For the 2018 cycle, more than 200 assessors evaluated over 260 organisations and prepared feedback reports Image Credit: Supplied

Business Excellence Awards is possible every year because of the assessors who work silently behind the scenes. It takes more than just hard work and dedication to be an assessor; it requires a sense of purpose and commitment and the ability to understand rules, weigh performances and contribute within a team.

“Being an assessor is like doing a mini MBA,” says Nitin Thariyan, Senior Director of Operational Innovation, Middle East and Africa for Marriott, who has been contributing as an assessor for eight years. “One needs to understand the business model of the applicant organisation and use the excellence framework to provide relevant feedback. Remaining neutral and objective is the key skill set required to get a full appreciation of what the applicant is trying to depict.

“I always come back more humble from an assessment cycle. There is so much out there in terms of new technology, process or systems and being an assessor places you in a unique position to gain deep insights into how our world is changing. You also get to meet the leaders of these wonderful organisations who are inspirational.”

People often join as new assessors and work their way up through years of involvement to become a senior assessor, deputy team leader and then team leader. Responsibilities for every company visit and assessment are based on the role of the assessor.

“It has been a great learning experience on how the excellence model is applied in other organisations and how the assessment process gives us a deeper understanding of the organisation and its capabilities,” says first-time assessor Mark Paul De Jesus who is Senior Manager, Corporate Development at DIFC Authority. “A good assessor is someone who ensures that the assessment is carried out without personal bias from one’s own experience and links it back to the fundamental concepts of excellence. One key learning experience is to come to the site visit with an open mind and not just restrict yourself within the submission document. The organisation you may be assessing may have something more to offer than what is in the submission.”

Inspired by the hands-on in-depth understanding of excellence, many of the assessors have encouraged their own organisations to apply for the awards as well as members from their social circle to apply as award assessors. Mandarr Agshikar is General Manager and Business Excellence Consultant at Ajhinkkya. “I always recommend all the companies and organisations I am associated with to be a part of the award cycles,” says Agshikar who has been assessing for Dubai Quality Award and Dubai Human Development Award for six years. “Assessments are done as teams and the team leaders always guide the new assessors as they progress. With each assessment cycle you learn some new best practices adopted by organisations and this has helped me in guiding my clients as a Business Excellence Leader to achieve their goals and objectives. It helps them in their continual improvement initiatives, which is the need of the hour to achieve advantage over competition in today’s challenging times.”

For the 2018 cycle, more than 200 assessors evaluated over 260 organisations and prepared feedback reports. Heidi Struiksma, an independent HR consultant and coach and senior assessor, says she loves every minute of the process, although it can be challenging at times due to complexities and tight deadlines, especially when interacting with applicants. “But then again, it’s the challenges that broaden your knowledge, experience and trigger the desire for continuous learning,” she adds. “Being an assessor for DQA has introduced me to different business models, innovative and thought-provoking leaders and pioneers in a dynamic environment. It has broadened my horizon and enhanced my ability to support my clients, share best practices, alternative approaches and models with them. This brings me back to what I enjoy doing most — transferring my knowledge and experiences to others, in particular the next generation of home-grown talent.”

Going global

Based on their expertise, senior assessors get to participate at the next level of the awards. Dr Franco Pieracci, Managing Partner of Synergy Performance Middle East, has been a registered European Quality Award Assessor (EFQM) since 2001. He started his commitment in the UAE in 2014 and has been leading an assessor team for DQA for the past four years. This year, Department of Business Excellence appointed Dr Pieracci as assessor team leader for Dubai Quality Global Award, which combines excellence with the values of Dubai.

“I believe assessment is an all-embracing experience in which you work with colleagues (whom you mostly meet for the first time) and the applicant with whom you have never worked. The challenge is to add value to an organisation, identifying and appreciating their efforts and strengths and sharing opportunities for improvement. What makes for a good assessor is being able to identify the strengths and avoid classifying something that seems unclear or unaligned to a preconceived model as a weakness. Also, do not settle for an area for improvement unless the organisation agrees on that.”

Mohamed Alsaadi, Head of Academic Affairs Unit, Ministry Of Education, who has been an assessor for more than five years, seconds it. “A good assessor has the skill set to see beyond what is presented. The process has allowed me to see how different organisations deliver excellence for customers, staff and stakeholders, plus how they are addressing the challenges of today and tomorrow to achieve sustainability and competitiveness. Each assessment is an engaging and inspiring learning experience, especially when we work with different nationalities of assessors and different organisations.”

Personal development

Training as an assessor helps one mature as a business leader and take the learning back to daily operations too. Leilani Sumague, Manager, Business Excellence and Customer Care at Eros Group, believes the opportunity to assess leadership and management strengths of organisations in different industries has helped in her personal development. “Beyond data, information and numbers is an organisation with people aiming to improve the way things are being done. That is my inspiration to provide a value-added feedback to applicants, enabling them to reap benefits from their excellence journey.”

For Zainab Khan, Senior Manager Human Capital — Majid Al Futtaim, an assessor for five years, the main lesson was that an organisation does not need to adopt the best global practices but rather design their individual practices to achieve the desired results based on their vision and culture. “Each organisation has a different soul, and they need to design their practices accordingly. The award criteria is a simple guideline on how to initiate this journey.”

Repeated participation requires the assessor to have the zest and openness to learn and re-learn, says Rejil Kumar. He should know — he has been an assessor since 2006. “Participating in multiple assessments over the years has helped me mature my views and observations during assessment and help hone my feedback to be specific to the applicant’s context, which is appreciated by the recipients.” Kumar was part of the pilot Dubai Quality Global Award and has been recognised for leading the best assessment teams for two consecutive years by DQA. He has also been instrumental in spearheading improvements in the assessment process.

“Over the years I have interacted with more than 150 business excellence professionals,” says Koshy Thomas, QMS Manager at Dutco Construction, who started his excellence journey in 2004 when he joined DQA as an assessor. “It’s been a win-win situation for us where we not only learnt the concepts of the excellence model but also celebrated the success of winning organisations that have contributed to the sustainable economic development of Dubai.”

Each assessment cycle is more exciting than the last as assessors are never paired with the same team, explains Thomas, who has won several awards over the years for the best team, the best feedback report and the best team leader. “The award office has played a sterling role in bringing together several teams of assessors with the ultimate goal of providing a robust learning platform, to nurture them into leading players in the global market.”