I was reflecting on what a year it’s been - our 125th as a company and my 1st in the role – when I realized that this intersection of old and new, past and future, actually describes where we stand as an organization.
Usually we’d celebrate an anniversary like this by using our history of great products to tell each other and the world how future-proofed we were. In other words, we’d look back. But instead of being self-congratulatory, we decided that it would be more honest and productive to be self-aware. So, we took a hard look at ourselves, reviewed the passing days, and made a commitment to change.
We no longer think of Philips as making products but creating futures for people – most importantly our staff and customers in China. And why is this? Because only by creating such futures can we create a future for our brand.
Changing our thinking was the first step. The second has been to turn this into reality by relentlessly pursuing one goal – Quality.
We used to see quality as a product issue, and the responsibility of the Quality & Regulatory department. This meant that sometimes a launch deadline or sales target was our top priority. But not anymore. Quality is now understood to be a culture. And it’s now our top priority, always. For everyone, every day, everywhere in the company.
As a result, we’re using quality to transform our culture, our organization and our people. Including myself.
But how will we achieve this? By going beyond simply having a strong Quality & Regulatory department, although we’re hiring more Q&R professionals, who’ll have more authority, than ever before. By implementing a single China-wide Quality Management System for which I will take personal responsibility. By putting quality on the agenda at every top-level discussion in China and around the world. By placing a premium on talent - taking everyone currently at Philips on a transformational journey to activate (and keep activating) the ‘Quality Gene’, and recruiting only those with the right attitude and behavior as well as the right skills.
And what will success look, sound, taste, smell and feel like? When people inside or outside the company are asked what Philips means, and they answer “quality”.
This ambition goes hand-in-hand with our separation of Lighting from HealthTech - when it comes to lifestyle, quality can be the difference between satisfaction and disappointment, but when it comes to life, quality can be the difference between life and death. It gives our people more opportunities to make an impact on innovations that matter, drive their careers in directions to which they aspire, and share their passion to improve lives. And it will capitalize on the fact that by 2020 around 50% of China’s population will be middle class, meaning they’ll be able to buy more of the things they want rather than simply the things they need, and make many more of their purchase decisions based on quality.
The journey won’t be easy - the most important things in business, as in life, never are. But I know that it won’t be a lonely one, because we all have to travel together in the same direction for it to happen. Only by focusing on quality can we ensure that Philips is defined not by its proud past, but by its sustainable future.