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Celebrating a silver jubilee of quality business performances

For the past 25 years, the Business Excellence initiative has helped organisations in Singapore achieve sustainable growth.

From left: Png Cheong Boon, chief executive officer, Enterprise Singapore; Ang Hak Seng, chairman of the Singapore Quality Award (SQA) Management Committee; Ian Wilson, senior vice-president, Non-Gaming Operations, Marina Bay Sands Pte Ltd; Quah Ley Hoon, chief executive of Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore; Hoong Wee Teck, Commissioner of Police, Singapore Police Force; Lee Wai Kwong, chief executive officer, ASM Pacific Technology; Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Trade and Industry; Desmond Chin, Commissioner of Prisons, Singapore Prisons Service; Cham Tao Soon, chairman of the SQA Governing Council; and Choy Sauw Kook, Director-General (Quality and Excellence) and SQA administrator, Enterprise Singapore at the 25th Business Excellence Awards on Oct 8, 2019.

SINCE the introduction of the Singapore Quality Award (SQA) in 1994, over 2,000 organisations have embarked on Enterprise Singapore's (ESG) Business Excellence (BE) initiative in an effort to boost their performance.

Over this period, some 121 BE Awards have also been given out to organisations which have achieved world-class performance standards and adopted exemplary management practices. The awards are conferred by the SQA Governing Council and administered by ESG.

''In the last 25 years of the BE initiative, organisations have leveraged the BE Framework to strive for and achieve world-class standards of performance and management capabilities,'' said Png Cheong Boon, chief executive officer of ESG. ''As our economy continues to undergo rapid changes, the core values of business excellence become even more relevant. Organisations that are committed to build on their capabilities to improve productivity and embrace innovation will gain a competitive edge. It will stand them in good stead to excel not just locally, but internationally. Enterprise Singapore will continue to partner organisations to help them scale greater heights of excellence.''

The BE initiative was launched 25 years ago to help Singapore companies improve their competitiveness and achieve organisational excellence. A key component of the initiative is the BE Framework, which provides a roadmap to help organisations review and strengthen their key processes and practices, such as innovation management, people development and service delivery.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), in particular, have been encouraged by ESG to leverage the BE Framework as a tool to chart their strategic roadmaps. Reflecting the success of this effort, the number of SMEs onboard the initiative has more than doubled in the last three years. Meanwhile, more public organisations are also embarking on this journey, with over 70 per cent of government agencies and ministries having adopted the BE Framework to improve their services to the public.


Besides helping an organisation to grow, BE certifications and awards also act as a ''Mark of Excellence''. Certified enterprises are recognised to have attained robust business fundamentals and met the standards for good business performance, whereas the awards recognise organisations which have attained excellent standards of performance.

The BE initiative focuses heavily on organisational learning. Each year, ESG organises conferences, seminars, workshops and learning journeys where BE practitioners, academia and subject matter experts share good management practices to inspire organisations.

To date, more than 25,000 leaders and management representatives have benefitted from such learning efforts.


BE organisations say that the framework has helped their employees better understand their business to make more informed decisions. The initiative has also helped them to take the first steps in addressing various organisational challenges, such as people engagement and process improvements, as well as providing a common framework to strengthen their culture. Furthermore, the framework has helped organisations formalise their processes, document their data and equip their management teams with the knowledge to plan for the long term.

It also further helped management to understand their strengths and areas for improvement. Through the feedback report provided after the BE assessment, organisations are able to benchmark themselves against industry best practices. This process helps them to improve their management methodologies and processes, and achieve higher levels of performance.

''Organisations onboard the BE journey have the aspiration to improve further and be recognised as among the best in their field. We have many organisations which have been on the BE journey for many years; some for more than 20 years. They use the BE Framework to constantly review and re-align their strategies to meet market demands and challenges,'' said Choy Sauw Kook, Director-General (Quality and Excellence), ESG, and SQA administrator.

''The BE journey has brought cohesiveness among their employees, enabled them to have a deeper appreciation on how each department plays a critical role in contribution towards their organisation's growth and success. For several, they have internalised the Framework and business excellence has become part of the organisation's DNA,'' she added.


Cham Tao Soon, chairman, SQA Governing Council, noted that in today's fast-changing global economic landscape, business excellence has become more crucial to organisations now than ever before.

''The organisations benefit from the assessment's independent validation of their strengths and areas for improvements. Coupled with the volunteer assessors lending their external perspective and the benchmarked results against their local and overseas counterparts, this has helped the organisations navigate through the challenges faced and achieve sustainable growth,'' he said.

Furthermore, by being part of the BE community, participants have access to valuable resources and peer-learning opportunities such as seminars, learning journeys and networking platforms to foster collaborations, he added.

Since its introduction in 1994, the BE initiative has undergone five major reviews to ensure that it continues to be relevant even as the global landscape evolves. In each of these reviews, ESG took into consideration the emerging organisational and business environment trends and threats, as well as priorities identified at the national and industry level.

Changes that have resulted from the reviews include introducing niche capabilities in innovation, people and service into the framework to help organisations stay ahead of the competition and internationalise. In addition, tools and assistance designed specifically to support SMEs were rolled out. This focus on SMEs was seen as important as they form the backbone of Singapore's economy, employing two-thirds of the country's workforce and contributing about half of the Republic's gross domestic product (GDP). The emphasis on smaller enterprises is also in line with findings that the multinational corporations, larger enterprises and the public sector are already practising excellence, said Prof Cham.


To ensure that the initiative remains useful in helping organisations strengthen and grow their businesses in an ever-changing landscape, ESG will continue to regularly review the BE Framework. Such reviews will take into account key social, economic and technological trends to help organisations better anticipate and respond to issues such as disruption, sustainability and diversity, even as they manage volatility in the short term.

''Over the years, the concept of excellence has morphed. Organisations are constantly facing challenges such as advancement in technology, changing social-demographic, and consumption trends. They must adapt and evolve to fit the new operating environment and be future-ready,'' said Prof Cham.

To meet the challenges ahead, organisations will need to acquire certain attributes, such as being able to sense and respond to changes quickly, adopt environmentally sustainable practices, being both data-driven and creative, and being able to leverage partnerships effectively to explore new opportunities. Added Prof Cham: ''I envision the current review of the BE Framework to take into consideration and incorporate these attributes for organisations to be future-ready.''

Business Excellence Awards 2019 winners

TWO enterprises and three public sector agencies from various industries have clinched the top honours at this year's Business Excellence (BE) Awards. They received their awards from Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Trade and Industry, at the 25th BE Awards Ceremony held on Oct 8.

The Singapore Police Force and the Singapore Prison Service won the pinnacle Singapore Quality Award with Special Commendation (SQA SC). Both previously clinched this award in 2007 and 2012, respectively.

Joining the list of award-winners are first-time winners ASM Technology Singapore (ATS) and Marina Bay Sands. ATS, a high-end manufacturer of equipment and materials for semiconductor assembly and packaging, is committed to translating business excellence through improved processes and tangible results for its employees, customers, and partners, ESG said. Marina Bay Sands, meanwhile, has introduced numerous industry-first initiatives by harnessing technology, data analytics and artificial intelligence in its operations to enhance productivity and improve guest experiences.

Under the Excellence Awards in Niche Standards, the Innovation Excellence Award (IEA) recognises organisations for outstanding innovation capabilities. This year's IEA winner, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, started its BE journey in 1999. Since then, it has sought constant improvements in its management capabilities and adopted innovation as a core value, ESG noted.


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