In Search of Excellence - Past, Present and Future Su Mi Dahlgaard-Park Institute of Service Management Lund University

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In Search of Excellence - Past, Present and Future
Su Mi Dahlgaard-Park
Institute of Service Management
Lund University

&

Jens J. Dahlgaard

Division of Quality Technology and Management
Linköping University
Sweden

ABSTRACT
Some of the leading models and frameworks about Excellence from the last 25 years are presented and discussed: Peters and Waterman’s eight excellence attributes (1982), Peters and Austin’s simplified excellence model (1985), Lists of Best Practices, Xerox Excellence Models (1990, 2002), the European Excellence Model (1992) and two different but overlapping “4P Models” (1999, 2004). At the end of the paper past, present and future of TQM and Excellence is discussed. 1

INTRODUCTION

Today, many organizations are “searching” for Excellence but not many organizations have been able to achieve this goal, seemingly because management does not have a profound understanding what it really means to be excellent. Since 1982, where Peters and Waterman published their famous book In Search of Excellence - Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies, there have been many suggestions for a definition of Excellence, and for the success criteria behind excellence. The starting analysis model or framework used by Peters and Waterman was McKINSEY’s 7-S Framework. The models comprised the following seven success criteria for excellence: Hardware:

1. Structure and 2. Strategy.
Software:
3. Systems, 4. Shared Values, 5. Skills, 6. Staff and 7. Style. During their study Peters and Waterman observed that managers are getting more done if they pay attention with seven S’s instead of just two (the hardware criteria), and real change in large institutions is a function of how management understand and handle the complexities of the 7-S Model. Peters and Waterman also reminded the world of professional managers that soft is hard meaning that it is the software criteria of the model which often are overlooked and which should have the highest focus when embarking on the journey to excellence. We know today that many of the excellent companies (America’s Best-Run Companies) identified in the studies by Peters and Waterman later on became unsuccessful. This observation tells us what should be obvious that any model and/or lists of attributes have limitations, because they are always simplifications of reality (the context) in which the companies are operating. Hence, the observation also tells us that there is a need to analyze Peters and Waterman’s findings and to compare with later excellence models which may have been designed in response to the problems and new knowledge acquired when companies have struggled to adopt or adapt early versions of excellence models and/or lists of excellence attributes. The purposes of this article have this need as a background. Thus, the first purpose of this paper is to present and discuss/ reflect on some well known excellence frameworks or models in order to understand the development in the contents of excellence during the last 25 years and to understand the problems or limitations which such kind of models still have. To complement Peters’ early findings we have chosen to present and discuss a few selected lists on best practices together with the following excellence models:

The Xerox Excellence Models representing one of the early excellence pioneering companies, and the European Excellence Model as a representative of international quality award models. We will, after a short presentation of these three models/ frameworks, reflect on these models together with Peter and Waterman’s findings from the early 80s. This reflection may be regarded as a status description of excellence of both the past and the present.

Another purpose of the paper is to present and discuss a relatively new quality strategy model (the “4P” Model) for achieving Organizational Excellence (Dahlgaard & Dahlgaard-Park, 1999). The basic assumption behind the model is that Organizational...
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