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Business Excellence Global Conference [9-10 November 2010, Singapore]

Opening Remarks
by Ryuichiro Yamazaki
APO Secretary-General

Mr. Freddy Soon, Chairman, Singapore Quality Award Management Committee; Ms. Choy Sauw Kook, Assistant Chief Executive, SPRING Singapore and Singapore Quality Award Administrator; Distinguished Delegates and Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is indeed a pleasure to have been invited by SPRING Singapore to deliver the opening remarks for the 2010 Business Excellence Global Conference.

The Asian Productivity Organization (APO) is an intergovernmental organization consisting of 20 member countries with the primary mission of contributing to the socioeconomic development of the Asia-Pacific region. As some of you may know, the APO works in close partnership with the national productivity organizations (NPOs) of member countries such as SPRING and other stakeholders to implement programs that enhance productivity. Thus, one of the APO’s main thrust areas is strengthening the capabilities of NPOs.

A key element of the strategy for the development of NPOs is to establish centers of excellence (COE) in areas where NPOs possess unique strengths and expertise. Through a COE, the best practices in a specific area of expertise can be propagated and emulated by other NPOs. One area of expertise identified was business excellence (BE). The BE framework has been confirmed to be a dynamic system to manage an enterprise and improve its competitiveness and productivity. It allows enterprises to take advantage of a proven set of criteria to identify strengths and opportunities and thereby create an environment for sustainable, continuous improvement.

In recognition of the importance of strengthening the BE capabilities of APO countries, SPRING Singapore was designated as the pilot COE for BE in 2009. The APO Secretariat, in collaboration with the SPRING Singapore BE team, has since conducted activities to help member countries such as Pakistan, the Philippines, and Thailand develop and strengthen BE or their national quality award initiatives. In this way, the COE initiative is starting to gain traction among other APO countries. At the recent annual Workshop Meeting of Heads of NPOs held in Bangkok last month, the COE for BE received a ringing endorsement, reaffirming the need to promote BE as a key tool to drive productivity improvement.

As part of its commitment to this initiative, the APO has deputed two distinguished speakers to this Business Excellence Global Conference, Dr. Curt W. Reimann and Mr. Nico Schutte, to share their views on the latest developments in the BE framework. Furthermore, in parallel with this conference, the APO and SPRING Singapore are jointly conducting a workshop to train 18 senior assessors from 11 APO member countries. These senior assessors will, in turn, train even larger pools of assessors in their own countries, thereby increasing the multiplier effects of the COE. The overall objective of the COE for BE is to ensure that all APO member countries develop national BE frameworks that are aligned with internationally recognized ones such as the US Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, Singapore Quality Award, Japan Quality Award, and European Foundation for Quality Management Excellence Award. I am pleased to note the good progress made by the COE and look forward to even more effective initiatives for member countries in the next two years.

I would like to congratulate the Singapore Quality Award Governing Council and SPRING Singapore for jointly hosting this second Business Excellence Global Conference. I am confident that the conference will be a great success not only in benefiting everyone concerned, but also in serving as a model for the entire APO region as an initiative to enhance productivity and sustainable development through the promotion of BE. Many wise people have pointed out that excellence begins with the right attitude rather than with concrete skills. We can change our attitude today and acquire the skills needed to achieve BE through initiatives like the SPRING Singapore COE.

In concluding, allow me to repeat the wonderful lyrics of the productivity song that Chairman Freddy Soon has just mentioned: “Good, better, best; never let it rest, till your good is better and your better best.”

Now I ask myself a question: Where do I place myself in this productivity song? My answer is: having been the Secretary-General of the APO for less than two months, I must admit that I do not even qualify for the level of “good” because I am still at the on-the-job-training stage. That is why I really look forward to being enlightened by the discussion at the conference.

Thank you all very much.

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