Quality Awards and Surveyors
by John Parker
Key words: Quality, Awards, Survey.
For sometime now many survey organisations have recognised the
benefits of a formal approach to quality. Some have sought
certification for QA through the ISO 9000 series, others have
implemented quality systems and embraced a total quality management
Many countries have a Quality Award or Prize which acknowledge
outstanding achievements in organisation-wide implementation of the
Quality culture and is designed to encourage organisations to pursue
internationally competitive levels of performance by identifying
organisations that do so and recognizing them as
"benchmarks" of performance.
How to achieve such an award is time consuming and can be costly,
though the end result is usually well worth while.
It is proposed that a Survey Quality Award should be considered as
a step towards the Quality Awards mentioned above. The whole process
could be a series of steps starting with:
- Acquiring an understanding of Quality - Level 1
- Starting to implement a quality plan - Level 2
- Implementation in detail - Level 3
- The Survey Quality Award - Level 4
- The Country/Region Quality Award/Prize - Level 5
The first 3 steps can be largely undertaken as a self assessment
based on nominated criteria and scores.
Any organisation undertaking a self assessment, at whatever stage
it may be at in its evolution, will benefit. Not only will it
highlight the positive aspects of the organisation, but it will show
up areas where improvement can occur to make the organization one that
will provide an ongoing quality service to its customers.
What is your organisation doing to respond to the accelerating rate
of change affecting every organisation around the world? What are you
doing to anticipate or influence what the market place will require of
your organisation in the future? How can you assess your organisationís
Prof. John R Parker, Chair FIG Commission 1
Department of Natural Resource & Environment
456 Lonsdale Street
Tel: + 61 3 9603 5385
Fax: + 613 9603 5170
Quality Awards and Surveyors
What is the survey profession doing to respond to the accelerating rate
of change affecting every organisation around the world? How does an
organisation know it is keeping up with the rate of change? How does it know
that it will provide a quality service to its customers?
Increasingly, the world is focussing on the relationship between quality,
productivity and international competitiveness. The quality of goods and
services is now recognised as a prerequisite to commercial success.
For sometime now, many survey organisations have recognised the benefits
of a formal approach to quality. Some have sought certification for Quality
Assurance through the ISO 9000 series, others have implemented quality
systems and embraced a total quality management philosophy.
Many countries have a Quality Award or Prize which acknowledges
outstanding achievements in organisation-wide implementation of the Quality
culture and is designed to encourage organisations to pursue internationally
competitive levels of performance by identifying organisations that do so
and recognizing them as "benchmarks" of performance.
To achieve such a Quality Award or Prize is usually a long journey and
can be a costly one from that initial commitment to quality. Even though the
journey and the end result is usually well worthwhile for the organisation
and its customers.
An organisation on such a journey whether its ultimate aim is for an
award or not, needs to be able to assess its performance along the way.
2. COMMITMENT TO QUALITY
FIG has adopted a Charter of Quality in which its members recognise and
agree to undertake:
- "To commit our respective organisations and member associations
to quality, service and client/customer satisfaction;
- To develop a total quality culture through management commitment and
leadership within our organisations;
- To develop a continuous improvement approach to all our activities;
- To work towards achieving recognition of our respective organisations
to international recognised standards for quality systems;
- To encourage the suppliers of products and services to surveyors to
embrace the principles of the quality movement;
- To train surveyors through a total quality approach;
- To share and participate in benchmarking and performance
Having committed ourselves to such a charter, what are we doing to
anticipate or influence what the market place will require of our survey
organisations in the future? We must consider today the capabilities
organisations and people will need for tomorrow.
Consider the following:
- Do you analyse your internal capability to manage the continual change
demanded by the external environment while continuing to enhance your
- Do all interested parties understand your plans and objectives to the
extent that they can help you achieve and measure success against those
- How credible is your organisation in the marketplace? How do you know
that your credibility will be sustained or improved over the long term?
- To what extent are planning and structured approaches to developing
competitive advantage, increasing productivity and encouraging
innovation deployed in your organisation?
- How are you managing your resources to sustain the environment, to
achieve long-term business goals and to help people cope with continual
We do know that Quality or Excellence Awards for organisations around the
world have a set of principles that, if put into practice, will assist us to
achieve answers to the above.
These principles include:
- Effective leaders provide direction and create a supportive
- Effective organisations are plan driven rather than event driven.
- Organisations benefit from decisions and actions that are based on
facts and data.
- All systems and processes exhibit variability, which impacts on
predictability and costs.
- All people work in a system; improvement happens when people also work
on the system.
- The most important resource of any organisation is people Ė
especially their creativity and knowledge.
- Continual improvement relies on continuous learning.
- Quality is determined by the customer.
- In order to improve the output, improve the process.
- Impact on the community and the environment are key influences of
How do we know our organisations are moving in a direction that
encompasses such principles, at the same time allowing us to answer
questions we need to ask about our organisations, as well as allowing us to
meet our commitment to the FIG Charter of Quality?
I believe we need to aim to have:
- A system of quality management under which the fundamentals of
continuous improvement are adopted;
- A simple Quality Management process which contains an easily followed
path to Quality for survey organisations, including a related and
appropriate Quality Assurance system;
- A set of guidelines which is related directly and in a practical way
to survey practice; and
- Readily understood instructions to surveyors as to how to follow the
As indicated for a survey organisation, particularly a small or medium
sized organisation, to achieve a national quality or excellence award is
virtually impossible due to the resources required. However many
organisations and I would like to think all survey organisations, would like
to be able to assess their performance at various stages of their life
cycle, particularly as they embrace the path to quality.
It is proposed, that the path to become an excellent organisation with
quality customer service could be considered as a number of steps. The final
step being an achievement of a national quality or excellence award or
prize, with the penultimate step being a Survey Quality Award. Therefore the
whole process could be made up of 5 steps, as follows:
- Acquiring an understanding of Quality - Step 1
- Starting to implement a quality plan - Step 2
- Implementation in detail - Step 3
- The Survey Quality Award - Step 4
- The Country/Region Quality Award/Prize - Step 5
The first 3 steps can be largely undertaken as a self-assessment based on
nominated criteria and scores, which would be contained within the
guidelines, while steps 4 and 5 would be based on external assessment.
The first step being largely a recognition that there has been a
commitment made to quality, which includes, the organisation raising its
awareness and being prepared to invest resources where required to move down
the path of quality. This step includes an understanding of what is required
in all aspects of the operation of an organisation, including strategic and
business planning, resource management (financial, assets and human) client
management, organisational development and risk management.
The second step is where the organisation has moved further down the path
of quality and is ready to undertake a self-assessment to ascertain what
progress has been made. This self-assessment could take the form of a series
of questions on a range of matters where a ranking is given on a scale from
"not implemented" to "fully implemented".
The range of matters could include:
- Recognition that there is a need for change,
- Awareness of the value of quality principles being adopted for the
- Strategic and business planning incorporating quality principles,
- Resources available to take the organisation down the quality path,
- Mechanisms in place to monitor initial implementation changes.
Each of these points could have 5 to 10 questions which are scored as per
the ranking scale mentioned above.
Questions will need to be meaningful and carefully chosen.
Self-assessment can be undertaken at regular intervals (say 3 monthly) and
changes in score noted, so that progress can be monitored.
Having satisfied oneself that a reasonable proficiency has been gained at
that step (say a score of 67% or 75% of a possible total score) the
organisation could move on to the next step.
This third step could start to align the matters it assesses more to the
elements of a countryís quality awards criteria. For example the
Australian Quality Awards key criteria are:
- Leadership and innovation.
- Strategy and planning process.
- Data, information and knowledge.
- Customer and market focus.
- Processes, products and services.
- Business results.
As in Step 2 each of these criteria would have a series of questions
which can be scored by self-assessment. Again progress can be monitored by
undertaking a self-assessment at regular intervals. It should be noted that
self-assessment could be undertaken by all members of an organisation.
When the self-assessment reaches a nominated percentage of the total
possible score, the organisation can if it wishes seek an external
evaluation. The evaluation would be undertaken by appropriately skilled
persons who would provide a report on the positives and negatives of that
organisationís quality of operation. If the evaluation score is at a level
that warrants formal recognition externally, an award could be made in the
form of a certificate or plague. This is what I would classify as a Survey
Quality Award and is Step 4 in the process.
It is envisaged this Award would need re-evaluation periodically (say
every 2 or 3 years). The cost of the external evaluation would probably be
made through a fee determined for that purpose.
Having been awarded a Survey Quality Award would be recognition that the
organisation is at the top end of the scale and the customer is consistently
pleased with the quality of service or product which is provided at a low
cost to the organisation.
Should the organisation wish to proceed to Step 5 to really prove to all
concerned that it is a quality organisation, it can enter that nationís
quality awards or excellence competition.
Any organisation undertaking a self-assessment, at whatever stage it may
be at in its evolution, will benefit. Not only will it highlight the
positive aspects of the organisation, but it will show up areas where
improvement can occur to make the organisation one that will provide an
ongoing quality service to its customers.
Such an assessment can be based on national or regional matters and
questions, or it could be developed internationally. Survey Quality Awards
could be evaluated and awarded nationally.
A Working Group could be established within FIG if there was interest to
pursue this issue further.
So in conclusion:
- What is your organisation doing to respond to the accelerating rate of
change affecting every organisation around the world?
- What are you doing to anticipate or influence what the market place
will require of your organisation in the future?
- How can you assess your organisationís performance?
Australian Quality Council, Australian Business Excellence Framework
Law Society of New South Wales, The QIL Code, 1994.
Parker J. R. 1997, Quality Systems in Professional Practice, FIG Working
Week 1997, Singapore.
Professor John Parker is currently chair of FIG Commission 1
(Professional Standards and Practice). He provides consulting services to
the World Bank, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and
various governments including the Victorian Government where he is the
"Registrar of Geographic Names". From 1989 to 1998 John was
Surveyor General for Victoria. Prior to that he worked for a state
instrumentality and was in private practice for 19 years.
He is a member of a number of societies, including the Institution of
Surveyors, Australia. A number of papers have been published and
presentations made at national and international forums on a range of themes
Professor John R. Parker
Land Victoria , Department of Natural Resources & Environment
7 March 2000