what are the latest must attend events you will find it in COER’s newsletter.

    The contents for the newsletter are listed below:

    • What can other countries learn from Singapore?
    • Upcoming workshops
    • Upcoming conferences
    • Recent publications
    • PhD Research opportunities
    • BPIR.com.. Looking to make a bigger impact

    You can download the newsletter from the COER website here

  3. Lessons from Singapore

    July 6, 2013 by ahmed

    Some people might say it is not appropriate to compare the performance of a city state such as Singapore with New Zealand as there are too many differences. Singapore’s population is 5.3 million and New Zealand’s is 4.4 million but the similarities stop there. Singapore’s land area is 687 km2 whereas New Zealand’s is 262,000km2. This means that New Zealand’s population is 17% less than Singapore’s and yet its land area is 380 times larger than Singapore’s. The argument is that larger countries need greater investments in infrastructure to provide services to remote locations. In addition, New Zealand suffers as it is isolated from other economies. However, on the positive side, New Zealand has a wealth of natural resources. As a benchmarking professional, whilst recognising the differences, this should not discourage organisations or countries from learning from each other’s best practices.

    Singapore has shown dramatic improvements over the last 50 years to become one of the world’s leading economies and societies as indicated by many international measures. Whilst the league tables are useful for identifying countries to learn from what actually helps a country or organisation to improve is “taking the next step”. The next step is to commit time and effort to study the practices and systems of another country/organisation and consider if they were introduced into your own country/organisation what benefit would they bring. The process of analysis inevitably leads to a realisation that change is possible and indeed desired – this then stimulates innovation whereby the practices of other countries/organisations are usually combined with self-generated ideas.

    For example a hospital in Wellington could compare its performance against an outstanding hospital in Singapore, why not? Schools, airports, seaports, government departments could do the same. There are many lessons that can be learnt from Singapore and other countries – it is important to move away from a “not invented here” mentality.

    One of the reasons behind Singapore’s high performance economy is due to its unwavering commitment to continuous improvement. In Singapore you can’t escape business excellence as you experience it from the cradle to the grave with hospitals, housing developments, schools, businesses and law enforcement (including the jury service) and funeral services being recognised as Singapore Quality Class organisations. These organisations understand and use business excellence models and principles and are continually on the search for better practices. The result is that it is very hard to find a top 10 countries list without Singapore’s name in it e.g. “Ease of Doing Business” 1st in 2012, “Transparency and Accountability” 5th in 2012, “Innovation” 3rd in 2012, “Education of 15 year olds” 5th in 2009, “Digital Economies” 8th in 2010, “Homicide rates” 4th lowest in 2012, “Life Expectancy” 10th in 2012, and “Global Competitiveness” 2nd in 2012.

    Whilst New Zealand rates in the top three in the world for measures such as “Ease of Doing Business” 3rd in 2012, “Transparency and Accountability” 1st in 2012, (and “Rugby” 1st, for most years 🙂 ), there is an argument that New Zealand could do much better if it embraced a culture of excellence with senior leaders uniting behind a common vision and encouraging all to learn from the success of other organisations and countries. New Zealand rates as follows; “Innovation” 13th in 2012, “Education of 15 year olds” 9th in 2009, “Digital Economies” 10th in 2010, “Homicide rates” 15th in 2010, “Life Expectancy” 16th in 2012, and “Global Competitiveness” 23rd in 2012.

    For success stories and to witness the commitment to business excellence within Singapore it is well worth attending the annual Global Business Excellence Conference, 30/31 October, Singapore. This year BPIR.com’s International Best Practice Competition and the Global Benchmarking Network’s Benchmarking Award will be held at the conference.

    In the following article, written before the budget in May 2013, Dr Muriel Newman from the New Zealand Centre for Political Research shared her views on Singapore and New Zealand. There is also an interesting forum that you can participate in.

    Ahmed Abbas and Robin Mann

    Thursday is budget day, the day when the government outlines their economic plan for the next twelve months. It is also a time of judgement on how well the economy has performed over the last year. In National’s case, recent economic reports show that their belt tightening has started to produce results.

    When National was elected into office in November 2008, the country had already fallen into recession. Under the stewardship of a Labour administration, the economy had stalled months ahead of the on-set of the global financial crisis. The new government’s goal was to rebalance the economy – reduce out-of-control government spending, while protecting the most vulnerable New Zealanders from the hard edges of the recession. An important part of that plan was a strong focus on removing the barriers to growth, by improving infrastructure and reducing the red tape and bureaucracy that was undermining business confidence and holding back progress.

    While the Christchurch earthquakes had a massive impact on the government’s progress, National’s plan does appear to be working. The country is on track for a return to surplus by 2014-15, the tax take is higher than expected, unemployment is lower, there are more jobs, and higher growth.

    Treasury reports are positive – our economy grew by 3 percent in 2012, only marginally behind Australia, which, with its mining boom, grew 3.1 percent. Growth in the December quarter was 1.5 percent, the fourth fastest amongst the countries monitored by the OECD, and behind only China, Russia and Luxembourg.

    Commodity prices in March had the third-strongest rise on record, driven by dairy prices and forestry, although the drought will have an adverse effect on dairying returns in the future. In addition, manufacturing and services industry indexes have both risen strongly, contradicting the claims by Labour and the Greens that there is a crisis in manufacturing.

    A recent New Zealand Institute of Economic Research business opinion survey showed confidence in the March quarter was at a 3-year high, pointing to growth of around 3 percent a year. Our major trading partners – Australia, China, the US, and Japan – have all reported economic data ahead of expectations, and consumer confidence is growing.

    The Government’s accounts show that the deficit was $3 billion for the first 8 months of the financial year, $556 million better than forecast in December – reflecting good control of expenditure and rising revenues. The Crown’s operating balance, which records change in the value of all the government’s activities, including its investments, recorded a surplus of $4.3 billion.

    In commenting on the performance of the New Zealand economy, Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund said, “All I can tell you is the IMF is very supportive of what is being done by the Government …” and “If you look at the numbers, if you look whether it is growth, whether it is employment, whether it is inflation, whether it is debt, overall it is very stable and it is also very promising … it’s certainly a lot better than what we see in other parts of the world.” And she went on to say that the economic policies are supportive of good fundamentals and “policies we believe are sound and solid.”

    In comparison, Ms Lagarde described the outlook in Europe as “still very challenging”. Overall EU unemployment has hit a new record with more than 19 million jobless. This includes one in four of the region’s 15 to 24 year olds. In Greece, a staggering 64.2 percent of young people were out of work in February, and, in an attempt to turn this situation around, the monthly minimum wage for under-25s has been slashed by 32 percent. In Portugal, where the economy is predicted to shrink by a further 2.3 percent this year, and where civil service pay and sick leave benefits have just been cut, more and more young people are leaving the country to find employment abroad.

    However, there are some success stories in Europe. A special report “The secret of their success” was recently published by the Economist, identifying Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Switzerland as the top five countries when assessed on a range of measures including global competitiveness, ease of doing business, global innovation, corruption, human development, and prosperity. Based on league tables produced by the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, and a number of other organisations, New Zealand was ranked sixth – first equal for a lack of corruption, third for ease of doing business, fifth for human development, thirteenth for global innovation, and 23rd for global competitiveness.

    The Nordic countries that are now topping the table can attribute their success largely to the fact that over the years they were forced to reduce government spending and balance their budgets. To do this they lowered taxes, ensured greater flexibility in the workplace, encouraged entrepreneurs, and restricted welfare entitlements, making far greater use of the private sector to deliver social services.

    The Economist suggests that other nations could learn from the success of these Nordic countries, and it certainly appears that the National government has adopted a similar strategy through an economic growth programme that includes reducing government spending, balancing the budget, tightening up welfare, and encouraging the private sector.

    Another country with wisdom to share is Singapore. In the sixties, Singapore was a very poor tropical island with few natural resources, a rapidly growing population, substandard housing, and on-going conflict between ethnic and religious groups. Thanks to the exceptional leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, the country was able to transform itself in just a generation, so that today it is one of the world’s highest ranked economies.

    This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator is Dr Henri Ghesquiere, a former Director of the International Monetary Fund’s Singapore Regional Training Institute – and author of Singapore’s Success: Engineering Economic Growth. In his illuminating paper From Third-World to First, Dr Ghesquiere outlines how Singapore achieved its ambitious goal of moving from a third-world to first world nation in record time. He explains that that a number of factors strongly influenced a young Lee Kuan Yew – as an 18 year old he witnessed the brutality of the Japanese occupying forces against the civilian population during World War II. He experienced the debilitating effects of colonialism and ethnic strife, and he saw the political threat of the communists, who wanted to turn Singapore into an Asian Cuba.

    In 1959, at age 35, Lee Kuan Yew – by then a “brilliant Cambridge-educated lawyer” – was elected prime minister of Singapore. His goal was a future of shared prosperity and safety: “I wanted Singapore to be a developed nation in the shortest time possible”.

    Dr. Goh Keng Swee, the architect of Singapore’s economic strategy and Lee Kuan Yew’s right hand man, explained, “We must strive continuously to achieve economic growth. We should not be distracted by other goals”.

    Those words “in the shortest time possible” and “single-minded focus” can be attributed as holding the key to Singapore’s success. Their economic and political strategy – and institutions – over the past five decades have been shaped with that singular goal in mind: whatever it would take to succeed.

    Dr Ghesquiere believes a crucial factor is the government’s budgetary discipline – living within their means:

    “In Singapore total revenue in the Government budget is only 19 percent of GDP. But government expenditure is even lower. Frugality inspires the Government to manage its expenditures rigorously. Singapore’s famous Jurong tropical bird park was created when a finance minister rejected the proposal for a zoo. He persuaded his Cabinet colleagues that feeding birds would be much less expensive than feeding lions. Civil service staffing is lean: the government does not act as employer of first and last resort. Efficiency is paramount: For example, invoicing of services sold by private agents to government entities is all electronic and centralized. Perfect paperless records are available with minimal manpower. Singapore’s budget is not burdened by generalized price subsidies for utilities or energy products.

    “Public enterprises in Singapore tend to be consistently profitable. Many are listed on the stock exchange and are partly in private hands. They do not draw budgetary support for operating losses. If systematically loss-making they would be liquidated or merged. Singapore Airlines has long been ranked among the most admired companies in the world. At one time, the government threatened to close it down if management and unions failed to cooperate.

    “Financial sector oversight has been consistently alert. This has prevented the socialization of bank losses that has aggravated fiscal deficits and public debt levels elsewhere. Today Singapore’s banks are among the best capitalized in the world.

    “Accordingly, despite relative low taxation, the government budget registers surpluses, not deficits. Consequently, whereas other countries have a public debt ratio in some cases as high as 140 percent of GDP, Singapore has just the opposite: net public assets possibly of a similar magnitude. Heavily indebted governments face steep interest payments on the expenditure side of their budget that pre-empt development outlays. The Singapore government by contrast earns substantial returns on its net assets, (conservatively estimated at perhaps 5 percent of GDP). These resources boost the revenue side of the budget, allowing development expenditure such as for infrastructure and education. The government’s accumulated surpluses have been built the old-fashioned way: over decades thanks to annual saving and the power of compounding. The strong national balance sheet inspires confidence in entrepreneurs and investors.”

    In his illuminating appraisal, Dr Ghesquiere explains the importance of incentives in public policy – a low corporate tax rate of 17 percent attracts companies and encourages them to create jobs, and personal income tax with the highest bracket at 20 percent incentivises people to work.

    In comparison, of course, New Zealand’s corporate tax rate is 28 percent and our top personal tax rate is 33 percent. As tax competition forces down tax rates, New Zealand’s corporate tax rate is becoming increasingly uncompetitive – it is above the Asian average of 22.36 percent, above the European average of 20.67 percent, above the EU average of 22.74 percent, above the OECD average of 25.4 percent, and above the global average of 24.08 percent.

    However, although reducing corporate tax would be a very efficient way of boosting business growth and job creation, the government has ruled out significant tax cuts in the foreseeable future. They have stated that their priority is to reduce debt – from a net 30 per cent of GDP to 20 per cent between 2017 and 2020, before tax cuts can be considered. However, they have explained that they will continue to cut the cost of a wide range of government fees and levies – the recent reduction in the frequency of warrant of fitness testing is just a start.

    Thursday’s Budget is not expected to contain any big surprises, but one hopes it has a vision for a better New Zealand based on the roadmap provided by the likes of Singapore.

    View the forum which discusses: Do you think our politicians should be guided by Singapore’s model of success?

  4. Look Who’s Using Baldrige: A Focus on Southeast Asia

    July 3, 2013 by ahmed

    According to research conducted by the Centre for Organisational Excellence Research at least 8 countries follow an exact copy of the Baldrige Criteria and 9 countries follow a tailored version of the Baldrige Criteria.

    One of the countries that follow an exact copy of Baldrige framework is Thailand. Since TQA’s inception in 1996, only four organisations have scored above 650 points to qualify for the Thailand Quality Award (TQA), out of hundreds of applicants. However, more than 50 organizations have achieved the Thailand Quality Class (TQC) status by scoring more than 350 points.

    Below is an interview with TQA lead assessor Bill Voravuth Chengsupanimit by Blogrige writer Dawn Bailey

    Recently, I had the pleasure of a virtual conversation with the lead assessor of the Thailand Quality Award (TQA) program. Within Thailand, Bill Voravuth Chengsupanimit has also served as a Public Management Quality Award (PMQA) and a State Enterprise Performance Appraisal (SEPA) assessor. What’s common about all of these programs, as well as the award programs in Singapore and Vietnam? They are all Baldrige-based.

    When did Baldrige start in this region, how?

    The Singapore Quality Award (SQA) was launched in 1994 and is based on the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence and the EFQM Excellence Model. The SQA is controlled by the government’s Standards, Productivity, and Innovation Board. More than 50 organizations have won the SQA since 1995.

    In Thailand, upon signing an agreement between the Foundation of Thailand Productivity Institute and the National Science and Technology Development Agency, on September 5, 1996, the Thailand Quality Award (TQA) was initiated. The resulting TQA technical and decision-making processes are identical to the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

    Since TQA’s inception, only four organizations have scored above 650 points to qualify for the TQA, out of hundreds of applicants. However, more than 50 organizations have achieved the Thailand Quality Class status by scoring more than 350 points.

    Do you have evidence that Thai organizations have implemented Baldrige?

    We have testimonials from leading conglomerates and industry leaders in the country praising how the Baldrige framework transformed their organizations. We see results therefore we believe in Baldrige!

    We have over 150 government agencies, including all armed forces; 50+ state enterprises in the energy, banking, communication, transportation, aviation, and utility sector; and countless business enterprises adopting the Baldrige framework, with all speaking ADLI (approach-deployment-learning-integration). How is that for deployment?

    What made Thailand choose the Baldrige Criteria?

    It is our government’s wish to jumpstart and pursue performance excellence to enhance sustainability in all sectors through a common excellence framework with unified values. In Thailand, all government agencies must pass the fundamental level of the PMQA program by 2014. (The PMQA is the 2006 version of the Baldrige Criteria). Fundamental level is equivalent to about 250-350 points and is compulsory.

    How does the assessment work? What has been the result?

    All state enterprises are assessed through the SEPA program each year. (SEPA is the 2008 version of the Baldrige Criteria.) Thai International, our national airline, and PTT, our national energy company who made the Fortune 100 list last year, report their annual performances through the SEPA/Baldrige Criteria started two years ago. PTT claims that its success is due to enrollment in Baldrige-based programs. Two of their divisions won the prestigious TQA.

    What about in the education and health care sectors?

    Although enrolling in the PMQA is voluntarily for state universities, six Thai state universities passed the fundamental level of the PMQA last year and ten more are ready for certification this year. A program for certifying state secondary schools based on Baldrige will be implemented next year. Also, our Ministry of Education just implemented the EdPEX criteria, also 99% Baldrige-based, as a platform to assess performance of all tertiary education institutions in the Kingdom. All government fundings to them will be based on maturity level accomplished.

    All hospitals in Thailand must be certified under the Health Accreditation (HA) program, which is also Baldrige-based with industry-specific processes.

    What about other countries in the region?

    The TQA is closely associated with our Singapore counterpart. Although not compulsory, the Singapore government encourages all of its agencies to apply to the SQA program. As of this year, Singapore’s Customs, Inland Revenue, Land Transport, Urban Redevelopment, and Water Authority, as well as their Police, Prison, Court, and Civil Defense Force, have all been SQA winners.

    Their results are even more profound than in Thailand as they started their program more than 15 years ago. Just look at their country competitiveness ranking in IMD and the World Economic Forum (WEF), as well as their education ranking in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). YES, it is world-class indeed! I rest my case for Baldrige.

    In addition, the Vietnam Quality Award’s official site shows that its award is Baldrige-based, with exactly the same six process categories and one result category. They have had thousands if not tens of thousands of applications over the years, as they have around 100 winners each year in the different categories. (See Harry Hertz’s blog on the Vietnamese National Quality Award.)

    You have said, “We are forever indebted to the Baldrige Program,” why?

    As they say, “No one could be a prophet in his own country.” Dejavù Dr. Deming and Dr. Shewhart. Despite the OFIs that a number of gurus have pointed out, the Baldrige Program is simply the best, as it has a universal appeal. Tell me something that a capitalist, a socialist, and a communist can agree on. It’s Baldrige! For us here in Thailand, we truly believe Baldrige can align and integrate us all!

    To learn more about how the Baldrige Criteria framework has been implemented in other countries, consider the international plenary at this year’s 25th Annual Quest for Excellence Conference. And/or share your stories here of how Baldrige has been implemented around the world.

  5. BPIR Best Practice Newsletter July – 2013

    July 1, 2013 by ahmed

    Check out our latest BPIR newsletter:

    Click here to view web version!

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