What is the difference between an audit and an assessment?

To check versus to stimulate
PostedMay 07, 2014, in  Step 7: sustainable excellence
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They both make a visit plan, interview employees and review documents, the end result is a sharp analysis of the operation of an organisation. At first glance, there is little difference between an auditor and an assessor, but looks can be deceiving ...  

Source: http://www.independentaudit.com/cartoon/

Form of control

What is an audit anyway? According to Wikipedia, an audit is ‘a planned and documented activity performed by qualified personnel to determine by investigation, examination, or evaluation of objective evidence, the adequacy and compliance with established procedures, or applicable documents, and the effectiveness of implementation’. An audit is a form of control on the way organisation functions, carried out by appropriately qualified specialists (auditors).

Analyzing performance

The next question is inevitable: What is an EFQM assessment then? In the context of the update of the EFQM Excellence Model in 2013, we can use the following definition: ‘a planned and documented activity performed by qualified EFQM assessors to review provided evidence in combination with demonstrated behaviour, against the concepts and principles of the EFQM Excellence Model, to analyse the achieved levels of performance in relation to their strategy, and to evaluate the ability of the organisation to reach their vision.’ Meaning: during an EFQM assessment the performance of organisations is compared to the principles of the EFQM Excellence Model. Again qualified experts (EFQM assessors) perform the analysis.


There are many similarities between an audit and an EFQM assessment, but there is a distinct difference: the visit of an auditor is in fact ‘mandatory’. It is often a requirement to maintain a status, certificate or license, for instance an ISO-certificate. The behaviour of employees is mostly controlled in a reactive manner. This is often experienced as a strict control. 

Positive process

Very different is the visit of an EFQM assessor. This can also be ‘mandatory’ - for example when going for an EFQM Award - but the approach is different: the assessment is intended to support rather than control. An assessor will help you to take your next step on the journey towards sustainable excellence. An assessment team focuses on identifying the blind spots, strengths and areas for improvement that are taken for granted within the organisation, but in fact should not be. This is a positive, proactive process.

Friendly coach

The strict auditor versus the kind coach: the work of an auditor and an EFQM assessor are very different. Whoever comes to visit: be aware of everyone’s role, this will only benefit the process.

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PostedMay 07, 2014, in Step 7: sustainable excellence
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