The Vanguard Guide to Business Excellence (PDF)


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This guide is delivered as a download in PDF format.

The pursuit of Business Excellence or Total Quality Management has caught the attention of many managers. 

But as every manager knows, the story of change in organisations has not been a wholly positive one. Many organisations have conducted change initiatives (with a variety of labels) and experienced failure. Will the Business Excellence Model (BEM) fare any better as a vehicle for change and improvement? This depends on how it is approached. The BEM could be the next failure, or it could be a spur to substantially better performance.

We believe that to get the best from the BEM managers need more help than has been available to date. There is already evidence of disappointment. In some organisations that have been employing the BEM for a long period of time the idea of the BEM and Self-Assessment is met with cynicism; managers have been turned off, an opportunity has been lost. There is also evidence of lost opportunity caused by managers not knowing what they don’t know. Amongst runners-up and winners of Business Excellence Awards we have found that managers could have gained more from the BEM if they had taken a different view on its interpretation and thus taken different action in their organisations.

The help managers need is principally how to understand and manage their organisation as a system. This concept is at the heart of excellence, it underpins the BEM and we believe it needs greater and more practical explanation and guidance.

This guide was written by John Seddon in 2001 and based on the experiences and observations of Vanguard Consultants.  During 2000 and 2001, Vanguard visited numerous organisations using the Business Excellence Model, listening to their experiences and concerns. We are grateful to all those who provided us with access. Finding out what people were doing, as opposed to what they might do, was a vitally important source of learning.



Part I: An introduction to organisations as systems

Part II: The Business Excellence Model and organisational change

Part III: The Vanguard approach to Business Excellence

Part IV: The Vanguard Model of the organisation as a system

Part V: Interpreting the Business Excellence Model

Part VI: Suggestions for action

Further resources