Celebrating 25 Years of Excellence

20 January 2014

2014 is a special year for EFQM; it's our 25th anniversary. As with all anniversaries, one has to pause to reflect on the past and consider what has been achieved. The decision to form EFQM was taken by the CEOs of 14 leading European companies, with Jacques Delors, then President of the European Commission, as the catalyst. The "total quality management" movement, started in Japan in the late 1950s by Demming, had seen first Japanese and the American companies gaining a competitive advantage, both in terms of cost and quality. Europe was falling behind. A quick look at the current economic situation might have you scratching your head and wondering what's changed...

Back in 1989, few companies conducted regular surveys to understand the customer experience. Even some of those that did did not have processes in place to analyse and understand the feedback obtained, let alone use it to improve the products and services they provided. Now it is the companies who do not who are in the minority... If they are still in business.

Employee surveys, and supporting policies and processes for employee appraisal, development and advancement were even more of a novelty. Opportunities for "workers" to get involved in improvement activities were limited at best and as for providing ideas, suggestions and input to the company strategy? Forget it.

And when the EFQM Model was released with the mysterious Criterion 8, then called "Impact on Society", few could see the relevance to companies. Nowadays, "Corporate Social Responsibility" and "Sustainability" have become the norm...

Perhaps the greatest changes we've seen in the last 25 years have happened in the public & non-profit sectors. During this time, many of the tools, techniques and even language that were previously the preserve of the private sector have become common place in the public sector. Even 5 years ago, talking about "Business Results" in the public sector would not have been accepted. The pressure to provide "value for money", accelerated by budget cuts following the global economic crisis, has awoken in many the need to take a more commercially minded approach.

And so, turning to the future... What's next? The learning from the 500+ assessments carried out in the EFQM Levels of Excellence scheme each year tells us that it's no longer about whether an organisation "does something", the vast majority of organisations have customer surveys, employee appraisals, process models, strategic plans and the other key enablers. The focus now is not on what they do, it's how well they do it.

The RADAR is a key tool for both our Assessors and the organisations they assess. It is an organisations ability to anticipate and adapt, to learn and improve, to innovate and create that now makes the difference... And how rapidly they are able to execute the changes required to make ideas a reality.

Yes, looking back over the last 25 years, I think we can be proud of the progress made and prouder still that the EFQM Excellence Model is as relevant and powerful now as it has ever been. And, looking forward, I think the excellence community has the tools, capacity and opportunity to make an even bigger difference in the next 25 years... Are you up for the challenge?

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