Best Value Local Government Legal Services
& The Business Excellence Model
Much has been written about the Business Excellence Model (BEM) already. It is not the purpose of this short article, therefore, to explain the BEM in great detail. The purpose of this article is to set out some of the benefits and dis-benefits of the BEM from a Legal Services Department perspective and to explain who the same may be useful for service and fundamental performance reviews within Councils.
Powerpoint slides used for the November 1998 ACSeS / Cipfa - CAS Legal Services Workshop are available from the Chairman. The slides also set out some changes to the BEM that are likely to emerge from Europe over the next year.
The Business Excellence Model (BEM)
The BEM is split into ‘Enabler’ and ‘Results’. The first being the ‘how’ and the latter being the ‘what is achieved’. If the expected level of service delivered matches the service perceived by the consumer, one can say there is no quality gap. If, however, there is a gap, the different elements / framework of the BEM can be used to analyse and, thereafter, address any shortcomings that may be hindering service delivery. Managers can, therefore, use the elements / framework provided by the BEM to develop appropriate strategies or priorities for concerted action over time. The BEM can also be used to develop an understanding within Legal Departments to the various business aspects at work.
The slides provide further information on the various elements of the BEM and the appropriate percentages for each element of the BEM. Combined, the BEM has 1000 points and there are various self-assessment techniques available for analysis. Alternatively, trained external assessors can be commissioned to apply the BEM. External awards systems are also being developed to recognise excellence in businesses and local government. There is no right or wrong method of self-assessment. Managers should learn through experimentation to ascertain what works for them and their staff. A team approach is felt to be best if real staff commitment to BEM is to be engendered.
One of the other reputed benefits of the BEM is that various management initiatives can be catalogued in terms of where in the BEM the primary and secondary foci of those initiatives lie (see attached slides for examples). If one, therefore, understands the foci of such initiatives, one can then begin to understand, it follows, why certain initiatives succeed / fail or do not work as anticipated. One can also use the BEM to ascertain ‘starvation points’ within the BEM where nothing has been addressed for a long time.
Best Value & the BEM
As respects Best Value, the BEM also provides a powerful framework to carry out Service Reviews and can also be utilised to conduct Fundamental Performance Reviews on a thematic or service specific or departmental basis (e.g. old people / youth services, crime, poverty and the other ‘wicked’ issues).
Appropriate action plans and processes can then be devised from the application of the BEM and appropriate activities also selected for benchmarking purposes. Equally, by focussing on the key result areas, appropriate benchmarks can be devised for comparative purposes. Over time, the same BEM processes can be revisited (annually) to see if continuous and tangible improvements have actually been made. The BEM can, therefore, be used to Challenge, Compare, Consult and Compete (the Best Value 4 C’s). No change in legislation is, of course, required to carry out these aspects of Best Value.
The Improved European Quality Foundation Model
The slides also set out the emerging draft European Quality Foundation Model (EQFM), the changes from the existing BEM and the proposed scoring system (RADAR). The amended draft is likely to be available for application, in Europe, from April 1999. Partnerships, knowledge management, innovation and learning are new categories. The terminology emphasis has also shifted so that the revised Model will focus on customers and apply to all organisations, not just businesses.
As respects RADAR, the improved EQFM could, for example, be used to measure Results (Excellence) within, amongst and between local authorities and how the same compare with the best in the private / public / voluntary sectors. In addition, the Approaches adopted, Resources deployed and how they are Assessed and Reviewed by local authorities can be measured to determine whether they are role models (Beacons?) for other local authorities in terms, respectively, of Effectiveness, Efficiency and Enhancement. Further details will emerge next year from the British Quality Foundation on this improved EQFM and how it will be developed / applied in Britain.
Clearly, the BEM is only one management model. Other management models exist and some of these are highlighted in the attached slides by way of a comparison. The feedback received in the last series of Legal Workshops from lawyer managers who have considered or applied the BEM to their Departments was most positive and favourable. The BEM is clearly a powerful tool in the management of continuous improvements and change within Legal Departments. Initiative like ‘Lexel’ and ISO 9001 are commendable but they, too, leave, as the attached slides show, many areas of managerial activity untouched.
Readers should, therefore, consider and try the BEM to see if it works for them. They should not, however, fall into the trap of thinking that the BEM is the answer to all their problems. It is not and neither is it meant to replace managerial decision-making / action planning based upon the priorities, strategies and policies of the organisations within which Legal Departments operate.
In addition, lawyer managers must not forget that the objective of the exercise must be the identification and actioning of continuous improvements / service reviews and not the blind adherence to the BEM. In ‘lawyer-speak’, the substantive and procedural tests in determining the success of BEM must be: ‘Have there been any tangible improvements in the provision of legal services to the Council? ’
Finally, the slides contain a list of useful publications available from the British Quality Foundation for those readers who wish to learn more about this subject. Happy reading!
Mr Mirza F. N. Ahmad, MBA, Barrister,
Chairman, Bar Association for Local Government & the Public Service,
Assistant Director of Central Services (Legal), Bolton MBC, (01204) 522311 ext. 1111.