Long-term business performance is significant for business survival as well as sustainability. Organizations always strive to adopt the best strategies to improve their management standards to enable them to achieve their core objectives better. Best practices and organizational diagnosis have often been used to maintain quality in organizations, and as an alternative to rigid legislated standards.
Bogan and English (1994) describe the best practice as an approach which has consistently shown better results as compared to other means and is therefore used to perform self-assessment or as a benchmark. Organizational diagnosis is used for documenting and charting practices and procedures for organizations.
Bogan and English (1994) state that a key strategic talent needed for adopting best practice/organizational diagnosis is the ability to balance the organization’s unique practices which it shares with others.
There are numerous organizational diagnosis models as well as best practices such as United Way Management Indicators List, Drucker Five-Question Self-Assessment Tool, and Fieldstone’s Nonprofit Life-Stage Assessment, among others. However, Business-Self-Assessment (BSA) would be the most appropriate for companies operating in the financial services industry.
BSA was developed to help businesses, including global businesses to determine what they need so as to advance their management systems. Thus, its main aim is to help organization leaders achieve the capability to perform Business Self-Assessments, which would enable them to improve their long-term business performance.
Companies operating in the financial sector have numerous common qualities which are unique to the industry and shared standard practices which make BSA the most suitable organizational diagnosis for the industry.
Ichikawa (2003) of Dow Chemical Company says that BSA processes can always be examined against business excellence criteria such as the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) and the US Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
BSA can be applied in both domestic and international companies, which means that it would be suitable for regional financial service companies such as Umpqua Bank and international financial companies like Barclays Bank.
Ichikawa (2003) states that consistent use of BSA could enable a global business on a downward trend to become vibrant. Adoption of BSA has several benefits.
BSA provides a clear diagnosis of financial organizations’ numerous business activities and is valuable for planning as it allows financial companies to connect their practices to the results of their practices, thus, highlighting areas which need to be improved.
It can help guide organizational change by enabling a deeper understanding of all aspects of an organization’s performance, motivation level, capability, as well as the environment (Cawsey & Deszca, 2007).
As such, the organization is able to fully understand its areas of weaknesses allowing its leadership to focus on the priority items which can generate the highest impact. This means that it gives an organization’s leadership a clear picture of the capability deficiencies impeding the organization’s performance.
The whole process helps generate important data on the organization’s strengths and weaknesses, which can be used in strategic planning exercise so as to improve its performance.
Dow Chemical Company President and Chief Executive, Ichikawa, believes that BSA ensures disciplined examination of how the organization operates as well as the results of those efforts (Ichikawa, 2003). Thus, it helps test an organization’s largely held beliefs against those of business excellence criteria.
BSA model also allows an organization’s leadership team and the organization as a whole to have a common understanding of the business as well as the priorities which help drive the business towards greater levels of performance.
Besides, it is flexible; thus, it can be used at corporate, business or branch level. BSA model can be designed to suit the needs of every business in the financial sector operated by any financial organization. It provides a comprehensive review for all of the company’s business activities and practices over several months or even a year.
As a result, this will enable financial organizations to develop a culture of continuous improvement (Cawsey & Deszca, 2007). The model also emphasizes the importance of consensus during the assessment of an organization’s strengths as well as areas that need to be improved. This makes the implementation of the identified practices to be easier and inclusive.
Finally, the BSA model stresses on external validation of the organization’s practices against standard excellence models like EFQM, Baldrige, and many others (Ichikawa, 2003). This will allow financial organizations to score their practices against best practices adopted by other financial organizations.
Financial organizations’ adopting BSA for the first time as their organizational diagnosis model have to be guided to start, and taken through a BSA workshop.
The workshop encourages the organization’s leadership and teams to progress to a written document as well as an assessment. During the initial stages of adoption of BSA, 6-12 person leadership team members of each of the financial company’s business sector or functional department is given a few hours of training (Ichikawa, 2003). Thereafter, they are given 2-3 days of pre-work.
Next, a one-day workshop is conducted to help the leadership teams review the strengths as well as areas of improvement which each sub-team records during their organization’s assessment “against the nine criteria of the EFQM model” (Ichikawa, 2003).
The results of the workshop should include a list of the organization’s strengths, potential practices, and procedures that it needs to put an end to, as well as, prioritized list of practices and procedures that it has to implement to improve its business performance as well as a management system.
Following successful completion of the workshop, every business or functional department of the financial company initiates actions aimed at improving their performance. This can take about six months to one year as each business or the organization monitors the progress of the best practices adopted (Ichikawa, 2003).
After the end of the set period, probably a year, each of the leadership teams are encouraged to write a document, which can be as long as more than fifty pages, describing their business approaches as well as results in relation to the criteria for business excellence (Ichikawa, 2003).
Ichikawa (2003) asserts that the written document is very useful as it helps the organization’s leaders conduct self-assessment of the organization’s strengths as well as areas of improvement. The findings regarding the organization’s procedures and practices are then compared to the findings of an assessment team, which consists of consultants and members of the organization from other branches of the financial company.
The employees involved in the assessment of any of the organization’s branch or ‘store’ as applied by Umpqua Bank, are those who do not work for the business being assessed. Senior members of EFQM or Baldrige examiners have to be retained as consultants during the first assessment processes (Ichikawa, 2003). Thereafter, the organization can always conduct its assessments in-house.
The financial organization with many branches and businesses both locally and internationally can, therefore, extend BSA to all its businesses and functional departments by initiating BSA workshop in those branches and businesses.
Leaders of these branches and business functions in these branches have to be trained to assess their practices and procedures, implement the best alternatives and write documents as regards their performance in accordance to the organization’s business excellence criteria (Ichikawa, 2003).
They are then allowed time to implement their proposed best practices so as to write documents after the end of the stipulated time of the program Cawsey & Deszca, 2007).
Although it is only the organization’s leadership teams who participate in the BSA workshops, they have to consult with other members of staff when considering the organization’s strengths as well as areas of improvement (Ichikawa, 2003).
The writing of the document should take every business or branch two-ten months, depending on the size and business process of each business or branch. The organization or its branch has to involve its key executives and middle management leaders or members of staff with lots of experience as well as seniority.
There are two alternatives available for writing the document. One, the organization can use proformas (templates) as an alternative to prose. This option will help save time while noting down all the required data. The other alternative is the shortened version of BSA, normally referred to as the Results Targeted BSA Workshop, which focuses on the single result that holds more importance to the business (Ichikawa, 2003).
It evaluates this result against the EFQM criteria for results as well as the corresponding approaches. This approach takes the organization’s key leaders just two days and one day for the leadership teams.
The Results Targeted BSA Workshop can be appropriate to business leaders in financial service companies due to their busy schedules, which involve face-to-face meetings with clients, monitoring and guiding the performance of the subordinate staff.
The organization has to set adequate time (of about two months) for the assessment of the documents so as to be able to understand fully the organization’s strengths as well as areas of improvement in relation to the best practices adopted after the workshop (Ichikawa, 2003).
The assessment of the written documents should involve a team of assessors who comprise middle-level management leaders or directors who have to take one week to conduct individual assessments of the written document.
They then take another two days to seek consensus on their feedback report. After that, they take one week to conduct site interviews of the organization’s branch or business or functional department; and finally, they document the report.
Throughout the site visit interviews, the document’s assessors contact as many staff as possible, and the staff interviewed must come from different levels within the department or organization. Ichikawa (2003) states that depending on the size of the branch/department or organization, about 5-40% of the staff should be interviewed.
The assessment process must be communicated to the organization’s staff to achieve a corporation during the process. Finally, the results of the assessment have to be communicated to all employees of the organization.
To make the implementation of BSA practice effective in any financial service organization, financial companies have to set up a BSA expertise center to help them “strategize at the corporate level and coach at the business level” (Ichikawa, 2003).
Again, the company has to hire consultants who could be senior Baldrige examiners, EQFM senior examiners or senior British Quality Foundation examiners who have previously led their organizations through BSA processes as well as through in-house and external award processes (Ichikawa, 2003).
The organization’s management has to involve internal business excellence leaders, training specialists, as well as external consultants to work together in developing training courses tailored to meet the organization’s goals and needs.
Consultants play a vital role in helping the organization develop its practices and in providing individualized coaching to the organization’s businesses (Ichikawa, 2003). They also lead and provide back-up to lead assessors (Ichikawa, 2003). This will help the financial service organization build internal assessment capability at a relatively lower cost.
By adopting the BSA organizational diagnosis model, financial service organizations learn the best ways of collecting information regarding their strengths as well as their weaknesses that need to be improved to enhance their performance.
BSA process involves getting the views of staff at various levels/positions within every department of the business. This means that financial organizations will be able to adopt a more consultative process in reviewing their procedures and practices as well as in implementing new practices and procedures.
Financial organizations will also learn to develop their own training courses which best meet their needs as well as the goals of every business process. Companies in the financial service sector, especially banks, usually have wide-ranging businesses such as banking services, insurance policies, mortgage services, investment services, retail brokerage services, among others.
Thus, by adopting BSA model, financial companies will learn to tailor their training as well as how to go about shared learning to provide their managers and other staff with skills which help them best meet the needs and the business processes of their departments.
They will also learn to continually monitor and review the perceived values of their practices and approaches to their businesses. Perhaps the most important part of the BSA model that financial organizations will learn is how to align their internal business excellence to the EFQM Excellence Model.
EFQM criteria majorly focus on how the organization conducts itself, how it reviews and monitors its core processes as well as how it manages its resources and employees.
Financial companies will be able to conduct better need identification, design their values which will allow them to incorporate their goals and employees targeted since they will be able to adopt practices applied by EQFM, Baldrige and many others (Ichikawa, 2003).
They will also learn how to align their practices with the performance identified. This means that they will be able to continually take corrective actions as they constantly evaluate their strategies so as to allow them to be consistent with the best practices observed in other organizations in the financial services sector.
They will also learn how to evaluate their results best as they continually seek to improve their practices to meet both short-term and long-term results.
Business Self-Assessment model would evidently be the best organizational diagnosis as it provides a framework for assessing the strengths as well as areas for improvement for financial organizations.
It provides a framework which can allow financial organizations to comprehensively appraise their strengths and weaknesses which need to be improved to enable the organizations better meet the goals of all their stakeholders. BSA also provides an assessment framework which can be used by financial organizations to inculcate the culture of continuous improvement.
Bogan, C.E. & English, M.J. (1994). Benchmarking for best practices: Winning through innovative adaptation. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Cawsey, T. & Deszca, G. (2007). Toolkit for organizational change. London: Sage Publishers.
Ichikawa, A. (2003). 2003 excellence in practice citation: Organizational learning. Midland, Michigan: Dow Chemical Company. Web.