What is Baldrige and Why Should I Care?

I am a Baldrige evangelist. You ask me all the time, “What the heck is Baldrige?” when I bring up Baldrige references in conversation. Baldrige is a weapon against complacency. If your business or organization is doing alright and you think that is good enough you’re probably wrong. Too many variables in the world today prevent us from accepting alright and getting away with it for long. If you are already doing well, then you can probably accelerate your efforts with Baldrige.

Baldrige Award Presentation So, what is the Baldrige criteria and the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award? The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award was created to enhance the competitiveness, quality, and productivity of US organizations and to award organizations that demonstrate world-class performance and improvement processes. The Baldrige criteria is the set of questions developed to determine winners of the award.

The questions of the Baldrige criteria in the beginning of the award program primarily focused on quality related functions and had a manufacturing tilt to them. It has been refined over the life of the program to become a framework for understanding and managing performance in all facets of an organization not just the quality department and not just manufacturing. The questions are refined by a team of experts representative of industry and academia every two years so it stays relevant to current management practices. The criteria is simply a set of questions. The answers to the questions are powerful though. The answers help an organization and leaders of organizations determine what they do well and where they most need to focus their efforts.

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and the criteria are used by numerous organizations both in the US and worldwide. Municipalities, educational organizations, hospitals, small and large for-profit and non-profit organizations use the criteria to apply for the national and state awards and for self-assessment. Internationally, Tata Industries the huge Indian conglomerate, has adopted the criteria as their framework for performance improvement. In the US, Cargill is implementing the use of the criteria in its business units. Cargill determined that in the business units with a high degree of Baldrige usage, earnings after taxes are 30% higher than goal compared to 13% higher for units only partially adopting Baldrige, and in their business units just beginning to implement Baldrige, earnings after taxes are 12% below goal.

In addition to the national Baldrige programs most states have award and education programs based on Baldrige. Tennessee has an established program, the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence or TNCPE. Its mission is “To lead organizations in the pursuit of performance excellence, improving results and contributing to the economic vitality of their region.” That mission is accomplished by providing assessments and detailed feedback based on the Baldrige criteria and by offering educational opportunities to organizations seeking to improve their performance.

The Baldrige FrameworkThe criteria consists of eight sections of questions. Answers to the Organizational Profile describe your unique organization and circumstances. Questions in six functional categories assess improvement efforts, the overall performance management system, and help you identify your strengths and opportunities for improvement in the areas that are critical for any organization to perform well. The last section’s questions determine the results that you actually achieve in each of the 6 functional areas.

Baldrige is just a set of questions. But it is not a set of rules or standards or even recommendations. The criteria does not mandate or even suggest the use of any specific tool or method. It only helps you identify whether your organization does or does not have processes in place for addressing your unique situation as defined in your answers to the organizational profile.

You may be wondering if the Baldrige criteria could be helpful to your organization. You may also be wondering if there are easy ways to determine if it could be helpful. Use this simple tool (it’s only a 10 minute exercise) to determine if Baldrige is worth your consideration. The results you get from the exercise might surprise you.

Now that you have a better understanding of what the Baldrige criteria is I hope you will investigate it further. Consider how powerful the answers to the criteria questions can be in helping organizations determine what they do well and where they have opportunities for improvement. Download the criteria from the Malcolm Baldrige Performance Excellence website or the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence website. Post questions or comments below or seek out the opinion of other examiners or companies that use it extensively. The TNCPE or I can put you in touch with them. Baldrige is a wonderful way for us to fight complacency in all of our organizations and I hope you will help me spread that message.

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2 Responses to What is Baldrige and Why Should I Care?

  1. Baldrige OFI says:

    Doug: If the NIST Baldrige program used the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence on itself, would it be in the funding crisis it is having today? If ASQ used the Baldrige Criteria on its own operation, would it be a better organization for its members? Baldrige OFI

    • Doug says:

      I think the answer is yes to both ASQ and the Baldrige program. If you look at some of the organizations that won the Baldrige award in the early years, they are not the excellent organizations that they once were. They grew complacent and lost the “continuous improvement” attitude. Not all but some did. A number of our public organizations did the same thing. I’m biased due to my involvement, but I think some of the state programs (specifically Tennessee’s, TNCPE) have maintained better focus than the national program. Several of the state programs don’t rely entirely on governmental funds either.

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