UPFRONT Herd it on the grapevine

The latest New Zealand organisation to join the select ranks of those who’ve gained “silver” achievement level in Business Excellence is Hamilton-based cooperative Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC).
Alongside its focus on improving the country’s dairy herds, LIC has been steadily improving its own business processes using the internationally recognised Baldrige framework to benchmark its performance against those of the best companies in the world. After earning “bronze” (commendation) level in 2002, it was the only company to achieve “silver” in this year’s New Zealand Business Excellence Foundation (NZBEF) Awards.
The accolade comes on top of what the company describes as its “most profitable and productive year” in which it broke the $100 million revenue barrier for the first time (earning $104 million) and increased profits by 10 percent.
The only other company to achieve award level status this year was the NZ Fire Service which put itself forward for evaluation for the first time and earned “bronze” commendation.
Since the awards were initiated more than decade ago, only two organisations have ever collected the top “gold” award, eight have now earned “silver”, 14 have achieved “bronze” and an additional 10 organisations have picked up “progress” award.
Such awards are significant in that the winners, evaluated against wide range of business criteria, achieve demonstrably better business results than comparable New Zealand businesses, says NZBEF chief executive Mike Watson.
While it’s the most commonly utilised business improvement model all around the world, now used in 70 countries, the Baldrige framework is often misunderstood – or seen as too big commitment, says Watson.
“It’s unfortunate that too few local organisations recognise the benefit in benchmarking against world-class standard and most fail to understand the functionality and alignment of the models available. common misconception is that business must use either Baldrige or ISO or Six Sigma or one of number of other business improvement models exclusively.
“This is incorrect as the models are often far more effective when used in conjunction as each offers different emphasis in helping organisations improve performance and capability.”
He says that while an increasing number of New Zealand companies are “quietly and determinedly” working to improve their performance by utilising the world-class framework, NZBEF is also taking steps to make their journey little easier.
“In 2006, we’ll be implementing significant changes to the way the awards are evaluated that, whilst retaining the rigour required to achieve international calibration, will greatly reduce the time and financial commitments involved. That will enable greater numbers of local businesses to evaluate themselves against the criteria.”

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