SC21 becomes ‘your sanity check’, says programme practitioner

Ask George Wilson what’s so good about SC21 and he’ll tell you it’s the programme’s integrated approach to structured improvement over time.

With more than 20 years experience of helping others improve their businesses, Wilson, a senior executive of the Centre for Competitiveness (CforC) in Belfast, knows what the benefits are.

For a start, the SC21 assessment process is very good, he said. “Irrespective of the maturity of the business, the programme’s breadth of criteria is good and the assessment methodology challenging – it’s very useful in terms getting an organisation to reflect on itself.

“Because it’s underpinned by diagnostics which generate an improvement plan, it becomes your sanity check over time.  I’ve seen a lot of benefit for organisations who come through the different levels.”

SC21 entered Wilson’s life in 2013 when CforC gained practitioner status on the programme. That was about the time when Invest Northern Ireland (NI) came on board with financial support to help companies through the SC21 process which was seen as a way to help local engineering companies better meet the needs of the region’s cluster of aerospace prime and Tier 1 contractors.

It was a “neat fit”, said Wilson. “Our remit has always been process improvement. We were approved as practitioners and, as we were local it was a more cost-efficient option for local companies. It also helped that Invest NI developed a support package to encourage participation.”

The SC21 journey from Bronze to Silver to Gold awards reflects the programme’s impact on performance; everything from how a business measures up against core methods, to its sustainability as a business and its focus on employees.

Wilson said it’s been his “good fortune” to have helped organisations work through the SC21 process and achieve the highest level achievable under the programme. Pro rata, he said, Northern Ireland is punching above its weight in the UK with five Gold organisations – at least 50% of the total across the UK.

The process can be quite powerful for organisations in terms of setting them on their improvement journey over time. Said Wilson: “More mature businesses will say of course that their SC21 award helps get them through the door to talk to primes, but equally they talk about how it makes them think about how to manage all aspect of their business, how to measure performance in the round.

“It makes them think about how they look at different opportunities and different markets.”