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The European Foundation for Quality Management approach to achieving excellence.


The European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) Excellence Model is a self-assessment framework. Here I will discuss this approach and briefly describe its relationship to other key frameworks. 


The EFQM has its origins in the late 1980s when several leading European companies started to take an interest in Total Quality Management (TQM). Fourteen leading European businesses came together in 1988 to formed the European Foundation for Quality Management, now widely known by the initials EFQM. 

The EFQM vision is “A world striving for sustainable excellence” and their mission is “ As a European Foundation, we inspire organisations to achieve sustainable excellence by engaging leaders to learn, share and innovate using the EFQM Excellence Model.”

The EFQM own the EFQM Excellence Model® and manage the European Quality Award process.

Key elements of the EFQM

The EFQM has two sets of criteria, the enablers and the results (See figure 1).

The five enablers are:

  • Leadership – how leadership behaviour and actions support a culture of business excellence.
  • Policy and Strategy – how policy and strategy are developed and deployed.
  • People  – how the organisation releases the potential of its people and harnesses this for the benefit of all.
  • Partnerships and Resources – how the organisation effectively and efficiently manages partnerships and resources. 
  • Processes – how the organisation manages and improves its processes, products and services.

The result criteria focuses attention on what has been achieved and what the organisation is planning to achieve across different perspectives, specifically:

  • Customer Results – What are the customers’ perceptions of the organisation? How are these being measured? And, what is the evidence that customer satisfaction is being delivered?
  • People Results – What are the employees’ perceptions of the organisation? How are these being measured? And what is the evidence that that employee satisfaction is being achieved?
  • Society Results – How does the rest of society perceive the organisation? How is this being measured? And what is the evidence that societal results are being delivered?
  • Key Performance Results – How is the organisation performing against its planned performance? In a company, these refer to the financial results.


There are a number of approaches to performance improvement such as PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act - Shewhart) or PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act - Demming). EFQM uses RADAR.

Required – what are the Required Results we are trying to achieve?

Approaches – what are the integrating set of plans and Approaches that are needed to deliver the required results?

Deploy – how where and when is this to be Deployed?

Assess – how is the deployment approach to be Assessed and refined? What is and is not working? What could be done better?

Results – What Results are being achieved and how does this compare with what is required?

Benefits of using an EFQM approach

  • It can be used to identify an organisation’s strengths and areas for improvement.
  • The EFQM focuses on both the drivers of performance and performance achieved across a wide range of perspectives.
  • The EFQM provides a structure for reviewing how the organisation is planning to deliver performance and what it has achieved. The approach can be used regularly to assess progress against the framework.
  • It creates a common language and framework for managing and improving an organisation.
  • As such, it is a good communication tool and can be used as a means of educating people on the key concepts and their responsibilities.
  • The EFQM facilitates the identification and sharing of “good or best practice” across the business.
  • So, using an EFQM approach can engage staff right across the organisation and at all levels.
  • EFQM can facilitate comparison with other organisations. Because the framework is generic, it allows you to compare yourself with other organisation that may be completely unrelated to your own.
  • To get full use of the EFQM, you should use it as a framework to help plan your performance improvement.

Pitfalls to be avoided

Don’t become over obsessed with the EFQM framework or score. It is a useful tool, and not an end in itself. At the end of the day you are in competition with your competitors.

Don’t overdo the use of consultants in improving your EFQM scores. People in the business need to do this for themselves for the changes to be sustainable.

Many companies get early benefits from EFQM increasing their score, but it is usual for this progress to plateau. When this happens, management commitment can wane and the impetus to improve can be lost, just at the point where your organisation should really be starting to progress and out perform its competitors. But taking the next step isn’t easy, it takes time and commitment.

Always ask yourself, “What is this costing?” both in management time and money, and “Is it worth it?”

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