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Cycle of Excellence

  Oct 21, 2011

By Esther Kanyi

We received a short presentation on Excellence from Professor Eduardo Martinez Abascal former MBA director of IESE business school and adjunct faculty member of Strathmore Business School. Prof. Abascal has vast experience in leadership and management and considering he worked as a director and still works at one of the prestigious institutions in the world, we were more that excited to learn from him as a business school in Africa trying to follow in the footsteps of IESE. His presentation was very inspiring and personally I liked the fact that he used a quote from one of the IESE MBA Alumni to carry us through the presentation. He was simple, direct and he drove the point home.

Professor Abaschal began the discussionwith a quote, which he wrote on the board, “25 years after graduation, IESE keeps amazing me: the quality of teaching, the love of details, the shinning smile of every single person, the garden and the sense of peace and harmony, above all , the high ideals of the school; A true source of Inspiration”. This was a quote from Harry, MBA Alumni IESE, 1986. When the quote was analyzed it brought us to the peak of defining Excellence and Transformational change. From each word/ sentence from the quote, the professor was able to bring out the following points.

The Value of quality

Based on the aforementioned quote,  quality was based on teaching. In the perspective of anyone in business, quality can be measured in many ways with the ultimate goal being customer satisfaction. Any person in business should take everything as an end result; love of details. The way we handle our staff, the way we handle ourselves, our interaction with the customer, presentation and packaging of material, how we pick the phone. Perfectionism should be practiced always and every where by everyone. I would like to raise one issue that is debatable in the African Continent in terms of packaging our export products. Many a times we have been summoned or our goods have been rejected due to poor packaging or quality of the products. Is it something we can do better and/ or improve on? Sometime the standards set are high but if we are to remain competitive, we have to play the game on the level of our competitors. Locally do we sell rejects to the local consumers and export the best? Who should be our first priority in terms of our service and products, those close to us or those who can give us the best deal? Our learning institutions; do we normally give the best as faculty, students or administrative staff? It is all about quality everywhere and the moment each institution learns to give its best in everything without supervision, then there is potential for growth and competitiveness. The customers will  act as your marketers and make work much easier.

Details in little things

Many little things are normally taken for granted, for instance a spelling mistake or broken furniture and/ or slight delay is service delivery and no one bothers to apologize. Customers take note of such small details, the more the mistakes repeated the more a customer loses trust. Eating places can be annoying with either the service taking long or cold food and nobody bothers to apologize and reach out to you as the customer. There are many examples we can talk about including delays in flights, mistreatment in hospitals among others. Think of any successful organisation / institution, how well do they take note of the little things like greeting a customer with a simile and or going an extra mile to help even if they are not involved. These are the things that matter most to a customer. Taking note of little details is the road to excellence.

Pride in service

‘The Shining Smile’, talks louder than words. It is very rare to smile at someone and they never smile back. We can also smile while picking phone calls and the person on the other side will feel the warmth of our smile. Have you every tried calling and the receiver sounds moody and bored, it is normally a very uncomfortable conversation and it immediately puts off the customer or the potential client. A smile is the first sign of our pride in service and it brings in the warm spirit of service and a comfortable atmosphere. Besides the smile we should be conversant with our work, being in touch with what we do. What does our organisation stand for?, what are the services/ products? Environment too plays a big role in building pride in service, for example the interaction between staff both senior and subordinate, the physical environment – the garden as Harry stated in his quote, cleanliness, order , well set procedures and general balance between work and life. People will serve others well if they are also treated well.

Sources of Inspiration

What is our source of inspiration in our work? A very tricky question which can have  varied answers. Generally we get inspired if we are appreciated, treated well and/ or recognized and that is what a customer/ client should feel when they interact with any organisation. As workers, our inspiration should be how well we deliver and the more customers we satisfy like Harry, the more inspiration we get. If we are inspired by how much profit we get, we might lose the little profit we are already getting. People should be the center of our organisations, as they will inspire us more.

I consider these points important in attaining excellence in business, because if any one of the points is neglected, then the cycle of excellence will not be attainable. To excel requires being keen in our responsibilities and that way we attain a transformational change not only in our businesses but also as individuals.

Africa needs more transformational leaders and it all starts with the little things we have highlighted.

Thanks to Professor Abascal.

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