Need for Assessment

We are all engaged in number of activities with an intention to achieve our objectives and to sustain them. We desire to be successful and work hard for the same How can we say that we are performing well? We feel what we did is correct. We decided and designed the system according to our best knowledge and experience in order to achieve our objectives. However, unless we verify, we cannot have confidence.

Whatever may be the activity and actions taken, unless it is assessed, we can not say whether the action was fruitful or not. The assessment needs to be done against the objectives and to determine the extent to which it was achieved. There is no second opinion about this and we need assessments. It is needed to ensure that we are on the correct path. The Quality Management Systems, therefore, insist on periodic assessment.

Self Assessment and External Assessment

We can get our activities assessed by any one, either by self, from the people with in our organization or from outsiders. This is known as "Auditing" in Quality Management Systems. The audits can be internal or external. The Internal audits are done by the people within the organization, but from different sections, where as external audits are done by experts from outside.

No matter who the auditor is, the auditee will have some anxiety and tension at the time of audit. It is normal that one will try his level best to avoid non conformities being identified in his work area. Therefore he might try to hide some files and activities on which he has no confidence or feels is not correct or incomplete. This happens even in the internal audits, although the auditors are own people and acquainted, because they are from different section. No one wants a second person to point his lapses in systems. Therefore, internal audits cannot be called as self assessment in true sense. For self assessment, people within the section are preferred. It is best if the person performing does the assessment of own activities.

Self assessment is done by people from inside an organization in order to understand the real gaps in systems or the level of preparedness for facing an external assessment. This can be done for the individuals also to assess his/her preparedness for taking up an activity or to analyse the reasons for success or failure In case of self assessment, there is no fear of a second or third person raising nonconformity against us, but we ourselves will be ascertaining our performance There will be no hiding. The assessment will be impartial when there is an intention of improving self importance will be given to the values we respect and the goal we would like to achieve. We need to satisfy ourselves that what we are doing is correct. Self Assessment is therefore strongly recommended.

Five Golden Questions

To become a winner we should always be competitive and performing. Whatever may be the activity being managed, we need to understand the basic purpose for which we are working, how we can achieve, what results are expected and how likely we are to fare in the competitive environment.

People sometimes copy procedures from others because those were doing well or had some reputation. By this one cannot guarantee the results as it is not clear whether that procedure is appropriate for the culture, technology, infrastructure, environment and the expectations of the customers.

A number of Quality Management Systems are developed with an intention of making the company / person stronger and competitive. Each system has its own policy and methodology. The promoters of those systems claim their systems as the best. The implementers, when study different systems are in a fix, as all seem good, and how to integrate them is not clear. There is a need for a simple concept, that can help every one. It should help in self assessment, so that one can understand the reality and work on it. The following five basic questions named as Golden Questions, if answered promptly, can help in achieving the targets. These questions are developed considering the PDCA concepts developed by Dr.Edward Deming, Approach, Deployment and Result concepts adopted in Malcolm Baldrige Cnteria and the Benchmarking concepts together.


1. Whether we have a procedure?

The first question is, "do we have a procedure?" For doing any work, there should be a procedure, i.e. a defined method of working that is established. The procedure may or may not be documented, but should be in practice. Every one should be working in that style with out fail all the time. Some times we see a documented procedure in place, where as the people are not following it. Each one is doing the work in his/her way. In such a case it is considered as "No Procedure". The procedures should be established by judicial studies and logical thinking and not just by someone's ideas. The procedure should be tried. Proved and established before declaring and documenting it as a procedure. Then only we can say that we have a procedure. First verify whether there is an established procedure for the work you intend to do or for the work you are already doing. If procedure is not there, your first work should be establishing a procedure.

In Ancient Indian Culture, term 'Shastra' was used which explained various procedures, or in simple words the 'Manual of related Procedures', and people used to enquire. before doing any work, 'In which Shastra is this method explained?' In the Shastra, the 'Vidhi' and 'Vidhana' were explained Vidhi is the rules to be followed and Vidhana, the method of doing the work. The one who was well versed with Shastra was respected as 'Shastry'. It indicates that the concept of having a procedure for doing the work and following it religiously is not a new one.

2. How do we ensure it as the best?

We may have a procedure, but only having is not adequate. It should be appropriate for the situation and suitable for the activity in hand. The procedure should be clear. It should guide to each step of the activity and address the objectives. It should be suitable to achieve the objective in time with least expenses or efforts. Hence there is a need to periodically review the procedures to ensure their suitability considering the changing situation and environment. The procedures should be tailor made for the situation and not to be copied from others. People sometimes copy procedures from others because those were doing well or had some reputation. By this one cannot guarantee the results as it is not clear whether that procedure is appropriate for the culture, technology, infrastructure, environment and the expectations of the customers. There might be different ways and means to do a work or to achieve the objectives.

We need to understand our culture. competency, facilities, capability, resources, time, etc., to verify the suitability of the procedure to environment. We need to have a procedure best suited for our environment. There should be a system of periodic review and assessment of procedure to ensure its continued suitability considering the changing environment.

3. How are we implementing it?

Writing a procedure is very easy comparing to implementation. It is more complicated when it has to be implemented organization wide. Normally implementation means organisation wide implementation with out any excuse. One can make use of linking exercises to study the effect of implementation at one place on the activities at other place. (Ref: Linking Exercises Quality Update - August 2007].

In ancient Indian culture, maximum respect was given to those who practiced what they preached and were called "Acharyas" [Acharana means implementation]. It requires willingness, determination and dedication to do the work. Acharya is a role model by implementing what he preached.

Education and training is very important for implementation so that one can understand and do the work effectively. People should have confidence and belief in the system to follow without hesitation and interruption. The main reason for the failures in system is the disbelief among the implementers. A whole hearted implementation demands hard work and discipline There is no substitute for it. The implementation means doing the activity as per the agreed procedure and reviewing them on-line and correcting as and when a deviation occurs.

Determination and dedication is very important in the implementation. In Indian rituals, any activity is started with Sankalpa, i.e. determination, where the Kartru the one doing the rituals spells out clearly the purpose and prays god to help him complete the job without any obstacles. He takes deeksha, an oath that he shall not divert from the work, shall concentrate and complete.


4. Did we get the results as anticipated?

Any procedure as stated earlier should address the objective if the procedure is evaluated and proved as the best to achieve the objectives, and if we were able to implement it in real sense, then we must get the results as anticipated. If the results are not obtained, it means, either our procedure was not suitable or we did not implement as required a careful analysis of the situation can reveal the actual reason for not achieving the required goal.

Monitoring and measuring the activity is very important in order to achieve the results. We need to learn measuring everything, and then only we will be able to say whether we got the result as anticipated. If we do not know how to measure, then we will not be able to monitor it.

5. How do we compare with our competitors?

We might achieve the results as anticipated or committed. It does not mean that we are effective and efficient. Our success in a competitive environment depends mainly on the performance of our competitors. In a running race, in order to become a winner, the speed at which I am running is less important than the distance I am keeping ahead of my nearest competitor. Although we achieve the results as anticipated, we cannot be happy for that. If our competitors are doing a better job, we are certainly going to lose. Therefore it is always necessary to keep a watch on the competition and develop our systems to achieve better results. We need to benchmark the best to each criterion, and work towards meeting and overtaking. We need to compare ourselves with those who are stronger in various fields.

An advertisement can boost the morale of employees; however, there is a need to explain the reality to ensure that complacence is not built up. Our people should know the areas where our competitors are better.

People normally try to keep a safer target so that they can be motivated with the success, and get confidence. Very few embrace a stretch target aiming at excellence. If the target is much smaller than the capability, is achieved easily leading to complacence, which in turn leads to inefficiency and laziness.

In business, people have a practice of projecting their best results and claim them as the best. This is needed to attract the customers, but cannot help in keeping the customers. The customers will be judging us by the consistency in the quality of product and services offered by us. An advertisement can help in bringing a new customer, but not for satisfying and retaining. An advertisement can boost the morale of employees; however, there is a need to explain the reality to ensure that complacence is not built up. Our people should know the areas where our competitors are better. We need to develop methods and technology to overtake the competitors. Re engineering the systems is essential depending on the situation. An improved PDCA cycle can be drawn by using the Five Golden Questions.

These questions are universal and can be applied by all in any situation and for any of the activity. This, as explained earlier, is an extension of PDCA concepts developed by Dr.Deming and incorporation of competitive comparison and Benchmarking. The Procedure and Evaluation of procedure is a part of 'PLAN' and Implementation represents 'DO' in Deming's wheel. Results and competitive comparison is the process of 'CHECK' and Reengineering is the process of 'ACT'. This can be illustrated as a cycle as shown in figure.

If we are clear about the activity and the results, we can emerge as Winners. The above questions are simple and self explanatory. Anyone can make use of these questions. Here we need to answer ourselves, and there is no need for a third party audit or certifications. We should be sincere with ourselves. If we are convinced and satisfied as winners, what is the use of certificate from others? There is no need of any manipulation of records and documents. We should win by our deeds.

The Five Golden Questions is a very useful Self Assessment Tool.

About the Author:

The author is a learned Consultant for QMS and Textiles.