"An Award which is more than an Award"
N. Srinivasan
Former Director General, CII &
Special Advisor, CII Institute of Quality

There are awards and awards.

This country seems to revel in giving away awards – in almost every field. While most awards recognize performance, it is very rare for an award to provide a framework to an organization on its march towards higher performance and excellence. One such rare award in India is the CII-EXIM Bank Award for Business Excellence, which is based on the Excellence Model of the European Foundation for Quality Management.

In fact, calling this award by this name does not do justice to the tremendous multiplier effect that it has in any organization. It provides a road map to the organization to put in place a set of enablers to achieve high levels of performance. These enablers represent the very core of an organization namely leadership, policy and strategy, people, partnerships and resources, and processes. At every step, for each of these enablers, the award process does a very careful, detailed, microscopic examination which clearly brings out the strengths and weaknesses.

The second element of the award process examines the results achieved by the organization in various facets, such as customer results, people results, society results and key performance results. In other words, the principal message of the CII-EXIM Bank Excellence Award process is that only those organizations which have their basics right can hope to sustain high levels of performance. The business excellence model ensures a holistic development of the organization, insulating it from ups and downs in performance and market leadership. To ensure this, the Business Excellence model evaluates a company based on a minimum 3-year study of its practices and performance. Winning the award cannot, therefore, be a flash in the pan. It has to be based on sound, strong fundamentals which stand the test of time. The robustness of the model and the Award process enables it to fulfil a number of objectives :

  • Provides an external perspective on the current status on the organisation’s performance and practices.
  • Gives insight into organizational performance beyond financial performance.
  • Helps to measure progress on the journey towards excellence.
  • Helps compare with the best in class companies.
  • Facilitates learning opportunities and professional development for managers.
  • Accelerates the improvement efforts.
  • Provides motivation to the managers.
Even more robust than the framework itself is the evaluation process which involves :
  • Assessment based on the Excellence Model of the European Foundation for Quality Management.
  • Assessment by a team of four to six highly qualified business professionals.
  • About 1000 hours invested for each application.
  • Scoring on a scale of 0 to 1000 points.
  • Most rigorous, transparent and internationally benchmarked assessment process.

Given this rigour in the evaluation process, one begins to recognize why not a single Indian company has been able to get the award in its very first attempt. And these are companies who have a tremendous global reputation for performance and who have been showered with awards nationally and internationally.

The CII-EXIM Award process is thus a 'marathon' and not a 'sprint'. It calls for tremendous preparation, high stamina and long- term strategic thinking.

The good news is that Indian CEOs have begun to recognize and appreciate the intrinsic merit of the Business Excellence model and the ideal roadmap that it provides to companies in their march towards Business Excellence. For example, Tata Steel, which is recognized today as an unparallelled global leader in steel making as well as all aspects of corporate governance, took four years to reach the pinnacle of the award. Its then CEO Dr. Jamshed Irani, understood the tremendous benefit his organization could derive from the process and hence decided to stay the course.

To quote him "During my tenure as the CEO of Tata Steel, we had the special privilege of embarking on the Excellence journey using the CII-EXIM Bank Business Excellence Award.

I can say from my personal experience that it has been a great vehicle for us to enhance our global competitiveness. Even though, Tata Steel already had so much going for it in putting the processes and systems in place, it took us four years of hard work to get the coveted Award. More than winning the Award was the benefit of learning from the process which enabled Tata Steel to sustain its leadership in the business of steel making.

I am very happy that CII is maintaining the rigour of the process and not succumbing to temptation of diluting the evaluation process to enable more companies to get the award. In fact, companies are benefiting from working to match the high standards demanded by the award's model.

Finally, I would like to commend all other CEOs that they should consider adopting the Business Excellence Model for sustained competitiveness."

Infosys Technologies is another company which, despite its high reputation in the marketplace and despite the plethora of awards already under its belt, decided to apply for the Business Excellence Award to overcome whatever weaknesses they might still be having in their organization. As Mr. N.R. Narayana Murthy's says "CII EXIM Bank Award for Business Excellence follows a very rigorous and professional assessment process. We were greatly benefited by the interactions with the assessors and their detailed feedback report on our performance and practices. I strongly feel that any CEO who is in pursuit of Excellence must get an independent perspective on his/her organization through participation in the assessment process conducted by CII Institute of Quality".

The business excellence award has not been only a big boys' game. Small and Medium enterprises have also used this model to great advantage. As Mr Shrinivas Shirgurkar, Managing Director, ACE Designers, says "Business Excellence framework has enabled ACE to drive excellence through a stakeholder centric approach in a structured and holistic way. This model has empowered our team to conceive, deploy and monitor a number of initiatives, which are sustained through the process of assessment and review. We also got unbiased feedback and suggestions from accomplished assessors to improve. In short, we have matured as an organization and have increased our capability to meet the challenges of the rapidly growing market"

Another happy augury for Indian industry is the fact that the public sector has embraced the Business Excellence model with great dedication and enthusiasm. Nor surprisingly, organizations like "BHEL, NTPC and BEHL have been followers of this model. According to Mr. A.K. Puri, CMD, BHEL "BHEL has been consistently pursuing Business Excellence towards realizing its vision of becoming a world class engineering enterprise. Various units of BHEL have been regularly participating in the CII-EXIM Bank Award for Business Excellence to measure and benchmark their progress on their journey towards excellence in this competitive environment. The framework of excellence and the assessment process have contributed positively and helped in making rapid improvements in the organisations's practices and performance towards achieving sustainable competitiveness"

Another CEO, recognized for his great leadership, Mr. S. Ramadorai of TCS has this to say about the award "TCS has a long-standing and enduring focus on processes for ensuring quality in all its offerings. In line with this focus, we have adopted the Tata Business Model of Excellence Framework to manage our business. Participation in the assessment process of CII-EXIM Bank Award for Business Excellence facilitated us to obtain external feedback on ourselves vis-a-vis world-class organizations, through a thorough and transparent process, comparable with that of the international assessments. We at TCS found the efforts put in are worthwhile and of immense value"

While there have been only some award winners, there have been several hundred beneficiaries of the business excellence process itself. CII has been working with a good number of companies, taking them forward towards business excellence, using this time -tested model.

Finally, to lend credibility to the assessment model, CII has built a cadre of around 600 Assessors who are senior management professionals from the manufacturing and services sectors. These industry stalwarts come together to give valuable feedback to the CEOs. The robustness of the entire process and the rigour of the assessment have meant that while the CII-EXIM Bank Award was instituted 14 years ago, there have been only six award winners and one prize winner. But, the true success story is that around 150 applicant companies have received the Commendation for Strong Commitment to Excel or Significant Achievement.

To sum up, in a country where people are bending over backwards to give away awards, there are some notable exceptions like the CII-EXIM Bank Business Excellence award which focuses more on the process than on instant recognition of the company.

After all, Quality is a journey and only those companies which can negotiate all the pitfalls can hope to succeed – in a sustained manner - in a competitive world.

First published in The Hindu, 17th December, 2007