In Search of Excellence: The EFQM Excellence Model

In search of excellence, many organizations are discovering that there is no single Holy Grail to seize and that excellence comes from work on a set of organizational critical issues that, furthermore, must be appropriately combined in scope and depth if they are to yield the desired results.

This holistic approach to organizational issues is addressed by a number of Management Models or Programs. Each model envelops what it considers as critical organizational issues and then, to a greater or lesser extent, goes on to describe and explain them. Examples of these are the Viable System Model, Mckinsey 7S, ISO 9004, the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, TQM and of course EFQM Excellence Model and CAF (The EFQM model adjusted for Public Organizations).

The EFQM Excellence Model, true to the TQM concepts, has two important features: it is customer-centric, and it is a self-assessing tool. The first build into the organization the continuous improvement while the latter put to the front not what the organization offers but what its internal and external customers/stakeholders receive i.e. the emphasis is not on the service offerings but on the perception and experience of the service users.

The EFQM Model is basically a business management model to help organizations achieve excellence by offering them guidance and assessment toward that goal and has 3 components:

(a) The Fundamental Concepts which serve as the underlying principles of the model

(b) The Criteria that constitute the organizational issues and serve as focal areas to collect the necessary guidance points and actions which the model expands and explains. They are divided into two groups: Enablers and Results. Every criterion is broken down into a number of, usually 4 or 5, parts that consist of typical behaviors from excellent companies.

(c) The RADAR that offers an assessment and scoring framework, and it is an acronym of its 4 elements: Results aimed at, and three Enablers: Approach, Deployment, Assessment and Refinement. The elements break down into attributes and for each attribute, some guidance points are offered.

The Model’s Framework depicts the Criteria in a diagram that emphasizes their cause and effect relationship and can be seen in the picture on the EFQM page:

What’s of value: That a set of multiple issues endlessly hover around the organization’s functioning is not new. Nor does it have any novelty the knowledge that for successful outcomes, an organization must simultaneously deal with all such issues. However, it is of valuable guidance for the organizations that strive for improvement, the EFQM’s development of content for the Criteria and their subdivision as well as the guiding notes that are offered from best in class organizations.

Important and distinguishing is the feature of self-assessment. The assessors, to do their work successfully, must be knowledgeable on all the organizational issues and must have a good grasp of the various management tools available like KPIs and other measures, the BSC, Strategic themes, QM tools, Action plans and the like.

The great benefit of an organization doing such an assessment internally with its own people is that it deepens its knowledge and becomes more conscious of the measures it needs to take to improve.

The EFQM model offers, I believe, a most desirable path to organizational excellence; it contains the critical issues and explains them with examples from best-in-class companies, it separates enablers form result areas making it possible to see the need to focus efforts in areas of potential rather than simply on results only, and, very importantly, it offers a self-assessment tool for organizations to audit themselves, to learn and to continuously improve their journey toward excellence.


(1) The origins of the EFQM Excellence Model lie in the European Conventions and Charters of Human Rights and complies with the UN Global Compact Principles. For more details about EFQM, visit their website.

(2) For US organizations, a similar purpose model for Excellence is the Baldridge Performance Excellence Program.

(3) Public Organizations on the basis of EFQM model have built a similar Model, CAF, Common Assessment Framework. CAF has very similar criteria but differs in its way of assessment and scoring and uses the PDCA cycle instead of the RADAR with different guidance points for successful implementation

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