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A word from the President: Critical to Quality

CTQ, or critical to quality, is a commonly used term in the business I come from. Orienteering is a complicated sport and as a rule, insiders do not easily accept any simplifications in our sport. There is a clear need for at least some simple solutions, and the IOF Council has recently rejected several requests which overcomplicate our sport, and we are working towards optimizing quality demands for our event organisers.

The IOF rules and guidelines, especially related to the World Orienteering Championships, include a lot of regulations completely different from standard rules, and for our major event organisers it’s a real challenge to fulfil all the rules and recommendations. Sometimes organisers fail because they do not understand clearly what is critical to event quality.

I’ve seen a lot of organisers underestimate the challenges of the very basics of our sport, namely mapping and course setting. As a rule, IOF event organisers select the best local mappers, who usually are very strong individuals with their own ideas about things, sometimes also concerning map symbols. It’s difficult to believe how big efforts and time the IOF is contributing just to get maps on the level of the International mapping standards. From a total cost perspective, it’s sometimes cheaper to use an internationally recognised and approved mapper, at least for sprint orienteering maps. During the last decade, I know at least two WOC maps which have been completely remapped at a very late stage before an event. On top of that, organisers print some maps at least two times, and sometimes the final version is printed only a few hours before the first start.

Course setters can have quite similar attitude as mappers, and do not always understand that courses on IOF major events are never a one man show, but rather the result of team work. Practically, a course setting team includes, as well as the formally appointed course setter, IOF Event Advisers, arena managers and the TV-producer.  We’ve also seen appointed course setters just leaving a team or saying sorry, this is not the course I planned. A WOC course is never the best possible orienteering course, but a best compromise between top athlete’s expectations of what a very good course should look like and visibility of our sport to wider public.

Maybe it’s difficult to believe, but punching and especially timekeeping is also a quite big challenge. Requirements for timekeeping at WOC level are a hundred times higher compared to regular national events or even national championships. Organisers usually make a fundamental error and underestimate costs of timekeeping at our major events, including WOC. Finish and split times synchronisation during live-TV production is something I would not suggest trying for the first time during a WOC race. Therefore, the only solution to secure quality is to use a professional team who have suitable equipment and experience of working together with live-TV.

For me, CTQ at IOF major events are maps, course setting, punching and timekeeping. Of course, there are also important areas like event arenas, logistics, accommodation, ceremonies etc. at big events. But if we fail in CTQ areas, the event will be remembered forever!

I strongly suggest all organisers to make a deep analysis of capacity and competence in the organising team, and not to try reinventing the wheel and repeat mistakes from previous organisers. My personal suggestion is to find good marketing managers to raise money and invest into event quality. The money we are talking about in order to secure CTQ on high level events is relatively small. For example, in the WOC budget it’s between 5-10%.  We, the IOF, have spent a lot of human resources on event advising and also real cash money just to secure that requirements in CTQ areas are fulfilled. Please do not save on CTQ!

A few weeks ago, the IOF opened an application round for future IOF major events, and I would like to encourage all member federations to find a suitable event and send in an application. But before that, analyse resources and map areas where outside support is welcome. We’ve a lot of competent people in the orienteering world who could come and help organisers.

Federations thinking about future IOF events could contact discipline commissions and Office if they need more information and support. Deadline for applications is March 31st 2018.

Leho Haldna, IOF President




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