Standards don’t just happen,, they’re created

The search for quality improvement and efficiency enhancement in the production process in Guyana has seen the application of various programmes provided by the European Com-munity (EU), the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) and other international agencies. The introduction of these programmes is driven by a recognition that higher product quality has become a critical factor in the enhancement of the competitiveness of goods and services in an international marketplace that has become increasingly unforgiving of quality deficiencies.

And yet the available evidence suggests that companies in Guyana have been slow to recognize the linkage between quality enhancement and improved competitiveness and, moreover, that few companies have actually sought to aggressively implement measures designed to improve the efficiency of their overall operations and to pay closer attention to improving the quality of the goods and services that they produce and offer for sale.

The seeming lack of appreciation by companies in Guyana of a nexus between quality enhancement and enhanced competitiveness poses a real and present danger to the growth of the Guyana economy particularly since more and more Guyanese companies are seeking to offer their goods and services for sale on the international market.

One of the concerns of this article is with exploring the reasons for the combination of slow response and downright indifference to quality improvement and efficiency enhancement among some companies in Guyana.

I believe that drawing attention to those reasons provides an opportunity for local owners and managers to reflect on their own operations and, where necessary, to move quickly towards change.

First, I believe that some companies in Guyana have simply failed to recognize the gains that accrue from making adjustments to the manner in which they operate. In the face of manifest evidence to the contrary there are companies in Guyana that appear to labour under the apprehension that they are immune from competition.

Owners and managers appear preoccupied with what is loosely described in Guyana as running the business, a routine, day to day pursuit that appears to take little or no account of such strategic issues as consumer idiosyncrasies, competitor behaviour, the vagaries of the market and technological developments that can impact on their production processes.

Secondly, I have observed that some companies in Guyana have cultivated an incomprehensible resistance to change which appears to be driven by little more than a simplistic and counterproductive adage that the old and proven way is the best way.

This approach is really no different to that of the owner of an antiquated and hopelessly inefficient motor car who, for reasons associated with no more than misplaced sentimentality, refuses to replace the vehicle – which apart from its inefficiency would have become more expensive to maintain – with a new, modern, more efficient one. Thirdly, there appears to be cases of what is perhaps best described as a lack of will to effect change.

In this regard my experience of the Guyanese business community has been that there are owners and managers of businesses who recognize the gains to be derived from change but are either disinclined to “coach” themselves through that process or are unprepared to seek help in bringing about that change.

Trained and capable leadership has now become so critical to the success of enterprises that owners and managers of businesses who remain indifferent to the need to upgrade their knowledge and broaden their horizons will not only injure their ability to provide capable leadership, create a focus and improve quality and productivity but will ultimately be responsible for presiding over the sweeping aside of their enterprises by the tidal wave of local, regional and international competition.

As businesses in Guyana proceed with plans to enhance their competitiveness to take advantage of the opportunities afforded them by the advent of the CSM and those of the global, liberalized market, it is essential that they take account of some critical issues that are bound to have a bearing on whether or not they succeed.

First, there is question of customer idiosyncrasies resulting from the ever increasing range of choices available on the market. Secondly, there is the issue of competitor behaviour which often raises the bar with the effect of significantly changing the nature of the competition.

Thirdly, there is the role of government in making laws, rules and regulations and setting standards to which businesses must adhere and which invariably have a significant impact on business operations. Fourthly, shareholder pressure for greater returns features prominently in shaping the operational plans of companies.

I have had an opportunity to observe the behavioural culture of those companies in Guyana that have recorded some measure of success in the areas of product improvement and competitiveness and have noted certain common behavioural characteristics. First, those companies are led by Chief Executive Officers and Managers who possess both the vision to recognize the need for change when that need arises and the commitment to drive the needed change. Secondly, the leaders within those companies possess a clear strategic direction for the businesses that they manage.

Thirdly, the successful businesses possess a structured plan for the actualization of that vision that involves all the employees within the organization. Fourthly, training designed to improve employee capability, is an integral part of the strategic planning of those organizations.

Fifthly, there is what I will describe as a managed process designed to keep teams focused on the effective execution of projects that are critical to the success of the organization. Finally, these companies provide their employees with meaningful rewards.

It is important to make the point that a corporate culture that focuses on the creation of a vision and the shaping of a strategic plan to actualize that vision comes over time and can only be realized through strong, capable and visionary leadership. It is the leaders of these enterprises who must imbue employees with a focus on the daily pursuit of initiatives that are unerringly designed to bring about an incremental improvement in product enhancement and competitiveness.

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