EFQM Excellence Model

The European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) Excellence Model, is a self-assessment framework for measuring the strengths and areas for improvement of an organisation across all of its activities. The term ‘excellence’ is used because the Excellence Model focuses on what an organisation does, or could do, to provide an excellent service or product to its customers, service users or stakeholders.

While its origins lie in the private sector, public and voluntary sector organisations can also benefit from using the Excellence Model. It is non-prescriptive and does not involve strictly following a set of rules or standards, but provides a broad and coherent set of assumptions about what is required for a good organisation and its management. Each organisation can use it in its own way to manage and develop improvement, under the control of those who use the methods rather than an external evaluator.


The Model starts with the following premise:

Customer Results, People Results and Society results are achieved through Leadership driving Policy and Strategy, People, Partnerships and Resources leading ultimately to excellence in Key Performance Results.

Figure 1: The Excellence Model Framework

There are nine ‘big ideas’ or criteria in the Model that underpin this premise and attempt to cover all an organisation’s activities. These nine ideas are separated into Enablers and Results. The Enabler criteria are concerned with how the organisation conducts itself, how it manages its staff and resources, how it plans its strategy and how it reviews and monitors key processes. They are:

  1. Leadership
  2. People
  3. Policy and strategy
  4. Partnerships and resources
  5. Processes

The organisation’s Results are what it achieves. These encompass the level of satisfaction among the organisation’s employees and customers, its impact on the wider community and key performance indicators. They are:

  1. People results
  2. Customer results
  3. Society results
  4. Key performance results

Each of the nine criteria is subdivided to describe in more detail the concept of ‘Excellence’ in that area and to examine how well an organisation is doing through a list of practical questions to ask itself. The starting point for most organisations is to gather evidence relevant to the nine criteria of the Model. This involves asking, for each of the criteria, ‘How good are we and how could we improve?’ Evidence may take a variety of forms depending upon the organisation.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) suggests that each organisation will need to find a method for using the framework that suits them best.

They give examples of:

  • Questionnaires based upon the Model.
  •  A workshop approach where evidence is gathered from across the organisation on how the nine criteria are being met.
  •  An approach in which the organisation produces a detailed document describing what it is doing under each of the criteria and sub-criteria.
  • An approach for a small organisation or small teams within a larger organisation, involving half-day sessions working through the Model to gain a rapid picture of where it stands under the various criteria.

Once this self assessment exercise has been initiated, the organisation can take action to improve its performance with help from the guidance contained in the Model’s relevant publications or further training in the area that needs improvement.

The British Quality Foundation (BQF) has also developed a software tool called ‘BQFsnapshot’ that will run on most Windows-based computers. It is intended to provide a quick and simple way of finding out how your organisation measures up to the characteristics of Excellence.

Although most organisations concentrate on improving their performance using the Model, it is possible to ‘score’ performance against the criteria, providing an internal benchmark of improvement over a period of time.

Development, ownership and support

The European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) owns the intellectual property of the Excellence Model. It is a not-for-profit membership foundation based in Brussels and was set up in 1989 by the CEOs of large European businesses.

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NEF aims to create a new economy that works for people and within environmental limits. We are guided by three missions:

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