Kingston Inaugural Networking Meeting – 2009-12-02



Location: Kingston – Walter Light Building, Queen’s University

Subject:  “The Excellence Journey – Creating Infinite Possibilities”

Registrants: 10

Presentation: Attached

Speaker: Dan Corbett, Principal at Corsaw Associates, Kingston.

Abstract:This current world wide economic environment has presented new and unforeseen challenges to traditional organizational models and to what makes a good leader. Organizations that are not anticipative, adaptable, and flexible and focused on the fundamentals of organizational excellence have been hardest hit. In the private sector there are many businesses that may not survive or will be radically different from what they have been. Public sector organizations are now beginning to see the impact from deficits required to fund stimulus spending programs. This is a challenging time for leaders in charting a course for their organization. These times bring life to the ancient quote from Publilius Syrus that “Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm”. What is clear as we emerge from this economic storm is that the pace of change will continue requiring new innovative thinking. We need to rethink how to do long term planning as what was developed a year ago, may no longer be valid. We need to focus on engaging talent at all levels in the organization as the collective intelligence of all employees is needed for success.

Leaders need to focus on aligning resources in developing a common image of the future of the organization and to balance the need for strategy and planning with the need for agility. Leaders need to focus on strengths to build capacity around the positive core and to stimulate positive change rather than figure out how to manage and contain change. This is where having a focus on quality and organizational excellence will be critical for public sector organizations through the next number of years.

There are two quotes from the teachings of W. Edwards Deming that I have retained and continue to use in organizations that have set out a strategy on Excellence, to be however one describes the goal; such as being “best in class” or top achiever or best workplace. These two quotes from Deming are at the heart of how an organization can achieve Excellence, such that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. “It is important that an aim never be defined in terms of activities or methods. It must always relate to how life is better for everyone. The aim of the system must be clear to everyone in the system. The aim must include plans for the future.” He further states: “If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing”.

Quality is about change and positive inquiry that engages people at all levels of the organization. Late in his life Deming said that quality was about the human spirit. That is what I have seen in organizations that go on this Excellence Journey, as it is about providing a way to engage the human spirit in improving the workplace and to achieving a better future for everyone. Excellence is not a program or a series of quick fixes. There are various Excellence Frameworks in place around the world. Here in Canada the NQI Excellence Framework and criteria elements are a tested and proven route to a better future. The Government of Canada has developed a Management Accountability Framework that incorporates Excellence principles and criteria, other levels of government and the broader public sector have many different initiatives aimed at demonstrating results and accountability to stakeholders.

My presentation will focus on real issues that organizations and organizational leaders have to address as they move forward with Excellence and why this journey makes perfect sense in the rapidly changing world that we have today.

Dan Corbett

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