Unlike some contemporary routes to business excellence, self-assessment, principally through the frameworks, methodologies, and criteria of leading international awards, is increasing. This is partly because it is a proven approach1 to strategic performance measurement but also because it is a potential contributor to superior, and sustainable, business results. There is also the recognition of awards, although most winning exemplars stress that this is never a primary driver. After all, once introduced, self-assessment becomes an endemic part of business management.
Consider, for instance, that over 1 million copies of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award guidelines were distributed from 1988 to 1997, compared to just over 600 applications for the award. Or consider that the methodology of the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) has been adopted in South Africa, India, and parts of Eastern Europe. Are organizations implementing quality on their own without external assessment or reliance on self-assessment? Do they see what is required yet do not proceed with it? Although the latter suggestion may appear cynical, a reality associated with such programs is that many organizations cannot afford to implement them. Much of the cost is associated with taking people away from their normal duties, which may impact productivity, and so on.
In this section, these methodologies are considered in terms of their links to business strategy, the self-assessment rationale, and its process. For readers unfamiliar with the models discussed, a glossary is a pro-