Six Sigma and EFQM Comparison, Similarities and Differences: A critical analysis by a practitioner
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Six Sigma and EFQM Comparison, Similarities and Differences: A critical analysis by a practitioner

  Fawzi A. Bawab | Partner

  7th March, 2019


Which is better to use in an organization? Should I use Six Sigma or EFQM in my organization? A common question received in my training and coaching sessions. There is no one answer. Allow me to clarify.

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a disciplined and data-driven methodology that is meant for eliminating defects in every process whether manufacturing or service. A defect is any perceived deviation outside customer specifications. Defects are eliminated by targeting to achieve six standard deviations between the nearest specification limit and the mean. Hence a Six Sigma level is achieved where a process may create not more than 3.4 defects per million opportunities (Pyzdek and Keller 2014, p. 25).

What is EFQM?

European Foundation For Quality Management (EFQM) is a management model that provides a framework for gaining a holistic view of an organization irrespective of its sector, size or maturity. EFQM model lets managers comprehend the cause and effect relationships between the elements of their organization and the results delivered (Suárez, Roldán and Calvo-Mora 2014, p. 862). EFQM foundation was established on the premise that all organizations strive to succeed. However, many of them fail, and only a few realize sustainable success. The foundation was, therefore, formed to provide guidance to organizations to achieve excellence and sustainable success (Suárez et al. 2014, p. 863). Sustainable success is realized through three integrated components; Fundamental Concepts of Excellence (FCE), the Model Criteria (MC) and the RADAR Logic (Suárez et al. 2017, p. 36). FCE identifies the underlying principles forming the basis for attaining organizational sustainable excellence while MC establishes a framework to assist the organization to convert FCE and RADAR into practice. RADAR Logic, on the other hand, is a structured management tool for ensuring organizational performance.

As you may have noticed there are some similarities and differences between Six Sigma and the EFQM Model. It has been established through research that Six Sigma and EFQM share some similarities. In their 2017 study, Gómez, Costa, and Lorente (p. 89) found that Six Sigma and EFQM have three similar features; both are continuous improvement tools, both rely on top management for successful implementation and that both require a lot of time and resources to be successfully implemented. Organizations utilize both Six Sigma and EDQM models as tools for seeking continuous and sustainable improvement. Companies continue to work hard and improve towards attaining the sigma level of 3.4 defects. Similarly, EFQM is persistently updated with best practices that have been tested for organizational improvement (Gómez et al. 2017, p. 92). Also, the implementation of Six Sigma and EFQM is dependent upon the commitment of top management. Both models require top management to foresee and facilitate successful implementation through leadership and support by allocating resources. Furthermore, Gómez et al. (2017) established that the implementation processes for both Six Sigma and EFQM may be costly and time-consuming. Both models require thorough training of staff, and they would take a long time before the investment pays back in the form of realized organizational improvement.

Six Sigma and EFQM models have also been found to differ. Dahlgaard et al. (2013) found that the two models differ in approach, focus, and strategy. While Six Sigma approaches continuous improvement through eliminating causes that lead to variations in the processes, EFQM applies best practices to realize sustainable excellence. Also, Six Sigma focuses on individual projects within the organization as it seeks to improve processes, while EFQM focuses on a holistic approach of the entire organization rather than individual projects. Lastly, Dahlgaard et al. (2013) established that while Six Sigma strategizes to minimize scrap and rework by focusing on individual processes, EFQM strategizes to improve the overall quality of the management system.

The verdict

In summary, in as much as both Six Sigma and EFQM models seem to compare in the objective of continuous improvement, reliance on top management for effective implementation and the costly and time-consuming nature, the two models still differ in approach, focus and strategies undertaken towards realizing successful organizational improvement. One can argue that Six Sigma could be an excellent approach to deploy in organizations that already have EFQM.


Meirc Training and Consulting can help your organization gain the competencies whether you select Six Sigma or EFQM. Check our web site for more information on our engaging training sessions.


Dahlgaard, J.J., Chen, C.K., Jang, J.Y., Banegas, L.A. and Dahlgaard-Park, S.M., 2013. Business excellence models: limitations, reflections and further development. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, 24(5-6), pp.519-538.

Gómez, J.G., Martinez Costa, M. and Martínez Lorente, Á.R., 2017. EFQM Excellence Model and TQM: an empirical comparison. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, 28(1-2), pp.88-103.

Pyzdek, T. and Keller, P.A., 2014. The six sigma handbook (p. 25). New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

Suárez, E., Calvo-Mora, A., Roldán, J.L. and Periánez-Cristóbal, R., 2017. Quantitative research on the EFQM excellence model: A systematic.

Suárez, E., Roldán, J.L., and Calvo-Mora, A., 2014. A structural analysis of the EFQM model: an assessment of the mediating role of process management. Journal of Business Economics and Management, 15(5), pp.862-885.

Fawzi A. Bawab


Mr. Fawzi Bawab is a partner with Meirc. He holds a postgraduate certificate in Business research methods from Edinburgh Business School at Heriot Watt University and he holds a bachelor of science in civil engineering and a master of science in industrial engineering with an emphasis on total quality management. Fawzi is a registered professional engineer (P.E.) with the engineering association in Jordan. He is also a senior member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ), the American Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE) and the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM). Among the certifications he holds are: certified quality lead assessor with IRCA of England, certified TS16949 automotive assessor, approved ASQ Lean Six Sigma trainer and ASQ certified manager of quality and organizational excellence. Fawzi is a certified six sigma master black belt (CSSMBB) and a Kaplan-Norton qualified practitioner. Fawzi is a certified training practitioner (CTP) from the Institute of Performance and Learning, Canada.