Exploring the EFQM Excellence Model: The ADNOC Example

The European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) Excellence Model has been designed for offering a holistic view of an organization since it is used for determining how various processes within companies fit together and complement each other. It is widely used by organizations across the globe and is being updated regularly. Thus, the model can be used together with any other tools based on the needs and capabilities of an organization to maintain sustainable excellence.

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Organizations that use the model are expected to reach and preserve high levels of performance that either meet or exceed the demands and expectations of their stakeholders. The EFQM Excellence Model makes it possible for managers to understand the cause-and-effect connection between what companies do and the results that they ultimately achieve.

The purpose of the current paper is to explore the integration of three EFQM criteria in the processes of an organization. The focus company for the report is the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), which is a government-owned corporation that has been working in the industry since 1971. The organization is considered one of the world’s largest energy producers as well as the main facilitator for the growth and diversification of Abu Dhabi’s overall economy.

As mentioned on the ADNOC’s webpage, the company “operates across the entire hydrocarbon value chain, through a network of fully-integrated businesses, with interests that range from exploration, production, storage, refining and distribution, to the development of a wide-range of petrochemical products” (“Who we are,” n.d.). Throughout the years of the organization’s operation, it has been producing and preserving the hydrocarbon reserves of the Emirates on behalf of the Abu Dhabi Government.

The economic boost of the country has also been linked to the creation of jobs by ADNOC, which has increased the diversity of the economy and played a defining role in the worldwide emergence of Abu Dhabi. Today, the company is working on developing innovative methods for increasing the value of resources as well as pioneering new approaches to technologies that will ensure the ability of the country to meet the needs of an ever-changing energy market (“Who we are,” n.d.).

Because of this, discussing the role of EFQM at ADNOC can be of benefit for understanding the model based on a real-life example. The discussion will center around the following three EFQM criteria: leadership, people, and strategy. These criteria are especially relevant to the example of ADNOC because the combination of such factors creates a foundation for the competitive advantage of the organization. This report will include such sections as the history and emergence of the EFQM excellence model, the exploration of the model’s criteria (leadership, strategy, and people), recommendations, and conclusion.

History and Emergence of the EFQM Excellence Model

EFQM was founded in 1988 by leaders of fourteen companies that had an idea that a new Europe-based organization was needed for promoting higher standards of management through recognition and knowledge sharing. Subsequently, the purpose and the membership base of EFQM transformed and extended, with the interests in the framework reaching the public sector and small and medium-sized organizations as well as worldwide (“Who we are,” n.d.). As to the EFQM Excellence Model, it was initially launched in 1991, with the latest 2010 version of the model released in 2009.

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The impact of the EFQM Model since its launch was immense as it became the standard for many National Quality Award schemes in European countries, and within a decade, reached the Middle East, South Africa, South America, and Asia. Many worldwide organizations have implemented the principles of EFQM within their business model. In this way, they have spread the model throughout all their businesses across the globe. While it is difficult to estimate the number of organizations that have used the model to reach excellence, “it must be globally far over 50.000 organizational entities” (EFQM, 2016, p. 4).

The non-prescriptive, simple, and well-structured framework proposed by EFQM means that any organization can implement it to its advantage. In addition, the model is fully aligned with the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact that are associated with human rights, corruption, bribery at organizations, and forced labor (EQFM, 2016). Both profit and non-profit organizations can use the model to their advantage, regardless of the degree of maturity, sector of operation, size, or structure. Such a high level of agility represents the main advantage for the integration of the model in any setting. However, there is a requirement for leaders to follow EFQM principles strictly in the context of their companies.

EFQM Excellence Model Criteria: Exploring the ADNOC Example


Within the EFQM Excellence Model, leadership implies the extent to which leaders can meet their needs in terms of their mission and vision of an organization. Also, leaders are expected to develop values that will lead to relevant actions and behaviors of employees as well as be involved in ensuring the management system is implemented and developed. This means that within the EFQM Excellence culture, which is reinforced in the model, leaders are expected to fulfill the following range of responsibilities:

  • Participate in developing an organization’s mission and vision;
  • Introduce role modeling ethics to support the development of organizational culture;
  • Encourage and support the learning activities of workers;
  • Stimulate and encourage collaboration with other organizations;
  • Ensure a procedure for measuring, reviewing, and improving key results;
  • Create a cohesive system for overseeing processes and ensuring their implementation;
  • Engage in processes that improve the environment and positively contribute to society;
  • Personally communicate the objectives and targets to workers;
  • Encourage and enable workers to participate in improvement activities.

ADNOC has been recognized as an important EFQM player as the organization has invested in continuous performance improvement to enhance its competitiveness in the energy industry. The role of the Excellence Model within the energy sector should not be underestimated, especially because of the great importance of partnerships between global organizations for achieving competitive advantage.

At ADNOC, the achievement of Excellence through leadership is achieved through managing the efforts of environmental stewardship. The leaders of the company are investing in new tools for decreasing the environmental footprint despite ADNOC operating in the energy industry. As mentioned in its report, the company is striving for excellence through “reducing GHG emissions by up to 10% by 2023, substantially increase its use of Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage technology, reduce its use of potable water and the cut the volume of was sent to landfill sites” (“ADNOC reinforces leadership role,” 2019, para. 2).

For achieving this goal, the organization has invested in leadership dedicated to advanced technologies, artificial intelligence (AI), and operational efficiencies that would enhance performance. The importance of leadership in the discussion about environmental sustainability is reflected in the approach of the corporation’s heads toward reducing the impact of gas and oil production. ADNOC Group CEO, the UAE “Minister of State, Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, mentioned that the commitment of the company to environmental stewardship” had been at the center of operations due to the need to protect the natural ecosystems of the country (“ADNOC reinforces leadership role,” 2019, para. 4).

Furthermore, embedding environmental protection principles in the corporate culture of the company was the aspect of the organization’s leadership carried out to set high standards of quality and expectations of performance. Thus, the operations of ADNOC align with the EFQM leadership principle of being involved with partners and representatives of society.

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Within the EFQM Excellence Model, the strategy criterium is associated with the implementation of mission and vision through developing and deploying a strategy that is stakeholder-focused. A high variety of processes and objectives is developed and used for delivering a strategy. In the context of the model, companies are expected to develop strategic capability, which implies the ability of an organization to develop an integrative process of framework formation process that, “as a result, generates greater organizational flexibility that leads to a greater organizational performance level” (Revuelto-Taboada, Canet-Giner, & Balbastre-Benavent, 2011, p. 28).

The strategic orientation of ADNOC is important to discuss because, as a global oil and gas industry leader, the organization has developed a strategy for long-term success. As mentioned in the report on the company’s website, the “2030 strategy is enabled by a focus on partnerships, technology, and human capital and will be sustained through active engagement with stakeholders who are core to the development and sustainable implementation of the integrated strategy” (“Enabling ADNOC 2030 strategy,” 2019, para. 4).

Technologies, partnerships, and people represent the key enables of the 2030 ADNOC strategy. In regards to technology, the company heavily relies on it for ensuring the sustainability of competitiveness, growth, and assuming an advantageous position of market opportunities. As the organization is focused on achieving excellence through value creation, it drives technology development in three distinct ways.

First, it develops technologies in instances when they are necessary for responding to specific challenges that have not been addressed by other services available in the market. Second, ADNOC invests in proven technologies that can deliver the necessary solutions to arising issues in the most cost-effective ways. Third, the company works with universities and other partners in the industry to seek talent that would facilitate the future deployment of technologies.

Partnerships represent an important aspect of ADNOC’s strategy as the company has “a 45-year track record of reliable and long-term partnerships with strategic, value-add partners” (“Enabling ADNOC 2030 strategy,” 2019, para. 5). At this time, for achieving excellence, the organization is changing its approach to both co-investment and partnerships to attain smart strategic alliances. These new opportunities help the company optimize its financial performance at all levels of the organization to secure its access to target markets. Therefore, partnerships can bring a new level of expertise to foster greater knowledge-sharing between the company and its partners as well as enable co-development of the latest intellectual property and technology.

While the role of people within the EFQM Excellence Model will be discussed further, it is essential to mention the value of human resources when exploring ADNOC’s 2030 strategy. According to the report on the company’s website, its employees are “our greatest asset, and throughout the transformation, we are focusing on developing a highly skilled world-class workforce and instilling a strong sense of responsibility and commitment built on a performance-driven culture” (“Enabling ADNOC 2030 Strategy,” 2019, para. 6).

Across the entire organization, ADNOC establishes enhanced human capital policies and regulations. The company is therefore dedicated to ensuring that its workers have multiple growth opportunities. It is important to note that the training and professional improvement of workers within the 2030 strategy is supported by the organization’s leadership as well as a range of youth development programs that focus on the creation of opportunities for women in senior positions specifically.


The links between people and the performance of organizations under the EFQM Excellence Model have been established since the framework’s development. As mentioned by Para-Gonzalez, Jimenez-Jimenez, and Martinez-Lorente (2018) within the EFQM framework, the influence of both leadership and strategy on workers allows companies to improve their performance. Therefore, the previously explored criteria of leadership and strategy are essential to consider when it comes to the discussion of workers’ roles within the model. When both leadership and strategy align and positively influence people, the latter are more likely to exhibit high levels of performance and contribute to organizational goals and objectives (Para-Gonzalez et al., 2018). In addition, when a strategy of an organization implemented under EFQM Excellence Model principles is integrated into business processes, it can facilitate positive contributions to companies.

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The professionals operating at ADNOC are offered a range of career opportunities, providing a “rewarding work environment in which individuals can realize their full potential and help to shape the future of the energy sector” (“Working with us,” 2018, para. 2).

Thus, the organization is highly driven by performance and invests in people to ensure that their ideas and contributions are considered and realized to their full potential. This means that people working at ADNOC represent the key to success. The management of organizations takes a career-oriented and long-term approach to the professional development of their workers, providing them with the desired level of skills and experience needed to meet the future challenges of the energy sector.

Within the EFQM Model, excellence is achieved through the provision of a broad range of both technical and non-technical career opportunities for experienced workers who are looking to advance and enhance their careers. In addition, the company is dedicated to providing work opportunities for UAE Nationals, to achieve 75% Emiratization across ADNOC Group companies (“Working with us,” 2018). Thus, the employees of the organization play a fundamental role in ensuring that the company achieves its long-term goals.

Recommendations for ADNOC

The practical application of the EFQM Excellence Model is associated with detailed considerations regarding the organizational environment characteristics that should be reviewed regularly. Flexibility is considered an important factor that can benefit all organizations, regardless of size and impact. The EFQM Excellence Model is therefore focused on addressing such business challenges as agility, the focus on developing approaches, the accountability of leadership, measurement indicators, explicit and prescriptive criteria, sustainability, corporate social responsibility, innovation, and other subtle changes that lead to excellence (Bobek, 2015).

While it has been identified that ADNOC’s strengths lie in leadership, strategy, and people, some recommendations should be made in regards to achieving competitive advantage and the prosperity of the company. Processes, products, and services, which represent the enabling criteria within the EFQM Excellence Model, must be improved at the organization. ADNOC has been criticized for the fire that occurred at its Ruwais complex in 2017. While the fire caused no injuries or posed no threat to the local community, it harmed the operations of the organization, affecting its processing capacity (McAuley, 2017). This example shows that the company needs advice as to how to optimize its processes within the EFQM Excellence Model.

Excellent organizations, according to the principles of the model, invest in the design, management, and improvement of processes, products, and services to generate value for both clients and stakeholders. The management of processes is needed for optimizing stakeholder value. ADNOC should define the ownership of its processes, responsibilities, and roles in developing and maintaining a framework of main processes. Within such a setting, new ideas are quickly turned into reality through innovation processes that align with the nature and importance of the changes that the company will make.

The range of processes implemented at the company is meant for developing both products and services that provide the ultimate value for customers. In regards to this perspective, the company should align its processes with the values of collaboration, respect, responsibility, and efficiency. ADNOC is recommended to maximize the value of the energy resources it provides to customers and stakeholders as well as invest in efforts that benefit the community. To prevent issues such as the fire at Ruwais, the organization is recommended to invest in the improvement of its responsibility efforts.

The commitment to safety, health, and environment essential to reach excellence through the EFQM Model. For example, according to Jeff Thomson’s article for Forbes, innovation is crucial for companies in the gas and oil industries for ensuring high standards of safety. Thus, it is advised for the organization to empower creativity among staff and partners to develop innovative solutions that increase reliability and decrease the risks of emergency occurrence. This is necessary for oil and gas companies to evolve and avoid relying on past experiences and approaches to securing the future of their businesses.


The formation of the EFQM Excellence Model has been attributed to companies recognizing and promoting sustainable success and guide those organizations that seek to achieve it. The value of the model lies in using it within any context and scope of an organization as well as the possibility to use it in conjunction with other tools. Through exploring the example of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, it was possible to discuss how companies can use the EFQM to their advantage.

For instance, the management of the organization provides exceptional leadership to oversee the processes at the organization, especially in regards to innovation and sustainability. These efforts are particularly important for people, business, and society results. In terms of ADNOC’s strategy, the company is dedicated to combining the efforts of people, technologies, and partnerships to achieve its 2030 strategy. In addition, the role of employees in sustaining the performance of the organization is of special importance because ADNOC invests in continuous training and professional development of the personnel, which is another important EFQM principle.


ADNOC Reinforces leadership role and commitment to environmental stewardship as it strengthens its position as one of the lowest greenhouse gas emitters in the oil and gas industry. (2019). Web.

Bobek, V. (2015). Perspectives on business and management. London, UK: IntechOpen.

EFQM. (2016). 25 Years of the EFQM excellence model and the EFQM partners’ network. Web.

Enabling ADNOC 2030 strategy. (2019). Web.

McAuley, A. (2017). ADNOC begins investigation into fire at Ruwais refinery. The National. Web.

Para-González, L., Jimenez-Jimenez, D., & Martinez-Lorente, A. (2018). The link between people and performance under the EFQM excellence model umbrella. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, 2018, 1-21.

Revuelto-Taboada, L., Canet-Giner, A., & Balbastre-Benavent, F. (2011). Quality tools and techniques, EFQM experience and strategy formation. Is there any relationship? The particular case of Spanish service firms. INNOVAR, 21(42), 25-40.

Who we are. (n.d.). Web.

Working with us. (2018). Web.

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