The Common Assessment Framework (CAF) is a total quality management tool for self-assessment developed by the public sector for the public sector. The CAF is free of charge and available in the public domain to assist public sector organisations to improve their performance. It has been designed for use in all parts of the public sector, and it is applicable to national/federal, regional and local levels as well as agencies and public companies. Although the CAF has been developed in a European context, it can be used in any public organisation all around the world.
The CAF belongs to the family of the total quality management (TQM) models and was originally inspired by the Excellence Model of the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM®). It is a model for performance management acting as a ‘compass’ to help managers finding the paths to excellence.
The CAF is based on the premise that excellent results in organisational performance, citizens/customers, people and society are achieved through leadership driving strategy and planning, people, partnerships, resources and processes. It looks at the organisation from different angles at the same time.
The nine-box structure identifies the main aspects requiring consideration in any organisational analysis. Criteria 1–5 (the enablers) deal with the managerial practices of an organisation. These determine what the organisation does and how it approaches its tasks to achieve the desired results. In Criteria 6–9, the results achieved in the fields of citizens/customers, people, social responsibility and key performance are measured by perception and performance measurements.
Each criterion is broken down into a list of subcriteria. 28 subcriteria identify the main issues that need to be considered when assessing an organisation. They are illustrated by examples that explain the content of the subcriteria in more detail and suggest possible areas to address, in order to explore how the administration meets the requirements expressed in the subcriterion.
These examples represent good practices from all over Europe. Not all of them are relevant for every organisation, but many can be considered as points of attention during self-assessment. Integrating the conclusions from the assessment of the enablers and results criteria into the managerial practices constitutes the continuous innovation and learning cycle that accompanies organisations on their way towards excellence. Without modifying the structure of the model but simply adapting the examples and the language, sectorial versions of the model have been defined to make the CAF implementation easier and more effective for every organisation. A European version “CAF education” exists since 2013 and many other sectors have been developed at national levels (e.g. for justice organisations, universities, municipalities).