The paper examines the role of the strategic planning process in excellence management systems (EMSs) and attempts to contribute evidence of how the efficient EMS works, by an analysis of the synergies and relationships between the critical factors of total quality management (TQM) and the organisation's results. In order to reach these objectives, the excellence model of the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) was used as a framework. The methodology used was the Partial Least Squares (PLS) technique. The data were collected from a sample of 225 Spanish firms, candidates for excellence awards, which have been subjected to the complete self- and external-assessment process. The results showed that the actions and the commitment of the leaders and the people to quality (EFQM enablers social factors) must be made effective through the design and implementation of a schematic of the key processes, suitable resource management and the establishment of alliances with the main suppliers and partners. Another critical issue for the success of TQM is the need to achieve integration of the quality values, objectives and practices into the strategic planning process. Moreover, the results also show how the management of the EFQM enablers technical factors differs based on the degree of excellence with which the strategic planning process is employed in the organisations which form the sample.