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gari jenkins

as a framework for improvement and change

Abstract: The European Foundation for Quality Management Excellence Model had its origins in total quality management. It is a holistic framework and is most successful when interpreted as such. The best way to interpret the model to put the key delivery process of an organisation at its centre. This approach is holistic and relies on the leadership team using the model as its central agenda.

The key EFQM excellence model is about defining purpose and then looking at how that purpose can be achieved. Purpose reflects the requirements of all stakeholders, but especially customers. Central to achieving purpose is getting clarity about key delivery and support processes. Understanding it can be improved by redrawing it. To make full use of the excellence model, it needs to become the agenda for the leadership team. They need to fully understand its implications and fully committed to it. Using it for development cannot be delegated away to a junior member of staff. Senior management need to develop a strategy for change (using the strategic ‘S’) including clarity about purpose and how its achievement is measured, to identify delivery processes and how support processes supply these. They also need to agree on a method for improvement. Such improvement works best where process owners are identified and made responsible and where staff and other stakeholders are widely included.

The excellence model is not about nine unconnected boxes, is not a slogan, is not about enablers where purpose is unclear, is not about empty scoring exercises. It is a powerful framework for improvement, change, regular management at all levels and for training.

General introduction. Why the EFQM excellence model?

Used as it was intended, the EFQM Excellence Model provides an ideal framework for managing and continuous improvement in an organisation. The four elements of ‘results’ effectively define the purpose of the organisation, while the five ‘enablers’ offer a holistic route to establishing methods for achieving the results. The model has the added advantage of providing a set of key measures, but soft and hard, which can be used to assess improvement.


The figure above is intended to illustrate the key messages of the Excellence Model. The model is centred on ‘the way the work gets done’ for the benefit of the customer. This view of the model makes more sense than the standard diagram, which though neat, is slightly confusing.

The enduring purpose of any organisation is at least to satisfy and, if possible, exceed the requirements of its customers and key stakeholders. Evidence shows that organisations are successful in a long-term if they achieve this primary aim and indeed, those that maintain high levels of satisfaction among the key stakeholders also appear to achieve their aims in terms of performance results.

Interpreting the model

The model, either in its standard format or a set out above, should therefore be read from the right-hand end, working backwards;

  • what is our purpose in terms of meeting the needs of our customers, achieving our performance results, maintaining the motivation about people and having a beneficial impact on society?

  • once we are clear about purpose, it becomes much easier to answer the next question - how do we achieve this purpose? What methods do we use?

  • the central box of the excellence model relates to the management of processes - how does the work which delivers our results actually get done? Which activities constitute our ‘key delivery’ processes and which exist to support these?

  • the model demands that key delivery processes be defined, that there is a way at setting priorities for which processes should be improved and that there is a method to achieve improvement - a 'process for process improvement'.

  • the model also recognises the major support processes which exist to ensure that the key delivery processes operate smoothly. These include the provision of staff at the right time and with the right skills, the provision of other resources (money, equipment, buildings), and the development of effective relationships with any external suppliers.

  • the whole - and it is vital to be aware that the model exists as a whole, not as nine separate boxes - is summed up in a strategy and policy of the organisation.

  • finally, the part of the model which distinguishes it so clearly from its predecessors is the recognition of the critical importance of appropriate leadership.

Experience from working with client organisations - steps involved in using the model.

  • Convince CEO

  • Convince Senior Executive Team & Board

  • Define the ‘purpose’ of the organisation

  • Identify the Key measures for success

  • Identify the Key delivery & major support processes

  • Prioritise processes for improvement

  • Apply ‘process for improvement’ to selected processes

Set out above is a series of steps for implementing the excellence model when working with a number of organisations.

The steps in more detail.

Senior management commitment.
It is fundamental to success that the Chief Executive, as a person with ultimate responsibility for improvement, fully understands the philosophy behind the excellence model and is fully aware of what this will mean in terms of his leadership style. It will be better not a start at all than to find later that the Chief Executive has formed a mistaken view of the model and can no longer support its use. It is necessary to gain an active commitment to using the model as an agenda for managing the business, with all this implies that the culture.

Once the CEO is convinced, it is equally important to ensure that the leadership team of the organisation is similarly convinced. The executive members will be most important in this context, but it will certainly be necessary to ensure that any non-executive is also supportive of the approach, especially if they have the power to block.

Involving all staff to identify purpose and key measures.
Most organisations employ intelligent people. Experience shows that once such people are clear about the purpose of their work and that given the appropriate freedom, they will find the best way to achieve it.

It is an absolute truism that what gets measured gets done and the past 20 years are littered with the debris of inappropriate target setting - especially emanating in the public sector from the HM Treasury. The excellence model suggests the development of a ‘dashboard’ of qualitative and quantitative indicators. It has been important to avoid the unrealistic reliance on a narrow range of targeted measures which may drive the organisation away from its real purpose. These indicators are designed to show all is well with the organisation. The key qualitative measures are produced using Control Charts to improve interpretation.

A major step in the achievement of real change is to introduce measures which truly drive the organisation toward its purpose, convincing staff that these are the true measures of success. People do things which make them feel valued. Establishing what the organisation values in terms of the results achieved for its customers and the way people do things is vital to success

Greatest success seems to flow when as many people as possible, including external stakeholders, are involved in defining the true purpose of the organisation and in loosely agreeing the ways in which this purpose should be measured. We do not believe in airy visioning days. Using the elements of the results end of the model produces clear definitions and allows organisations to develop useful statements of purpose and to define the measurement of these in a usable ‘dashboard’ format.

This is where the full commitment of the leadership becomes so crucial. Some elements of the true purpose of most organisations are hard, sometimes near impossible, to measure. They will be soft, attainable only by survey and not necessarily by statistical measurement. They may also appear to conflict with some existing ‘sacred cows’. If the use of the model is to have credibility, the leadership must fully understand and embraced the newly agreed measures of success, acting as role models for their implementation.

Identifying key delivery processes, deciding which to improved and how to improve them.
Once the overall purpose of the organisation is clear, it is possible to define the key sets of activities which deliver this outcome. These can be ranked, using a matrix tool, according to their criticality and a programme to address their improvement developed.

It often proves best to begin with a process seen as central to the organisation's purpose. By facilitating a group of stakeholders to this process to develop a step-by-step 'okay so what happens next?' flow chart, it quickly becomes obvious where the inefficiencies lie in the process. Such inefficiencies will include waste, especially in terms of time, caused by re-work, duplication of effort, delays and barriers. The journey to improvement will include stopping work on the main process to improve the supply chain link with a support process. A frequent example is the way the recruitment process delays development of capacity and capability in the main process. Helping such departments as HR and finance to understand that the customer is the main process, and that they exist to support delivery is the key to unlocking many barriers.

Developing a strategy for change



TQPs strategic 'S'.
The above steps follow the 10-point strategic 'S' framework developed by John March of TQP. We use this framework with clients to provide a cycle to ensure continuous improvement of local processes is related to strategic direction. It also provides the 'process for process improvement' required by the excellence model.

What we believe the excellence model is not.

  • the model is not about setting up nine separate activity teams each working on a box. It is about a holistic, joined up approach, where workflows between internal departments.

    We experienced one client who had set up nine teams. Each team pulled together a group of people who spent many hours identifying policies and improvements forbear a bit of the model. Simultaneously, a series of time-consuming scoring exercises were carried out. After two years the model appeared to be adding no value at all, and most people were exhausted with it. In particular, the team responsible for processes had done almost no work. Every time it met, it seemed unable to make up its mind what it should be doing. After nearly two years effort, everyone realised that they had been defining every other part of the business except the past the produced the results. Without knowing what method they were going to use, the work done in leadership, people management and resources was connected to nothing. Without being clear about the overall purpose, the work done on enablers was largely academic. They decided to start again using the approach above and have achieved some significant results.

  • it does not work if it is a slogan, unsupported by senior managers. We have seen organisations sign up to using the excellence model but then delegate management of it to a relatively junior person without power or authority. The framework tends then to become more like a quality assurance exercise. Those charged with implementation feel powerless and often resort to scoring exercises or formation of nine teams as a way of showing that something is happening.

    Conversely, where senior teams have decided to use the EFQM as an agenda for all aspects of their management, from business planning to the agenda of regular management meetings, its effectiveness is immediately apparent.

  • Although the model is about both, the emphasis needs to be more about results, about defining purpose and deciding how to measure it correctly, than about focusing on enablers in the absence of a clearly defined purpose. Some organisations have plunged into enablers, somehow assuming that their purpose is understood only to discover later that they need to know why they are doing what they do.

  • use of the model should not be led by a need to carry out regular assessments and indeterminable scoring exercises. Scoring has a key role to play in assessing progress but it should not be the driver, the tail wagging the dog.

Business Processes

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