When I first started this blog, one of my earliest posts was about the definition of “Organisational Excellence”. The point I was trying to make, and feel the need to attempt to address again, was that unless the key decision makers in an organisation have a clear, shared understanding of what they mean by “Excellence”, then any attempt to achieve it will fail – probably quite significantly. This is simply because without a shared view, the chances are high that everyone will work on their own understanding of what “Excellence” means and therefore could easily end up going in different directions, with different objectives and priorities. If you doubt this, try this simple experiment. Get 10 reasonably senior people from your organisation together and ask each to write down what “Excellence” as it applies to their organisation, means to them. Then get them to read out what they have written. Although there may be some similarity, I suspect that most of the ‘definitions’ they provide will be quite different in detail. Some may be precise, others quite vague.
So the leadership of an organisation that wants their organisation to become and remain “Excellent” have to start at the first, essential step, which is to agree a shared definition of what “Excellence” means. Without this, anything that follows is highly unlikely to be successful.
Some organisations that have a mission to stimulate and support “Excellence” in organisations have attempted to define what they mean by it. For example, the EFQM, a European based organisation dedicated to supporting the drive for “Excellence” in organisations, has defined excellent organisations as those that “achieve and sustain outstanding levels of performance that meet or exceed the expectations of all their stakeholders”. Not surprisingly, any organisation adopting this definition needs to be clear who their stakeholders are, what their current and anticipated expectations are, seek to deliver these and have effective measures in place to determine the extent to which they have delivered them. These measures will show how “excellent” the organisation is and whether it is becoming more or less so over time.
My own, (refined over time!), definition is similar in some respects to the example given above. It is that “Organisational Excellence is delivering, and sustaining the delivery of, outstanding value to all key stakeholders”. Whilst the measurement of value as delivered to stakeholders is more challenging than, for example, measuring stakeholder “satisfaction” relative to their expectations, it is, in my view, a more accurate indication of success.
There is of course no ‘authorised’ definition of “Excellence” as it applies to organisations. Every organisation is able – maybe with their stakeholders – to define it for themselves, but define it they must if they want to commit to the achievement of “Excellence”. The definition drives everything – how the organisation is led, its goals, objectives, plans, what is done, how it is done, what is measured and what action is taken based on those measures.