3 Courses to earn a Certificate of Leadership Excellence

We are pleased to announce that the Institute has partnered with Dalhousie University’s College of Continuing Education to provide students with three exciting new courses; Leadership Dynamics, Ethics in Action, and Mastering Strategy.

This demanding trinity of courses provides learners with the opportunity not only to learn about leadership, strategy, and ethics but also to learn how to lead, how to be strategic, and how to make ethical decisions. All three courses are learner-centric and take a constructivist approach to learning that combines active, experiential, social, and problem-based learning with more traditional pedagogical approaches.

People who successfully complete all three courses, achieving a grade of at least 80% in each, will qualify for a professional certificate of Leadership Excellence from The Business Excellence Institute.

Commenting on the Dianne Tyers, Dean of the College of Continuing Education, said that:
the College of Continuing Education at Dalhousie University is delighted to partner with the Business Excellence Institute to offer the three courses leading to a Certificate in Leadership Excellence as, together, the courses provide learners with the core knowledge, skills, and critical thinking required to become effective leaders who are able to make informed, ethical, strategic decisions in complex, dynamic situations… and that’s the kind of leader that all types of organizations need right now.

John Bourke, president of The Business Excellence Institute, noted that Dianne and the College of Continuing Education were well known to the Institute’s board and that they were happy to enter into partnership to provide the courses as they respected Dalhousie and the work Dianne was doing to progress the College of Continuing Education on its journey to excellence.

Both organizations look forward to providing these three impact-driven, rewarding, relevant learning experiences to people to help them develop as leaders who can navigate and adapt to today’s ever evolving challenges. Leadership Dynamics and Ethics in Action launch next week. Mastering Strategy launches in January.

About The Business Excellence Institute

Headquartered in Dublin, The Business Excellence Institute has members on 6 continents and is the world’s only global membership body for business excellence professionals. It is dedicated to helping people and organizations achieve outstanding results for all their stakeholders and, in addition to facilitating professional development, it helps organisations, ranging from small family businesses to federal governments, on their journeys to excellence.

About Dalhousie University College of Continuing Education

Dating from 1818, Dalhousie University is one of the oldest universities in Canada. Its College of Continuing Education develops and delivers innovative educational programs to assist individuals to prepare for and succeed both academically and professionally. The college has delivered innovative, quality education and training needs to its students and their employers for almost 40 years.

Andrew Kakabadse and Teresa Kemppi-Vasama are inducted into the Excellence Hall of Fame

Dublin, Ireland, 17 August, 2020

We are pleased to announce the induction of Andrew Kakabadse and Teresa Kemppi-Vasama into the Excellence Hall of Fame. Due to the ongoing battle against COVID-19, their induction will be celebrated next year in combination with 2021’s inductees.

Andrew Kakabadse

Andrew Kakabadse

Professor of Governance & Leadership, Henley Business School

Andrew is one of the world’s foremost experts on governance, boardroom effectiveness, top teams, and government. He has been listed in the world’s Top 50 business thinkers on two occasions (in 2011 and 2013). After starting his career as an environmental scientist and working both in the public sector and with an engineering consulting firm, Andrew joined the faculty at Cranfield University’s School of Management (where he is now an Emeritus Professor). His research has focused on governance and the performance of boards and executive teams. He has been a visiting professor at many universities around the world and has been a Visiting International Fellow at the Centre for Creative Leadership. You can learn more about him here.

Teresa Kemppi-Vasama

Teresa Kemppi-Vasama

Executive Chair Kemppi OY & Board member of Cargotec and LUT University

Teresa started her career in Andersen Consulting (Accenture). She then moved to the Finnish Red Cross where she grew her role and worked her way up to management. After over a decade with the Red Cross, she started to work in her family’s welding equipment business, Kemppi (an innovative pioneer in the wielding industry). In 2014, she was appointed as its Executive Chair. She was honoured as a Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year in 2015 and, in 2017, she was awarded with one of the ten first “Finland 100 Years Medals” by the Finnish Chamber of Commerce. She serves as on the board of Cargotec and of Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology (LUT University), is Chair of the Association for Finnish Work, and she serves as Vice Chairman of the Industrial Society of Lahti. You can learn more about her here.

About The Business Excellence Institute

Headquartered in Dublin, the Business Excellence Institute is the only global membership body for business excellence professionals in the world. With members on 6 continents, it promotes excellence and works to help organisations, from small family businesses to federal governments, achieve it.

About the Excellence Hall of Fame

The Excellence Hall of Fame was established in 2016 to recognise and celebrate people who bring excellence to life and have made outstanding contributions to the organizations in which they have worked, the discipline of management, or to society at large. Previous inductees include Henry Mintzberg (world-leading thinker on management and business strategy), Clara Shih (Founder of Hearsay Systems and Board Member of Starbucks), Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch (CEO of US China Education Trust), Raomal Perera (Serial entrepreneur and INSEAD professor), Eileen McDonnell (CEO and Chair of Penn Mutual), Feargal Quinn (Founder of Superquinn) and Martin Naughton (Founder of Glen Dimplex).


Don’t be an Average Manager – a lighthearted poem


Image by Gerd Altmann

Don’t be an average manager, sign the Excellence Manifesto.

Sign here…

To be professional and not an amateur,
Don’t be an average manager.
Most of whom don’t make the grade,
Not worth the salaries that they’re paid.
Take simple steps to outperform
This mediocre, frequent norm.

Select people with the care that’s due,
Then motivate them to work with you.
Listen well, think, then decide.
Forge a team, get all on-side.

Let people know what they’re to do
And when it’s done, say “thank you.”
Help them when they need support,
Inform them when they fall short.
Trust those to whom you assign a task
There’s little more that one could ask.

Results will follow this approach
You’ll be a manager beyond reproach.

Design to Eliminate Bias

Last Friday I saw an article on the website of a reputable British news agency asking if female leaders are disadvantaged by media bias. It pointed out that women such as Hillary Clinton (US presidential candidate) and Theresa May (UK Prime Minister) have their choice of clothing discussed in the media while their male counterparts seldom if ever do. Ironically, the article appeared in close proximity to one with the headline “Bikini-clad Swedish policewoman stops thief” and a photo of the officer doing so.

It would seem that even when discussing the media’s attention to female leaders’ attire, the media continues to focus on what women wear when they make headlines. This bias appears to be just as prevalent in the East as in the West – Japanese politician Koike Yuriko (who was elected Mayor of Tokyo last Sunday) is another example of a woman who has been criticized what she wears – in her case apparently “too much makeup”.

The article referenced work by researchers at Northwestern’s Kellogg Business School in Illinois which found that companies see a decline in their share price if they receive a lot of media attention having appointed a female Chief Executive. However, if a company gets a lot of attention having appointed a male Chief Executive, the share price gets a boost.

The current issue of the Harvard Business Review has an article about designing a “Bias-Free Organization”. It focuses on biases that influence diversity. These are biases that managers can act to reduce by – to go back to my previous blog – designing processes to eliminate them.


The article – which focuses mainly on gender bias – points out that corporate “diversity training” has been found to be ineffective in changing attitudes (no surprise really as bias tends to be in the domain of the subconscious and very difficult to overcome). It cites an experiment run by researchers at Yale into anti-bias training effectiveness that found the training had “almost no impact” and then promotes the use of process design to help overcome bias.

Before you decide that your organization doesn’t have bias, I should warn you of a bias known as “the bias blind spot” where we have a tendency to believe we are less biased than others, so you should do some checking to be sure.

A number of years ago, during an Excellence Assessment of a company in India, a BEX colleague and I were discussing diversity with the company’s top management. They were proud to highlight that they had a diverse workforce as they employed Muslims as well as Hindus in key roles and also had a female manager. In their minds they had diversity. My colleague, who is Indian, acknowledged this but also commented that there was no way for a person in a wheelchair to access company’s headquarters so that they were not quite as embracing of diversity as they might believe. It is all too easy to miss ways in which one can be biased, so it is worthwhile having somebody do a sanity check for you.

The pursuit of excellence requires the minimization of bias – it results in better decisions and better teams. The HBR article contains some good ideas on how to eliminate gender bias in your some of your processes, so I would recommend giving it a glance.

Design for Good Decision Making

I saw a tweet recently from a business school about “efficiency in decision making”. Efficient decision making might sound positive but it’s more important to design for effective decision making – the making of good decisions.

The headline worked… I read the article. It gave the example of a door which, although it needed to be pushed, had a handle on it that “communicated” pull. I’ve encountered a similar door in the offices of an innovative company that puts a lot of thought into things including its office space but still has a door in its offices which is glass and has handles to pull on both sides. Every time I went to open it I found myself thinking “is this the pull side or the push side?”… frequently, I got it wrong.

Decision Making

At the best of times it’s difficult to make optimal decisions. If something as simple as the design of a door handle can cause many people to make poor decisions when there are only two options, how much more significant are the influences of poor organizational design and poor decision making processes?

Organizational design – which is about a lot more than just structure – is something that is covered in Chartered Business Excellence Professional training and it’s too big a topic to get into here so, for now, I’ll focus on another factor that influences decision making – cognitive bias.

Henry Mintzberg and colleagues have being writing about the “Cognitive School” of strategy since the 90’s and it’s widely accepted that cognitive biases strongly influence decision making. Being aware of the existence of a bias is not enough to avoid its influence. One must, in the opinion of Daniel Kahneman, design systems to help us overcome them.

Last Monday, while hiking in the mountains south of Dublin, I had a conversation on this very topic. A friend was talking about how climbers attempting to climb Everest establish a series of toll gates or “tripwires” to help them overcome commitment bias and force themselves to turn back if they haven’t being making milestones and the risk gets too high. It’s a great example of how we can use systems to help guide decision making and overcome bias.

Thought on how to design decision-making processes to optimize decision making – including thought on organizational structure – and on how to design operational systems to help mitigate the influences of cognitive bias are investments worth making. Irrespective of if a system is to support investment decisions or other strategic or operational decision-making, to be effective it needs to be well designed. Unless it is, it will drive the incorrect behaviour.

Unfortunately, examples of badly systems – in everything from hiring and performance management systems to risk management systems – are found in almost every sector. There is no silver bullet that will ensure an organization will design good systems. However, brushing up on your critical thinking is a good start and this can be followed-up with some training on how to make decisions as a team.

The Institute has a short Critical Thinking primer which uses a number of exercises to illustrate that it doesn’t matter how smart a person is, we are all susceptible to the same cognitive traps so we need well designed systems to avoid them. We also have a training for teams to help them learn how to make strategic decisions in the face of uncertainty that uses APEX – our boardroom board game – to create a learning environment.

But, while I mention them, the purpose of this post is not to plug them in particular rather it is to prompt people to think about the need to have well designed systems in place to support their decision making. Without them, even if your organization is performing “well enough” at the moment, it is at risk of drifting towards mediocrity.

Jon Prusmack inducted to the Excellence Hall of Fame

At a ceremony in Dublin Jon Prusmack was inducted into the Excellence Hall of Fame on Friday, 19 February, as its inaugural member having been elected unopposed by the Institute’s Fellows.

John Bourke, the Institute’s President remarked when introducing him that Prusmack is “first and foremost a man of integrity. A man who has studied both art and mathematics, an artist who has excelled at sports, and one who – with many patents to his name – has invented things. A businessman who has successfully built more than one multi-million dollar company from zero and a man who can just as easily sit and talk to and engage with a five year old girl as with a 5 star general.”

Don Haider, Professor of Strategy at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, congratulated Prusmack. He commented that “The story of how Jon founded, invented and pioneered deployable rapid assembly shelters is a tale of great vision and innovative thinking” and that “Prusmack’s products save lives”. He went on to say that the “US market for rugby continues to grow largely due to Jon Prusmack’s relentless pursuit of elevating this amateur sport to world competitive levels,” and that he is “Mr. Rugby in the USA, and for that accomplishment alone he deserves admission to the Excellence Hall of Fame.”

And Mike Henning, former Global CEO of EY, extended his heartfelt congratulations remarking:
“Having spent 40 years with Ernst and Young I’ve met quite a few outstanding entrepreneurs. Jon would rank right up at the top of the group,”
referring to Jon as a “globalist” which he believes “has helped him in his creativity because in his worldwide travels he picked up many ideas which he used to make his products better.”

Management Ecademy Opens

The Institute is delighted to announce the launch of its Management Ecademy!

Initial courses include Lean Six Sigma Yellow and Green Belt courses and – for members – our new Chartered Business Excellence Professional™ program. Additional courses on a wide range of subjects are on their way.

Check it out at: ManagementEcademy.org

Where Excellence Went Wrong

The Total Quality Management (TQM) movement started in Japan and spread as people recognised the tremendous benefits. In the late 80s and early 90s, the Baldrige Model and EFQM Model appeared in the US and Europe – holistic management frameworks that went beyond the product to look at all aspects of the business. Initially, these were championed by many high-profile organisations and TQM was “the hot topic” on the management agenda. Its popularity peaked in the 90s; since then there has been a steady decline. Now excellence models tend to be used in discrete pockets within a large company, like a single manufacturing site, or within the public sector. So what went wrong…?

Part of the reason lies within HOW these Models where used – another part lies with WHO was using them. Excellence Models are designed as holistic tools – they cover all aspects of the organisation from the Leadership & Strategy through People and Resource Management through to Product Development & Delivery and, finally, Customer Relationship Management.

However, the “QM” in TQM was usually interpreted as “Quality Management”. This interpretation meant it was often coupled with process management, product quality and ISO 9000 certification. It was the job of the Quality Manager, not line management. Don’t get me wrong – product quality and quality management are very important. But the holistic excellence models went far beyond these traditional boundaries.

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege to work with some Quality Managers who were capable of applying excellence models at a strategic level – most of them have since moved on to more senior roles. But I’ve also worked with many who tried to use excellence models as a check-list – something it’s not designed for and something that tends to produce generic, meaningless feedback.

This is nothing new. We all know that the success of any organisational development initiative depends more heavily on the individuals selected to deploy it than the tool itself. If the wrong people are involved, it doesn’t matter how good the tool is… and if you’re looking at a tool that applies to the whole organisation, you can’t only involve people from a single function.

Fast forward 20+ years to today. We find a number of “excellence evangelists” who are completely convinced that excellence models work and freely eulogise about the benefits to all who will listen. Some are lucky enough to be in organisations where they are supported but many more are not and therefore can’t “practice what they preach”. They’re often met with comments like “we tried that before and it didn’t work”. I’m sure you recognise these people – or maybe you are one yourself. At conferences and events, we see the “same old faces” year after year. Where’s the new blood? The new ideas? The “next generation”…?

We know that, if applied correctly, excellence models can deliver great benefits. We also know that “management fads” come in cycles. The vast majority of CEOs interviewed place topics like sustainability, competitiveness and innovation high on their priority lists. Topics the excellence models were designed to address. But we must learn the lessons of the past. Excellence is not “quality management”. It’s not just the domain of operations and it is definitely not a staff function. It wasn’t in Japan and it helped them build one of the world’s strongest economies.

So, where does this leave us? If we’re going to re-energise the excellence movement, we need a new approach. Look at the success of Six Sigma – the vast majority of the tools in the toolkit went back to the 1950s. Someone just added new packaging. Can we do the same with “excellence”?

To me, it seems simple. It seems we’re missing a single two-letter word. “OF”. Excellence Models are not about Quality Management. They’re about the Quality OF Management. To be able to talk credibly about the Quality OF Management clearly requires a different skill set and different experience. But there are many people who gained some experience in quality management over the past 20 years who are now in “senior management” positions. People who know the potential of this tool and are now in a position to use it at a strategic level.

It’s time for some new thinking…