After a career that spanned nearly four decades, the Algerian-born academic Mohamed Zairi died on October 20 at the age of 65. He leaves a legacy of research and initiatives for managing quality and excellence in governments, businesses, schools, and other organisations.
An acknowledged international leader in his field, Zairi once explained the importance of excellence management in Arab government, saying: “Excellence is the concern for improvement, which helps countries to address problems, build the future, and improve the quality of life, in addition to achieving the required interaction.”
He added: “The excellence is that we contribute to the happiness of people, and it is one of the tasks that Allah created us to carry out.”
A Reference and Educator in His Field
Zairi was born in Al-Kuif, in eastern Algeria near the Tunisian border, in 1956.
In his 20s, he moved to Britain, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Aston University, in Birmingham. He earned his doctorate in technology management from Staffordshire University in 1989.
“I have lost a husband, a mentor, a life partner, a coach, and a close friend. What relieves my pain is knowing that his legacy will continue, and that his wonderful work will continue to remind us of how great a man he was.”Narimane Hadj-Hamou
Zairi’s widow , Narimane Hadj-Hamou, told Al-Fanar: “I have lost a husband, a mentor, a life partner, a coach, and a close friend. What relieves my pain is knowing that his legacy will continue, and that his wonderful work will continue to remind us of how great a man he was.”
Hadj-Hamou, who is the founder and chief executive of the Center for Learning Innovations and Customized Knowledge Solutions (CLICKS), met her late husband in 2003, when he was the first director at Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University, in Dubai. The institution, then called the Electronic College for Total Quality, is the first online institution in the United Arab Emirates to be licensed and accredited by the Emirates’ Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. (See a related article, “Narimane Hadj-Hamou: A Pioneer of Distance Learning in the Arab World.”)
Hadj-Hamou said Zairi was “a reference and educator in his field, believing in quality and in the necessity of producing and disseminating knowledge. He leaves behind a legacy of research, and academic, charitable, personal and family success.”
Ohoud Al Roumi, the U.A.E.’s Minister of State for Government Development and Future, wrote on Twitter: “We have lost one of the most prominent minds and global expertise in the field of institutional excellence, and an effective partner who provided his expertise and contributed to the journey of excellence for the U.A.E. government with determination, sincerity and dedication.”
Zairi began his career as a designer of quality programmes while he was also an honorary professor at the School of Management at the University of Bradford, in the United Kingdom. From 2009, he supervised about 50 doctoral theses on quality management and its global implementation.
While working with major British manufacturers, Zairi developed guidelines for companies introducing complex technology-based innovations. He was also responsible for developing a risk management strategy based on quality principles. From 1996, he managed the European Centre for Total Quality Management, which supports industry and commerce through applied research and advisory work in best practice management.
“Zairi was a smart, productive, and completely honest scientist who has become a global figure in setting standards, best practices and institutional excellence.”David Weir
A professor of management at Britain’s York St John University
David Weir, a professor of management at Britain’s York St John University, told Al-Fanar Media that Zairi was “a smart, productive, and completely honest scientist who has become a global figure in setting standards, best practices and institutional excellence.” Zairi was “aware of the vital importance of managing the application of knowledge in practice,” he said.
Weir had known Zairi since 1990, when Zairi was a lecturer at the University of Bradford. They worked together after Weir joined Zairi’s team in the U.A.E Prime Minister’s Programme for Government Excellence.
Achievements in the Arab World
Zairi’s influence extended to universities and government institutions in the Arab world, especially after he was chosen in 2002 to establish the region’s first electronic university, Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University.
Zairi helped a number of governments and agencies design quality programmes, including the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization and the municipality of Al-Ain, in the U.A.E.
He was one of the founders of the Middle East Quality Association in Dubai, in 2006. The association’s goal was to spread the principles of quality management in the Middle East by organising training courses and helping many institutions.
Zairi established 19 awards and medals in excellence and quality management, most notably the “Egypt Award for Governmental Excellence,” which aims to “form an efficient and effective administrative apparatus that applies the concepts of governance.”
“ he was an inspiration in his ability to develop and implement his ideas, so that they could be adopted by scholars and practitioners. He was loved and respected all over the world and will be greatly missed.”Julie Furst-Bowe
The American college’s provost
In 2002 Zairi designed an initiative for excellence in schools in the U.A.E. The programme targeted more than 600 schools and helped them adopt principles of quality and excellence through self-evaluation.
Chippewa Valley Technical College, in the United States, is one of many institutions that have worked with Zairi.
Julie Furst-Bowe, the American college’s provost, said: “Zairi has developed many models of excellence that have been implemented around the world. … His work has helped countless organisations advance on their journeys of excellence, and he will continue to live through the programmes he has created.”
She added that he “was an inspiration in his ability to develop and implement his ideas, so that they could be adopted by scholars and practitioners. He was loved and respected all over the world and will be greatly missed.”
Zairi’s top role in the Arab world was as Senior Adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office in the Government of the United Arab Emirates, where he developed many government excellence programmes.
In his career, Zairi produced dozens of books and more than 400 scientific papers.
[Enjoying this article? Subscribe to our free newsletter.]
His quality programmes won him awards in many parts of the world, among them the Lancaster Medal from the American Society for Quality, the Harrington-Ishikawa Award from the Asia-Pacific Quality Organization, the Yoshio Kondo Medal from the International Academy of Quality, and the Australian Organisation for Quality’s Lifetime Achievement Medal.