Quality management in public administration: international experience and lessons for Ukraine

Research Paper Outline



Quality management has undergone a significant evolution, from just inspecting the products to an entirely different vision of organisation strategy. Quality rise in business sector was followed by its development in public administration. Such trend is present in many European countries, as well as the USA and Canada. Recently, improving the quality of public service has become a major theme on the public sector reform agenda in Eastern Europe.

Public administration sector offers a number of quality tools. These include the ISO 9000 and third party certification, citizens’ charters, quality excellence models, European Foundation for Quality Management and Common Assessment Framework (CAF), a joint quality framework adopted in the EU, and others. No matter what quality management model is chosen, public service quality remains a key issue on the public modernization agenda.

Ukraine’s political leaders have put modernization of public sector and increased quality of public service delivery at the top of their reform agenda. Ukraine’s European integration efforts put additional pressure for enhanced administrative capacity. Quality management offers solutions to problems of inefficiency and poor quality of service delivery. Moreover, international experience shows that quality management is a powerful tool for capacity building in the public sector. Ukraine is undertaking the first small steps in the implementation of quality management and can build on experience of other countries.

This research paper is organized as follows. In the first part, I look at the history of quality management in Europe and elsewhere. In the second part, several quality management models are considered in a greater detail. Case studies and country experiences are dealt with in the third part. Finally, in the fourth part of my research paper lessons for Ukraine and conclusions are offered.


1. History of quality management in the public sector

Quality management in the private sector has emerged after the World War II and on the rise of mass production. Initially, quality management focused on output and product quality. The emphasis gradually shifted to customer satisfaction.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Total Quality Management with its focus on users of the products emerged in public sector. Quality thinking was initially based on users’ charters (1991 ‘Citizens Charter’ in the UK, 1992 ‘Charte des services publics’ in France and in 1993 the Users’ Charter in Belgium, later followed by a number of other countries). 

In the late 1990s, various quality models (EFQM, ISO) and the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) were introduced into the public sector. Recently, new members of the EU have taken quality management aboard.

During 2002 a survey regarding quality activities in the public administrations of the European Union member states was conducted.  One of the conclusions of this survey was that most EU members have used a number of various quality models. Quality initiatives are often focused at the customer relationship (one-stop shops, e-government), innovation, quality of life improvement for citizens, use of modern management techniques, simplification of administrative procedures and regulations and achieving higher standards of service provision.

Quality management in public administration is geared towards government that is efficient, transparent, accessible and provides excellent quality service to customers. As a result of quality initiatives, number of governments developed comprehensive strategies to improve public service delivery. To implement such strategies, a number of organizations/organizational divisions have been set up at the central or local levels to facilitate quality management in the public sector. Moreover, private sector is actively involved in government quality initiatives through consulting, training and professional services.

The most popular quality management tools are European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) widely used in UK and Spain; Common Assessment Framework in Belgium and Italy; ISO in majority of EU countries. Sweden has developed its own Swedish Institute Quality Model (SIQ). United Kingdom advanced its quality management to benchmarking . Charters and national quality prizes exist to improve the relationship with citizens and reward excellent administrations in Finland, France, Holland, Spain, UK and Sweden. Customer satisfaction assessment and complaint registers are used in majority of EU countries. Quality champions are eager to exchange experience through conferences and professional association.

Quality management as continuous self-improvement stimulates exchange of experiences. The exchange of best practices set in motion the development in the EU of joint quality framework, the Common Assessment Framework (CAF). CAF is a joint product of 15 ministers of public administration of EU countries. It combines the most progressive lessons of quality management applied in business. At the same time, it is fully adapted to the needs and specifics of public administration. “The main purpose of the CAF is to provide a fairly simple, free and easy to use framework which is suitable for self-assessment of public sector organisations across Europe and which would also allow for the sharing of best practices and benchmarking activities.” 


2. Quality management models

2.1. International Standards for Quality Management Systems (ISO)

ISO 9000 is a set of standards for quality management systems that is accepted around the world . Currently more than 90 countries have adopted ISO 9000 as national standards in the business and public sector. ISO standards are most commonly used in business to ensure that the product or service purchased from an organization that is registered to the appropriate ISO 9000 standard complies with quality standard. In addition, with the year 2000 revision of the standard, quality objectives, continual improvement, and monitoring of customer satisfaction provide the customer with increased assurances that their needs and expectations will be met.

The ISO standards originate with the US military that developed standards for procurement contracts. In 1979 the United States issued the Generic Guidelines for quality systems. This was a menu of quality management elements, and each organization chose the elements they felt were helpful, allowing for almost an infinite degree of tailoring.

The increase in international trade stimulated the development of internationally recognized quality management standards. It was feared that a mosaic of different national standards would be a barrier to international trade. The ISO Technical Committee (TC) 176 had its first meeting in 1980.

The first standard issued by TC 176 was ISO 8402, which standardized quality management terminology. In 1987 the Committee issued ISO 9001, 9002 and 9003 establishing three different levels of quality management system. They also issued ISO 9004, which is a set of comprehensive guidelines. These standards were revised in 1994, and then extensively revised in the year 2000. They have gained wide international acceptance.

ISO relies on a system of audits to provide assurance that the organization is meeting the requirements of the standard. An audit includes an inspection of the documents and records that make up a quality system. Most importantly it is an inspection of the way the people in the organization work and the knowledge they have about the operation of the quality management system.

Design and implement the quality system to comply with the requirements of ISO. This will typically require:

writing a quality manual, describing a quality system at a high level,

establishing a quality policy and measurable quality objectives,

writing procedure documents to describe how most work in the organization is carried out,

creating a system to control distribution and re-issue of documents,

designing and implementing a corrective and preventive action system to prevent problems from recurring,

identifying competency needs for all positions in the organization,

monitoring and measuring customer satisfaction, process, and product conformity,

training the staff on the operation of the quality management system,

planning and conducting internal quality audits,

continual improvement of the quality management system .

2.2. European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM)

EFQM was founded at the end of the 1980s by 14 major European companies and in 1992 EFQM introduced its excellence model as the framework for assessing organisations for the European Quality Award. It has become the basis for the majority of national and regional Quality Awards.

The EFQM Excellence Model is a practical tool that can be used in a number of different ways: as a tool for Self-Assessment; a way to Benchmark with other organisations; a guide to identify areas for Improvement; basis for a common Vocabulary and a way of thinking; a Structure for the organisation's management system.

The EFQM Model is a non-prescriptive framework based on 9 criteria. Five of these are “Enablers” and four are “Results”. The “Enabler” criteria cover what an organisation does. The “Results” criteria cover what an organisation achieves. “Results” are caused by “Enablers” and “Enablers” are improved using feedback from 'Results'.

The EFQM Model, which recognises there are many approaches to achieving sustainable excellence in all aspects of performance, is based on the premise that excellent results with respect to performance, customers, people and society are achieved through leadership driving policy and strategy, that is delivered through people, partnerships and resources, and processes.

2.3. Total Quality Management (TQM)

TQM is a management philosophy of continuous improvement of goods and services with the aims of total customer satisfaction, optimum use of resources and better worker satisfaction, leading to more profitable companies and more reliable and innovative products .

TQM principally means applying quantitative methods (measurements and statistical analysis) of processes, use of materials and human resources (people) to improve the goods and services an organization uses to make and deliver products to its customers. The degree to which these satisfy customer needs and desires is then subject to further analysis with the aim of continuous improvement of the product, service and the processes by which these are generated. The key objective is continuous improvement.     

Contrary to ISO which is a quality management standard, TQM is a philosophy of perpetual improvement.  An ISO implementation is a basis for a Total Quality Management implementation. Where there is an ISO system, about 75 percent of the steps are in place for TQM.  Implementing TQM is being proactive concerning quality rather than reactive and looking for ways of constant improvement.

TQM is the foundation for activities which include:

meeting customer requirements

reducing development cycle

demand flow manufacturing

improvement teams

reducing product and service costs

improving administrative systems training

2.4. Common Assessment Framework

In 1997, following intense consultations regarding modernization of public administrations, the Innovative Public Services Group (IPSG) was set up at the EU level. In 1998, after a number of preparatory meetings, 15 ministers of public administration adopted a declaration on the general principles concerning the improvement of quality of services to citizens. Based on those principles, in 2000 the IPSG developed a new quality tool adapted to the public sector – the Common Assessment Framework – a self-assessment framework based on the principles of TQM and EFQM.

The CAF has four main purposes:

To capture the unique features of public sector organisations.

To serve as a tool for public administrators who want to improve the performance of their organisation.

To act as a bridge across the various models in use in quality management.

To facilitate benchmarking between public sector organisations .

The CAF has been designed for use in all parts of the public sector, applicable to public organisations at a national/federal, regional and local level. It may also be used under a wide variety of circumstances, e.g. as part of a systematic programme of reform or as a basis for targeting improvement efforts in public service organisations. In some cases, and especially in very large organisations, a self-assessment may also be undertaken in a part of an organisation, e.g. a selected section or department.

The CAF constitutes a blueprint of the organisation. It is a representation of all aspects that must be present in the proper management of an organisation in order to achieve satisfactory results. All these elements are translated into nine criteria and further operationalised and given concrete form in subcriteria. On the basis of these subcriteria, a group from within the organisation evaluates that organisation.

Using the CAF provides an organisation with a powerful framework to initiate a process of continuous improvement. Compared to a fully developed Total Quality Management model, the CAF is a "light" model, especially suited to gaining an initial impression of how the organisation performs. It is assumed that any organisation that intends to go further will select one of the more detailed models such as EFQM. The CAF has the advantage of being compatible with these models and may therefore be a first step for an organisation wishing to go further with quality management .

3. Country experiences

In this section, I take a closer look at several country cases of improved customer satisfaction without application of specific quality management models. These case studies offer examples that could be useful for Ukraine’s government.

3.1. US government experience with Customer Satisfaction Index

Since the early 1990s, the US federal government has increasingly focused on how well its programs and services meet or exceed the needs and expectations of its citizens.   Through a combination of legislation, policy directives from the Executive Branch, and agency initiatives, federal agencies have made achievement in measuring satisfaction with their services and programs. In particular, in 1993 Clinton signed Executive order directing “all agencies” to:

identify their customers;

ask them how satisfied they are and what they want;

post service standards and measure results against them;

compare performance to the best in business;

survey employees about how to give better service;

give customers choice;

make information, service and complaint systems easily accessible;

provide means to address complaints. 

One of the challenges government program managers faced was to find a measure that would provide highly accurate measurement of citizen satisfaction and also enable them to benchmark agency service performance against other similar service providers in both the government and the private sector.  At the same time, policymakers needed a measure that would track the quality of overall government services delivered to its citizens.

In 1999 the federal government selected the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is a standard tool for measuring citizen satisfaction with the delivery of government services . The ACSI is a uniform and independent measure of consumers’ experiences with the purchase and consumption of goods and services in the United States.  Participation in the ACSI is voluntary.

The ACSI measures citizen experiences with the services delivered by government such as social security, healthcare, and veterans’ benefits; grants and loan programs for students, exporters, farmers, etc.; recreational facilities and services; services to international travellers; tax filing; regulatory and enforcement programs.   In addition to company-level satisfaction scores, ACSI produces scores for the causes and consequences of customer satisfaction and their relationships.

By participating in the ACSI, program managers identify and understand which of their processes should receive the most immediate attention.  Examples of the kinds of activities that were identified included writing regulations and information in plain language, providing more services to citizens electronically, maintaining high quality customer service, and streamlining processes to provide quicker responses to inquires and applications for services or benefits.  By responding to findings from the ACSI, managers are able to improve program effectiveness and focus more on results, service quality, and customer satisfaction.

One agency that has clearly benefited from the results of ACSI data has been the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the agency responsible for tax collection.  The IRS has separately measured the satisfaction of individuals who have filed their tax returns using the traditional paper-based method and compared that with the satisfaction of individuals who have filed their tax returns electronically.  The results show that citizens are significantly more satisfied using the electronic tax filing process because there are fewer errors, the filing process is much quicker, and they can obtain their refunds faster.  Moreover, the IRS is able to reduce its overall costs and regain citizen trust in the income tax system .

3.2. Poland’s “The Friendliest Office of Government Administration”

The competition for the “friendliest office of government administration” is organized by the Head of Civil Service of Poland annually. The purpose of the competition is to promote activities aimed to improve the quality of customer service and increase citizen satisfaction, hence building an image of the government administration as a professional organization characterized by legality, integrity and high competence.

The prize is awarded in two nominations: small office employing less than 100 employees and large office employing over 100 employees.

Competition Board comprises:

representative of the Prime Minister Office;

representative of the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection;

representative of Transparency International;

two representatives of the media;

representative of the National School of Public Administration;

representative of the Head of the Civil Service.

Offices seeking to participate in the competition complete questionnaires regarding customer satisfaction, services, access to information and facilities and undergo a special audit to check this information. Short-listed offices carry out surveys among a random sample of its employees and customers. The winner of the competition is awarded with a commemorative cup and the title “the Friendliest Office of Government Administration”, which is held for one year.

During 2002-2004 over 60 administrations of the regional and central level took part in the competition . The results of the competition play an important role regarding the performance appraisal of line managers and supervisors in the civil service. The questionnaire is refined after each competition to serve as an adaptable tool of customer satisfaction measurement.

3.3. Latvia’s ISO certification experience in the framework of civil service reform

Latvia’s experience with quality management is by far the most thorough among European countries. Latvia’s civil service reform was initiated in the mid-1990s to increase administrative capacity and make the public sector more effective and efficient. When a new civil service law was designed in 1999, the State Civil Service Administration proposed that a new law would not be sufficient and that quality management system is needed. The working group was created under the Prime Minister comprising representatives of various ministries and chaired by the Head of the State Civil Service Administration to explore possibilities of introducing quality management into the Latvian public administration. The working group arrived at a conclusion that ISO 9001 standard, which focuses on the effectiveness of the quality management system in meeting customer requirements, should be used for public administration.

The Latvian Bank, which had already introduced quality management as a pilot project and undergone external certification, proposed that ISO 9001 should be made compulsory in the public sector. Subsequent detailed regulations were drafted in 2000. On December 4, 2001 the Cabinet of Ministers approved regulation #501 “On introduction of a quality management system in public administration”, which put responsibility on the heads of all public sector organizations to introduce, implement, continuously improve quality management system and to appoint a quality manager.

The regulation followed a substantial political debate in the country on whether quality management should be compulsory. The working group that drafted regulation was in favour of making ISO 9001 voluntary. Firstly, the working group was aware that the voluntary introduction of quality initiatives and models is common practice internationally. Secondly, the working group considered that a recommendation would allow public agencies that were against introducing ISO 9001 to choose an alternative quality management model such as the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) or the European Foundation for Quality Management Excellence Model.

By 2004, over 70 public sector organizations received the ISO 9001 certificate after a successful external certification. ISO certification receives substantial media coverage in the country promoting the improvement of quality of public sector operations and services and making administration customer-friendly.


Public Services and quality

Theory of public services comes from the experience of Great Britain, Canada, the USA and other countries where since the 80s, priorities of public administration and relations with the citizens changes. The needs of a person, his/her rights are a key value of the society and the goal of public administration is to provide quality public services to a citizen. Thus, citizens are consumers, not petitioners of services. The state orients its activity at the needs of a client just as this is done in the private sector.

In Ukraine, the quality of public services is deficient:

a number of unjustified paid administrative services;

unjustified prices for services;

limited access to information;



4. Lessons for Ukraine

Over the last 6 months, the new government of Ukraine has taken a number of steps to carry out public administration reform. The Vice-Prime-Minister of Ukraine for Administrative and Territorial Reform is supporting civil service reform. At the same time, he believes civil service reform can be effective only when sound processes and procedures as well as standard documentation are introduced. Moreover, European integration priority

Pilot project on introducing quality management in the Main Department for Civil Service following a standard ISO 9000:2000 is a first step to building a more efficient and customer oriented system of public administration.

Pilot project for building the quality management system in the Main Department for Civil Service can serve as basis for introduction of a similar system in the entire system of agencies of the executive branch.

The international experience shows that there are a number of success factors for successful implementation and continuous improvement of quality management system:

1. Ownership of Quality Management

The primary factor for success within an organization is the presence of a single team, which owned the strategic, planning, performance and improvement processes. The presence and continuity of a team involved in both strategy development and the analysis of present performance allows the deep understanding of the organization’s capability and performance.

2. Top Management Commitment

This is a critical factor for quality management to be effective. Both private and public sector experience shows that this commitment should be demonstrated through active communication and support in the organization. Moreover, the more committed top managers actively sought to understand the quality management techniques. This would involve training of personnel, exchange of experience and experimenting. With such an understanding the top managers are better able to support and drive forward organizational improvement. It is also vital that politicians have a strong role in improving public service delivery and including this goal in the agenda of their political parties.

3. Voluntary vs. legislative approach

Overwhelming majority of public sector organizations are implementing quality management systems on a voluntary basis. The philosophy of quality management requires that organizations gain ownership of the results and develop genuine interest and motivation for self-improvement. At the same time, voluntary approach can give very limited results for a country that is willing to radically reform and strengthen its administrative capacity.

3. Additional Tools

Using any particular quality management model is still only a partial answer to organizational success. Successful public sector organizations used a whole mix of approaches additional tools such as customer surveys, benchmarking, e-government and citizen engagement, national prizes etc. The use of such additional tools also aids organizational learning.

4. Continuous learning and training

The willingness to learn and develop was also important for each organization. The public sector organizations sought to implement quickly and learn as they went along. Their quality management systems underwent continual development and reflected real-life experience. People within the organizations were also engaged in and entrusted to manage improvement activity, within a clearly communicated organizational strategy. The need to effectively leverage knowledge, as a core value-adding process was both recognized and actively promoted and managed. 

5. Partnering

The successful organizations had strong relationships with external partners which included other public administrations, both domestic and international, civil society organizations, citizens and their organizations, political parties, media, professional organizations, academic institutions, etc. It is evident that technological or instrumentalist approach is substantially less effective compared consultation with citizens and other service users and partnership working among public sector organizations, CSO’s and business.

Such partnering allows the administrations to broaden their understanding of their changing environment, both current and future, and continuously improve their service delivery.

6. Exchange

Many initiatives launched in the various European countries may be termed ad hoc initiatives of the countries themselves. However, there is a growing tendency both in Western and Eastern European countries, towards a common reference framework.

The setting up of the Common Assessment Framework in the EU countries provides powerful lessons on how overall reform platform creates an impetus for exchange of best practices, which in turn creates additional stimuli for public administration for self-improvement.

The quality conferences prove to be an excellent tool to discuss problems, challenges and solutions within various organizations. They are also a tool to enhance effectiveness of the public sector.


For Ukraine with its post-soviet tradition and deeply rooted administrative inefficiencies, bureaucracy, neglect for customer needs, some legislative steps should be taken to promote quality management. Common legislative framework will serve as a guiding principle for public management. Gradually, quality management can change the mind set of civil servants from bureaucratic self-serving paperwork to customer service.

Training is a crucial factor for Ukraine. International experience shows training is a central issue regarding quality management application. A number of countries vested public administration schools to provide training in quality management.

Quality management of service and policies is also a political and not just technical matter. It should be actively put on the political agenda.



5. References

  Bouckaert G., “Charters as frameworks for awarding quality: the Belgian, British and French experience, Charters as frameworks for awarding quality: the Belgian, British and French experience, seminar on concepts and methods of quality awards in the public sector”, Speyer, Germany, 1993, p. 7.

The Common Assessment Framework (CAF). Improving an Organization through Self-Assessment. European Institute of Public Administration. Maastricht, October 2002

Engel C., Common Assessment Framework : The state of affairs, Eipascope, 2002 (1), p. 35.

European Institute of Public Administration http://www.eipa.nl/

European Foundation for Quality Management http://www.efqm.org/

European public administration network http://www.eupan.org/

IPSG, “Survey regarding quality activities in the public administrations of the European Union member states”, 2002, 95 p.

International Standards Organization  http://www.iso.org/iso/en/

ISO Standard  http://www.isoeasy.org/

The International Journal of Business Effectiveness http://www.european-quality.co.uk/

Kulakov, A. Need for government quality management and effective infrastructure. // Standards and Quality, # 8, 2003, p. 18.

Public Sector Benchmarking Service: http://www.benchmarking.gov.uk.

G. Russel. Application of ISO Standard for Performance Management. // Methods of Quality Management. # 12, 2003 p. 44)

A. Shadrin. Quality Management in Private Sector on the Basis of International Standards. // Standards and Quality, #11, 2004 p. 34)

State Statistics Committee of Ukraine. Requirements for Quality Management (ISO 9001:200). // State Standards Committee of Ukraine. Kyiv, 2001

Stone, Bob, Polite Revolutionary: Lessons from an Uncivil Servant. Published by the Turkish Standards Institution, 2001.

Ukrainian Association for Quality Management http://www.quality.kiev.ua/

US customer service website  http://www.customerservice.gov/

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