MOH News
Speech of the Minister of Health and Aramco CEO, Eng. Khalid al-Falih, Before the 5th National Quality Conference
14 October 2015
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Graceful

 

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and gentlemen,
 
May Allah's peace, mercy and blessing be upon you.

 

At the beginning of my speech, I would like to express my overwhelming happiness for convening with you today. Also, I would like to seize this opportunity to extend my deepest thanks and gratitude to Dr. Saad El-Qasaby and the team of the Saudi Standards, Metrology, and Quality Organization for their efforts to organize and prepare for this conference at the domestic level.

 

Although I agree on the motto of this important conference, namely “Quality: A Strategic Choice to Achieve Sustainability and Promote Competition,” I think that quality is not just a strategic choice, but it has become an “urgent national necessity”.

 

Personally, who among us doesn’t desire to have all his/her missions accomplished in high quality? Professionally, I have sought, along with my colleagues, to abide by quality standards in all missions assigned to us. In fact, the outlook of the 21st century world is so much akin to a racing track. It is a world characterized by major challenges, innovative opportunities, fast tempo and complexity. Meanwhile, I would like to emphasize that the maximum quality standards sought by contenders in the past have not been enough for today. However, we seek to prove our superiority in the future.

 

All this occurs while we see no barriers at the commercial, domestic, regional and international levels. In doing so, the private sector and governmental and semi-governmental institutions, and even non-profit organizations, are all competing with one another, notwithstanding the bridges of mutual cooperation. Likewise, countries compete with each other in their quest for leadership, and to manifest themselves as major international players able to partake in outlining the world future.

 

In a similar fashion, competition is always present among the various institutions of the same country. For instance, I and my colleagues at the Ministry of Health (MOH) are looking forward to providing the best health service for citizens and placing the MOH in a leading position among the other Saudi ministries.

 

From the perspective of global competitiveness, we agree that the Kingdom is in need of accelerating the pace of development to move from a stage where economy is dependent on abundance of natural resources, to a stage where economy could depend on the efficiency of production and service, leading the way up to the stage of diversified and internationally competitive economy. To achieve this, we need to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of our institutions in the public and private sectors, in accordance with the Royal vision for the Quality National Strategy Project: “To make the Kingdom, through its products and services, a global benchmark for quality by 2020.”

 

Thanks to my ministerial portfolio in the Saudi Cabinet and membership in the first-of-its-kind Council of Economic and Development Affairs, I know that the Saudi government, under the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud - May Allah protect him – is working in full swing to achieve desirable developmental goals and make the Kingdom the best country in the world and a model to be followed in the 21st century. So, if we want to have a diversified economy, create more job opportunities and contribute to the success of our national institutions, we will be required to raise the level of our aspirations to the utmost level.

 
Dear attendees;
In our bids to achieve success and quality standards, I see that we have to ignore our previous vision towards quality as a stand-alone system. In my point of view, quality is just an element in a group of influential elements within an integrated operation aimed at achieving the “Sustainable Excellence” system. So, we can say that the concept of “excellence” is more generic than the concept of “quality”.

 

In other words, when we look forward to achieving quality, we get restricted to a series of standards and specifications laid down by the legislating authorities, while the concept of excellence goes far beyond this narrow point to include achieving difficult and ambitious goals, which we set for ourselves and our institutions. Actually, the attribute of excellence, throughout history, has been linked to successful individuals, institutions and countries with high and sustainable competitiveness at all times and places. So, if “quality” means that we are good enough, “excellence” calls for going beyond this point and exceeding all expectations.
 
Ladies and gentlemen;
If you agree with me that the “Sustainable Excellence” system is an urgent national necessity, so, what is the roadmap to achieve this goal? I see that there are five main elements capable of underlining the roadmap towards a “Sustainable Excellence” system” i.e.:
 
First: Applying quality standards
Second: Building institutional capacities
Third: Raising the level of ambitions
Fourth: Abiding by workplace values and ethics
Fifth: Applying the governance system

 

Before talking in details about elements of the “Sustainable Excellence” system, I would like to cite a story about the US automotive industry. This story highlights that without a system supporting sustainable excellence, the quality management systems will fail to ensure sustainability and success of the institution.

 

In the seventies of the last century, Japan took the lead in the automotive industry over the U.S. after the Japanese vehicles were ranked second or third on the market.

 

The irony is that the Japanese people took the spirit of quality, which was developed by American pioneers, and ignored the U.S. automotive industry standards. One of these U.S. pioneers is William Deming, who played a greater role to boost industry in Japan than his homeland. In 1950, Deming was summoned by Japan’s Scientist and Engineer Syndicate to attend a conference on quality, which was neglected following the World War II. This conference had a very significant impact and helped achieve an industrial renaissance in Japan within years.

 

In 1970s, Japan successfully penetrated the world market with competitive products, putting an end to the previous negative stereotype. Today, Japan is the home of the global quality award, Deming Prize. 
 
But what made the difference between American automotive manufacturers and the Japanese ones? The American manufactures were the ones to set the quality standards, but when they got complacent, quality nurturing environment lost spark. Attention was only directed to abiding by the existing standards, and ultimately quality declined. Conversely, the Japanese strive for excellence led to constant improvement. The "Made in Japan" label has become a synonym for excellence at everything.

 

 What was rather odd is when Ford Motor Company invited Dr. Deming, after losing billions of dollars in 1980s, for quality advice. To their amazement, Deming did not address manufacturing quality and standards. Instead, he talked Ford's management quality, work culture, and the way Ford leadership conducts business. Deming told them that their decisions contribute to 85% of the company's failure to develop better automotive. Later, the chairman of Ford proclaimed that the company would work to develop its work culture to achieve quality. In 5 years, Ford managed to develop a new line of cars, top the American companies in profitability, and maintain that position till now. All came as a result of moving outside the limits of concept of quality, and looking at the big picture to plant the seeds for excellence at the company.

 

Sustainable Excellence Factors

Ladies and gentlemen,
Now let me go back to addressing the sustainable excellence system factors, excluding the first one _ that is quality control in terms of specifications, and abiding by standards; many speakers here will tackle that important factor.
 
I'll start with the second factor in sustainable excellence system, which is developing organizational capabilities that comprise the triangle of human resources, technical development, and innovation. That second factor is one of the most instrumental elements of competitiveness, especially since we live in the age of knowledge that relies more on mental, technical, and creative abilities, and less on natural resources.
 
Generally, both public and private institutions need to invest more in that triangle. According to the Global Competitiveness Report, KSA ranks 60th among 144 countries in staff training, 38th place in securing technical developments availability, and the 44th place in patents. However, education is still marred with underachievement.

 

Now let's move on to the third factor of sustainable excellence – ambition. Ambition is the internal driving force that motivates us to overcome the odds and reach excellence. 
 
Ambition relies on a bold fearless leadership team - a team that constantly strives to outdo itself. That team should be obsessed with achieving organizational excellence across all administrative levels; show dedication and deep sense of belonging, and personal affiliation with the organization's visions and strategies. Those qualities are necessary to employ all individual and group skills, capabilities, and talent, and accomplish milestones that exceed expectations, and make dreams come true.
 
Sometimes, lack of ambition and relying on conventional strengths could lead to disastrous outcomes for the organization. Here we see in Kodak's experience with digital photography a perfect example. Kodak was on top of camera film industry since the start of 1900s without any competitors. In 1957, a Kodak young engineer invented a model of a digital camera but the Kodak leadership did not take the invention seriously, and belittled the young engineer, calling his creation "Cute! But you better not show that to anybody". At the time, Kodak was enjoying howling success, controlling 90% of the camera films market in the US. On the other hand, companies like, Sony and Canon seized the opportunity to develop digital cameras, and later smart phones, crushing the camera films market.
 
Kodak did not show enough ambition to outdo itself and better its vision. Satisfied with its own success, Kodak continued to adopt the same strategies, and instead of having the ambition to succeed in a new area such as digital photography, it leaned on its glory, which resulted in grave consequences.

 

Here I'd like to refer to the successful strategic transformation journey ARAMCO started in 2011. When I held my position, ARAMCO was at the top, holding the first place on the list of oil companies, for 20 years according to specialized international entities. The challenge we developed with our colleagues in the leadership team was: How to better ourselves as a successful big company to exceed expectations at the time in a way that serves the company's sustainability and role in national development on the long run?

 

I was concerned about ARAMCO facing the same fate as Kodak but thank Allah, our team in Saudi ARAMCO managed to exceed the current expectations, and move to even higher levels and prospects. The company size grew after engaging in major qualitative business areas, maximizing their potentials, and diversifying its sources of income and contributions to national development. Moreover, quality levels increased in technical development, innovation, human resources, and especially the youth. Saudi ARAMCO dynamically started to transform from the biggest oil company to the world first company is a wider industry - that is energy and chemicals. Hence, the company has become a stronger supporter to national development, innovation, income diversification, and job creation.

 

Now we move to the fourth factor of sustainable excellence, which is adherence to work values and ethics. Integrity comes to forefront. Everyone is aware of the great lengths the Kingdom has gone to in its battle against corruption. It may sound odd to address ethics at a conference on quality. Work ethics and integrity have to do with behavioral standards, but if an organization focused on quality standards without observing ethical standards, sooner or later, the consequences could be devastating. When it comes to values, we move beyond integrity to "respect". Respect is what governs the relationship not only with customers and service beneficiaries, but also with partners, employees, shareholders, and even competitors. It is the cornerstone of establishing trust between individuals and organizations. It is that simple; without respect, there is no trust, cooperation, or integration, which is critical to quality and excellence. Respect is to be directed to society in general, the environment we live in. It is not limited to the current generation but to the next generations as well, which sustains the values of citizenship and social responsibility, and is deemed to be traits of quality found in esteemed organizations. 

 

To illustrate what could happen in absence of values and especially, respect, I can't find a better example to use more than what the media is circulating about the reputable Volkswagen these days. The great automotive manufacturer outshined Toyota to become the biggest automotive manufacturer in the world. Customers around the world were ready to pay extra money to buy Volkswagen products owing to the prestige of the Volkswagen brand. Customers were buying Volkswagen cars and its big name quality-guaranteed brand into the bargain.
 
Now this reputation is at risk; Volkswagen' share lost its market value by more than one third, costing the company billions of dollars amidst legal problems around the world. All of that was a result of installing fake software to diesel cars to make them "eco-friendly", cheating in the process. History is full of instances of companies that virtually vanished due to lack of governance. You have the famous example of Ernon.

 

This takes us to the fifth and final factor of sustainable excellence, which is governance. Quality and excellence cannot be achieved without a proper governance system that covers controls and balances, granting authorities, and auditing and verifying performance. Even wise inspiring leadership, talented teams are not enough to the success of organizations; there must be a strong governance system, and a sound structure to deal with pressures and instabilities, and to ensure compliance with standards at all costs, including, time, cost, and demands of more revenues from owners. Therefore, every company or organization – private or quasi-public- needs to have its own strong governance system since there is no governance system that fits all organizations.

 

Dear honored guests,
Going through those examples, we realize the importance of applying the sustainable excellence system across all of all institutions in KSA and not only relying on quality management system. To build that system, we have to develop our organizational capabilities, and adhere to the high standards of work ethics, integrity and respect. We have to nurture our ethical ambition, and set a strong strict governance system in our institutions and companies.

 

Before I finish, I'd like to address our aspirations for health sector in the Kingdom. Our health sector faces major challenges, but at the same time, it has a lot of positives that guarantee success and world leading position. The Saudi health sector is a large system that includes: medial cities, hundreds of hospitals and primary healthcare centers across all cities and villages, covering the needs of millions of beneficiaries yearly. Presently, we're working to boost the quality system for health services at the MOH, and other health sectors. We have the Saudi Central Board for Accreditation of Healthcare Institutions (CBAHI), which aims at elevating the quality of health services. Additionally, there are world class high quality institutions we pride ourselves on, such as: King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh, which accommodates plenty of impressive achievements.

 

We're currently working at the Ministry to develop a long-term strategy based on excellence. Examining the health services market and supply and demand trends, it's clear that indicators are promising from an overall national view. We hope that citizens could feel a breakthrough in this vital sector, over the coming years, as a result of national capabilities that they can be proud of.

 

I'd like to end my speech by reiterating that by building a sustainable excellence system to bolster competitiveness of our institutions, as well as the various State sectors, and by building a bright future for our country, we would be in conformity with our respective religious teachings which encourage ‘doing-good’ of everything. Therefore, we have to always be guided by the Hadith of our Prophet (PBUH): “Allah will be pleased with those who try to do their work in a perfect way." We should nurture ambition and the desire for success and accomplishments that satisfy Allah and bear benefits to people. “Let those aspire, who have aspirations” (Quranic verse).

 

Peace be upon you, mercy and blessings of Allah.

 

 



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