On 6 July 2006, the news which the entire staff at EMSD had been waiting with much anticipation finally came: the department's trading fund was bestowed the Gold Quality Award by the Hong Kong Management Association (HKMA), making it the first government department to win such prestigious title.
At this exhilarating moment, Voicelink interviewed Mr Roger Lai, Director of Electrical and Mechanical Services. He was delighted to share the joy with us and to enlighten us on his expectation on how the award will positively affect the business of EMSTF and its development going forward.
When asked what prompted the EMSTF to enter the HKMA Quality Award Programme in the first place, Director Lai said briskly that it was the desire to find out where the organisation's management performance actually stands. By participating in the assessment, they were able to measure themselves against the management framework supported by the assessment criteria. "It's like a student taking an examination. We need to find out where our strength lies, and it has to be through an external and objective appraisal exercise," said Director Lai.
Indeed, the EMSTF has long started to implement quality management way back in 1996, acquiring corporate certifications of ISO9001, ISO14001 and OHSAS 18001 respectively in 1999, 2000 and 2001. It is the first government department that has achieved certification in the three management systems. In 2003, the department further adopted the Total Quality Management (TQM) System, advocating "total participation, teamwork and focus on customer satisfaction and to continuously improve service quality by using various management systems."
The evaluation would also help fulfill other objectives, such as to learn from other high quality organisations and to strengthen staff commitment and conviction in delivering quality service. There is of course the extra benefits if the department does come out a winner, which is a boost to the competitiveness of EMSTF and with it more business opportunities.
The EMSTF's vision, mission, values and corporate policies all centre around quality service. So how does the department define "Quality"?
Director Lai believes that in engineering service, quality has multiple definitions. It all boils down to delivery of excellent service, as manifested in speedy response, swift completion of repair assignments and so forth. These are all service performance standards already pledged by the EMSTF. On a higher level, quality service requires the organisation to develop a comprehensive data reporting mechanism which could ensure timely communication in the event of problems and subsequent prompt rectification. What's more, excellent quality also calls for a clear vision. A service provider must be able to proactively anticipate the evolution of society as well as technology and prepare itself accordingly for such changes, continuously improving service and exploring new business frontiers. A further aspect will be effective grooming of talents.
"That's why a straightforward definition of Quality would simply be provision of the best service. Yet there are plenty to be done to ensure Quality service," Director Lai stressed.
The assessment exercise had been a lengthy and challenging process. Director Lai attributed the gratifying results to the staff's total commitment. Naturally, the management devoted a great deal of effort in mobilising the people. Special briefing sessions were organised in which the objectives of participation in the contest were communicated. Since there is already a general understanding among the staff that the only way to face up to stiff competition is to beef up one's strength, spirit soon ran high and a united force built up to strive for the highest honour.
In the run-up to the Final Submission, which lasted for two years, a dedicated team was set up for each assessment criterion. The seven criteria teams comprised members from various divisions and across different ranks. They were charged with the mission of reviewing the department's processes against the specific criterion and identifying what improvements needed to be made. On some occasions, this involved tracing the rationale in formulating certain processes, offering excellent opportunities for self-reflection. Some staff members even volunteered to organise training courses for fellow workers, to help them appreciate the true essence of TQM and to encourage them to put forth comments.
The Final Submission has been the result of two years of zealous effort. It also showcases the finest qualities of EMSTF. The some 60 colourful charts are most impressive, which summarise EMSTF's performance in various aspects: the continuously improving customer satisfaction towards the responsiveness and efficiency of the repair team, and system availability maintained by EMSTF. Also on an upward trend is the staff satisfaction towards internal learning and development. Director Lai said, "The report vividly depicts our organisational structure, flow of processes and strategic planning of human resources. In drafting the report, we have had excellent opportunities to make self-discovery and self-evaluation, and there were so many good lessons to be learned."
To prepare for the site visit by examiners, the staff busied themselves gathering information, brainstorming and compiling briefing materials. "All in all, every member of the department, from top management right down to the junior level, put in his heart and soul in the assessment exercise. The joy and sense of honour are also shared by each and every one of us," Director Lai enthused.
EMSTF's vision is to become the most preferred E&M service provider in Hong Kong. In realising this vision, how would the management ensure they could meet customers' expectations?
According to Director Lai, "The customers in fact have very simple expectations. First and foremost, they want reliable service at a reasonable cost. Secondly, they are looking for professional advice. And finally, it is important to have the right attitude."
And the EMSTF is not only able to meet these requirements, but committed to exceed customers' expectations. Their engineers are ready to initiate recommendations to enhance cost benefits, or to support customers as much as practicable when unexpected needs arise, compressing delivery time where possible. What's more, the department is expanding "one-stop" service to allow a seamless flow of work, effectively enhancing service quality.
Director Lai is convinced that the quality award is conducive to high staff morale. These people have been constantly in search of excellence in their daily discharge of duties. Now that their effort has been recognised, it will go a long way to bolster their confidence. "This award will doubtlessly create a kind of motivation, a drive for our colleagues. As we embark on self-improvement in future, this will provide a model, a basis for us in dealing with various issues. We will definitely be more rational and objective in our thinking," Director Lai is positive.
As for the customers, the award will help enhance EMSTF's image and reinforce the branding effect, ultimately boosting their confidence in EMSD services, further sharpening the department's competitive edge.
What are the development strategies of EMSTF going forward?
Director Lai said, "Going forward, we will continue to implement TQM, seek to better equip ourselves and consolidating our strengths on the way. We absolutely can't afford to be complacent. On the business development front, we will expand into areas of service which not only can cater for customers' needs, but also have synergy with E&M engineering service. One such area will be information technology. And as the government departments accords more importance to energy efficiency, developing related service will be another direction worth pursuing."