Business Excellence, as described by the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM), refers to:

Outstanding practices in managing the organisation and achieving results, all based on a set of eight fundamental concepts: results orientation; customer focus; leadership and constancy of purpose; management by processes and facts; people development and involvement; continuous learning, innovation and improvement; partnership development; and public responsibility.

In general, business excellence models have been developed by national bodies as a basis for award programmes. For most of these bodies, the awards themselves are secondary in importance to the wide-spread take up of the concepts of business excellence, which ultimately lead to improved national economic performance.

By far the majority of organisations that use these models do so for self-assessment, by which they can identify improvement opportunities, areas of strength, and use the model as a framework for future organisational development.

The business excellence ‘criteria’ within the models broadly channel and encourage the use of best practices into areas where their effect will be most beneficial to performance.

When used simply for self-assessment the ‘criteria’ can clearly identify strong and weak areas of management practice so that tools such as benchmarking can be used to identify best-practice to enable the gaps to be closed.

These critical links between business excellence models, best practice, and benchmarking are fundamental to the success of the models as tools of continuous improvement.

The most popular and influential model in the western world is the one launched by the US government called the Malcolm Baldrige Award Model (also commonly known as the Baldrige model, the Baldrige criteria, or The Criteria for Performance Excellence). More than 60 national and state/regional awards base their frameworks upon the Baldrige criteria.

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