by Joseph Habr

Processes, Certifications, Awards … all are nice trophies to any business trying to satisfy its customers and earn their satisfaction and loyalty.

When a manufacturer or a service provider works hard to enhance his operation processes, to get his quality certifications and to earn one or more performance awards, he reflects a certain degree of commitment and respect to his business and to his customer base. He is bound to be rewarded, sooner rather than later, by a good response and a high customer satisfaction index.

Enforcing the good work ethics over time, throughout the organization, will insure that good performance will continue to be rewarded, both in awards and customer satisfaction.

Businesses in the third world are not different from any businesses in the industrial world. They derive pride from their certifications and awards and work to leverage said trophies to win more and more business. Framed awards are flashed all over their establishments and certifications logos decorate all their stationery and business cards.

However, a closer look at most operations reveals a reality far from acceptable and actually not worthy of any praise.

I have seen operations working hard to get their ISO certifications. They hire extra personnel to be in charge of the process, they contract specialized entities to prepare their ISO documentation, they go the extra mile in receiving the ISO inspection team and convincing the inspectors that they are abiding by all rules and clauses and they get the certification.

A deeper look revealed that whomever prepared the documentation was not a part of the operation. They had no idea what this organization was all about and what kind of operations they were performing. They prepared quality documentation that was completely irrelevant to the company, even though it was completely as per ISO requirements.

As it turned out, these people were previous ISO contractor employees who tried to make a buck the only way they knew. The organization bought the documentation and got their ISO. Everybody was happy.

Needless to say the organization saw no improvement whatsoever in its operations as a result of this certification, but the frames they used to display their certificates were very shiny.

I have also experienced a different operation in the health industry, a hospital, going thru the certification process to enhance its stature. A group of Canadian experts were hired and they set up an excellent management and operational structure; the hospital was running smoothly with an excellent reputation. Soon, the certifying agency was called over and within 4 months, the hospital got accredited and licensed. A huge reception was in order and all local TV stations did broadcast the good news. Excellent so far.

Three months later, suddenly, the hospital owner realized that the Canadians were costing the operation lots of money so they were all let go and replaced by a management team from the third world with instructions to cut costs. A couple of months later, all good doctors and experienced personnel started resigning and looking for decent opportunities somewhere else. The hospital became in no time a third class establishment.

But behold, the hospital kept all its certifications and awards, and it is still displaying them all over the place, with pride.

A message to certifying organizations: don’t give the impression that you are selling your certificates without looking deeper into every organization you are certifying.

More important, do not delegate the inspections and follow ups to local business partners. From experience, locals share the same mentality anywhere you go and they all speak the same ethical language.

Another message if you want to do business in the third world: don’t get scared, just Beware!!