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Strategic management: European Foundation for Quality Management September / October 09 www. bus- ex. com 17 perspective, it's very important to avoid that." Assessment by the EFQM, which Ricoh Europe itself has undergone, is something Fisher believes to be invaluable on the journey towards excellence. " It gave us an external, holistic view of our organisation. When you're using self-assessment techniques you can think you're doing very well and that you're getting things right; but if you don't understand what else is going on in your external environment or in other industries, you could be missing things. " It means we can talk to other organisations who are in a completely different market to us but with whom we have a common language. We can talk and share information and best practices using the model, and that's something that's massively valuable for us," says Fisher. Knowledge- sharing is a potential goldmine of information which Fisher believes is massively underused among today's organisations. " Certain issues around data and information security have impeded knowledge- sharing, because people are very scared to share certain things. But it's really about defining what is sensitive and what isn't. If you treat all of your information as massively confidential, you'll not only have problems with access but the information that is truly important probably isn't being looked after as well as it should be." To further encourage knowledge- sharing, the EFQM is putting together a series of benchmark reports for its members. " There will be three reports coming out within the next three months, looking at specific topics and taking some of the examples from Excellence Awards finalists and prize-winners and sharing that back out with the community." The knowledge contained in the reports will be split between text and data, with the idea being to present what an award- winner looks like in terms of both performance and perception, so that organisations can understand where they stand in relation to their peers. Although its name may suggest otherwise, the EFQM actually services the entire EMEA region. An increasing number of members are joining from outside Europe, says Fisher, especially from the Middle East, Africa and Turkey. The foundation's reputation has a key role to play in attracting these new members: " The EFQM has always been well-known within the community of excellence professionals." Ricoh Europe achieved the EFQM's four- star Recognised for Excellence standard in 2007 and aims to reach five- star Recognised for Excellence by 2010. It is then hoping to become a finalist in the EFQM's annual Excellence Awards by 2012 or 2013, says Fisher. " It's about being very systematic and methodical in how we develop our processes between now and then. Looking at the business strategy we have and the processes we're developing in terms of the management processes, I think it's a realistic target." The model has not been reviewed or updated since 2002, so it was important to bring it right up to date, explains Fisher. " We have brought in some elements that were missing, such as innovation, which is very important, particularly for the EU and the SME community. But we've also looked at sustainability, corporate governance and governance. Since 2002 there's obviously been a lot of evolution in sustainability; and the corporate governance model has altered in response to changes such as the introduction of Sarbanes- Oxley." Of course, one of the defining factors between business success and business failure is the ability to adapt to change, so it was crucial that the revised model reflected this. " Organisational flexibility and adaptability has come in- that ability to recognise signals and adapt your organisation within the appropriate timescales." Taking this into account, the new model also incorporates elements of risk management, including risk assessment and differentiation between strategic and operational risk. " You should have an overall vision and common direction for your organisation but you should also be able to adapt it to different times; so when you spot opportunities you can move towards them and when you spot threats and risks you're able to deal with those," explains Fisher. As effective leadership plays a crucial role in any organisation, it was important that this aspect of business excellence should feature in the model as well. " Leadership is not just confined to the executive team or the senior management; it cascades down through the organisation," explains Fisher. " You need to have that leadership culture- if you don't have your management on board you're only going to be working on the operational excellence side of things, rather than the full concept of looking at sustainability issues, the strategic elements and obviously, the leadership." One reason for the model's popularity thus far- the EFQM now has a membership base of 600 organisations- is that it is not in any way prescriptive. " For example, we don't prescribe methods such as lean sigma, because there are other methods which might work better in a different environment," Fisher explains. " Something like lean sigma is designed to optimise and maximise process efficiency and effectiveness; but how an organisation does that we really don't mind, so long as what they're doing is working for them." The foundation has recognised that a dictatorial approach often impedes creativity. " Excellence is about going beyond expectations, finding new ways of working and bringing those forward. If you've told people they have to do it a certain way, you're removing the creativity; you're leaving no room for innovation. From the EFQM's

18 www. bus- ex. com September / October 09