Baldrige Performance Excellence Program

What is Baldrige?

At its most basic, Baldrige is a proven approach to achieving and sustaining performance excellence.

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, formerly called the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, includes a highly-competitive annual award as well as a set of critera that are designed to drive overall excellence for any organization. The U.S. Congress created the program in 1987 and the first Baldrige Awards were presented in 1988. Baldrige Award recipients are held up as role model organizations for their systematic approaches to leadership, strategic planning, customer service, processes, performance measurement, knowledge management, workforce focus, and results.

The criteria are non-prescriptive, meaning that every applicant may choose to approach each item in its own way. Points are awarded for having systematic approaches that are well-deployed, involve ongoing assessment for improvement, and are integrated into all areas of the organization and its strategy.

In addition to the U.S. national program, most U.S. states have a local program that is based upon the Baldrige. There are also other national programs based upon Baldrige or similar criteria, such as Excellence Canada, EFQM in Europe, the Japan Quality Award, and others.

Each year, applicants for the Baldrige Award or state-level awards prepare detailed written assessments of their management systems. Their applications respond to all areas of the Baldrige Criteria, which are built upon a set of 11 inter-related core values and concepts. They are structured around seven categories, which are inter-related, as shown in the diagram:

Inter-relationships among Baldrige criteria categories

Organizations assess their management systems using the Baldrige criteria to identify their strengths as well as their opportunities for improvement. This assessment, evaluation, and ongoing improvement process helps them embed the Baldrige core values in their organization and ultimately achieve outstanding results.

Organizations do not need to pursue a national or state-level award to benefit from the assessment and improvement process. Many organizations do internal assessments using the criteria or have firms such as ActiveStrategy evaluate them to identify strengths and opportunities for improvement.

There are three variations of the Baldrige Criteria: one for education, one for healthcare, and one for business, nonprofits, and government organizations. You can find free, downloadable copies of the current criteria at the Baldrige program’s Web site.

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