Baldrige – What do we do with it?

I heard an interesting statistic during a session at the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence Strategy 2010 Conference in Nashville a few weeks ago. First let me say that I have committed a lot of time to Baldrige through involvement with the TNCPE. I’ve been on the TNCPE Board of Examiners for eight years. Each year requires about twenty hours of pre-training work, twenty-four hours of training, and a range of twenty to one-hundred hours of work on an assessment team depending on which award level the applicant applied. So on average I’ve spent one-hundred or more hours per year or eight-hundred+ hours learning about the Baldrige criteria and assessing how thoroughly applicants meet it. My point being that I am vested in Baldrige. I believe it is a useful framework for organizations to use for improving and I demonstrate that belief by being willing to give my time.

The statistic I heard from Jeff Lucas, who is the Deputy Director of the Baldrige National Quality Program, was that only 70 organizations applied for the Baldrige award at the national level but the Baldrige Criteria was downloaded more than 2 million times in 2009. A quick search of Wikipedia show that the all time best selling business book (applying the term pretty loosely and the source even more loosely) was in the 15 to 30 million sold range over the life of the book. If I ask co-workers if they’ve heard of “Who Moved My Cheese” or “The Seven Habits…” they would surely know, but most of them have never heard of the Baldrige criteria.

Why is there such a huge gap between the number of downloads and the number of applicants? Is Baldrige familiarity limited to the 2 million people that downloaded the criteria? Is it just too academic to be more widely read or recognized?

I would love to discuss this more at length.

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