Holiday Greeting from Blogrige and the Baldrige Program


The Blogrige team and all of us at the Baldrige Program thank you for another great year. Blogrige will return January 6, 2015.

2014_Baldrige_Holiday_Card pdf

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What is Baldrige Becoming? The Right Choice for Any Organization

Posted by Bob Fangmeyer

2015_2016_Business_Nonprofit_CoverThis week, we officially released the 2015-2016 Baldrige Excellence Framework: A Systems Approach to Improving Your Organization’s Performance. This is the first time in the 27-year history of the Baldrige Program that the booklet containing the Criteria for Performance Excellence has been retitled to make clear that the framework is not just for organizations that plan to apply for the Baldrige Award. In the earliest versions, the booklets even included the award application forms. Eventually, the Application Forms and Award Criteria were split into two separate booklets, the Application Forms and Instructions and the Award Criteria. Around 1996, the Criteria booklet became the Criteria for Performance Excellence and maintained that title for the next 18 years.

The new title change is more than just a change in name: It is an acknowledgment that the booklet, and Baldrige framework itself, contain far more than criteria for the national award. It also says that the Baldrige framework is something any organization can benefit from using. (For those purists who fear something precious has been lost, never fear! The criteria component is still called the “Criteria for Performance Excellence”). We also significantly streamlined the criteria and improved readability in this version.

In addition, for the first time we have released a mid-level assessment tool for organizations seeking to improve their performance: Baldrige Excellence Builder. This new, freely available resource was intentionally designed to be useful for organizations that might not be ready to dive into the full criteria–which are, after all, the national standard of Baldrige_Excellence_Builder_Cover_3performance excellence, a very high bar indeed! The Baldrige Excellence Builder is simple, clear, and short and can help many organizations begin to apply a systems perspective to improving their processes and results. Because we expect very broad appeal and use, we also designed it to be useful for education and outreach. If you haven’t taken the time to read through it, I sincerely hope you will.

Finally, in 2015, we will release a beginner’s guide of sorts, targeting organizations that need help just getting started with core concepts embedded within the Baldrige Excellence Framework.

So much has gone into the new releases: months and months of development, design, and production; establishing the distribution and sales infrastructure; preparation for customer service support; marketing and communication efforts; partner distribution policies and systems. With so many things needing to be organized, aligned, and integrated to release two new products at the same time (and the Healthcare and Education booklets not far behind), I want to express my great appreciation for every member of the small but high-performing Baldrige staff involved in making this happen. This accomplishment once again demonstrates the power of teamwork and an engaged workforce that knows what needs to happen and takes responsibility and ownership to get it done. I cannot thank my staff enough for all that they do every day.

I truly believe that we are on the cusp of dramatically expanding our brand and our reach. Although thousands of organizations have benefited from Baldrige, there is the potential for many more to do so. With the new resources and the help of the larger Baldrige community, including the network of Baldrige-based programs across the country, we hope to reach all those organizations that previously might have said, “Oh, Baldrige… we’re not good enough for that. We just want to get better.” Please help us spread the news that Baldrige is about both improvement and excellence, no matter your organization’s size, sector, or current level of performance.

Posted in Baldrige Criteria, Baldrige Director, Baldrige News, Baldrige State & Local Programs, Business, Education, Health Care, Manufacturing, Small Business | 3 Comments

What Do Ugly Holiday Sweaters Have to Do with Business Excellence?

Posted by Christine Schaefer

I love “ugly” holiday sweaters. Face it: many of you do, too. How else to explain the raging popularity of this wryly named commodity in recent years? As I bought one with bright colors and a fair-isle theme at my teenage daughter’s request last week, I thought about borrowing it to wear to an upcoming party of my middle-aged friends. It made me think of at least a half-dozen sweaters of my 80-year-old mother’s teaching career. She wore those brightly festooned markers of seasons for decades to amuse her grade-school students. But I decided against sharing those observations with my daughter. I didn’t want her to conclude that her new sweater could jeopardize her image in middle school hallways.

Whether it is true marketing knowledge or just plain luck, somehow clothing industry experts realized a golden opportunity. Cheerfully decorated sweaters can bring back fond memories for middle-age adults and continue a tradition for younger people. And teenagers are likely to see them as expressions of nonconformity and individualism. Thus marketing “genius” has turned reinvention into innovation.

I wonder how the companies that are capitalizing on this craze this season are planning for the inevitable drop in sales by an especially fickle customer group. (Trust me, the flow of barely worn cast-offs from my daughter’s closet to the family’s donation pile is proof that no retailer can bank for long on styles of the young.)

Blogger holds new Criteria booklet

See how the brand-new 2015-2016 Baldrige Excellence Framework booklet complements my (borrowed) holiday sweater?

Given an uncertain market, surely any manufacturer or retailer of trendy goods could benefit from using the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence to ensure that they don’t lose their shirts (or be stuck with large leftover inventories of holiday sweaters) after investing in new products in a volatile customer market. As Baldrige Award-winning businesses have demonstrated, the systems perspective and other core values of the Baldrige framework help an organization make sound strategic decisions and be agile enough to sustain strong results for the long term.

Organizations operating with a Baldrige-based management system maintain an integrated focus on leadership; strategy; customers; measurement, analysis, and knowledge management; the workforce; operations; and results. The assessment questions that constitute each of the Criteria’s seven categories (named in the previous sentence) reflect what we call the “leading edge of validated leadership and performance practice” since the questions are revised every two years. With this proven framework for excellence supporting their performance, organizations of any size and sector can continually improve their key processes and thus achieve beneficial results.

So what do ugly holiday sweaters have to do with business excellence? A lot or a little: the answer depends on whether or not those businesses making, selling, or otherwise capitalizing on the trend are using the Baldrige framework. Those that do use it have the scaffolding to perform better year after year—even when no one is wearing ugly holiday sweaters but People Like Me.1

I will end this blog post with a sample note to prepare you to read the newly available Baldrige Excellence Framework: A Systems Approach to Improving Your Organization’s Performance, the booklet that includes the 2015–2016 Criteria for Performance Excellence.


  1. Terms that appear in small caps in the Baldrige Criteria are defined in the Glossary of Key Terms in the booklet; for example:

People Like Me: Those who, in the eyes of the young, have not looked stylish since we tumbled down the other side of the proverbial hill after our fortieth birthdays and started wearing comfortable shoes

Posted in Baldrige Award Recipients, Baldrige Criteria | Tagged , | Leave a comment

How the Baldrige Criteria Complements the Next ISO 9001 Revision

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

According to a recent IndustryWeek article, the 2015 edition of ISO 9001, the standard on quality management systems, is nearing completion with three focus areas:

  1. The process approach will strongly emphasize that the quality management system has to be woven into and fully aligned with an organization’s strategic direction.
  2. Superimposed on the system of processes is the PDCA (plan-do-check-act) methodology, which will apply both to individual processes, as well as the quality management system as a whole.
  3. An overall focus on risk-based thinking aims at “preventing undesirable outcomes,” such as nonconforming products and services.

At the Baldrige Program, we’ve interviewed several experts on the complementary usage of ISO and the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, including Luis Calingo (“Better Than ISO? How Baldrige Benefits Manufacturers“) and Ron Schulingkamp (“Baldrige and ISO QMS: A Complementary Relationship“).

To me, the 2015 ISO focus concepts are reminiscent of the Baldrige Criteria. For example,

  1. The Baldrige Criteria guide an organization to align work systems and learning initiatives, as well as core competencies, with its strategic directions as part of planning. In fact, the Criteria build alignment across the organization by making connections and reinforcing measures derived from processes and strategy.
  2. In the Criteria, PDCA is called out as a common process improvement approach within category 6. A key element of this category is improving processes to achieve better performance—better quality from customers’ perspectives and better financial and operational performance. In fact, the learning that comes from PDCA is key to how the Criteria are used to evaluate processes. The Criteria encourage organizations to choose the tools (e.g., ISO, PDCA) that are most suitable and effective for an organization in making improvements.
  3. Measuring product performance (e.g., defect levels, service errors) is part of Criteria item 7.1. Such product and operational performance results demonstrate product and service quality and value that lead to customer satisfaction and engagement.

The Criteria also cover risk-based thinking—intelligent risks, a concept introduced in the 2013–2014 Criteria. “Identifying strategic opportunities and intelligent risks is part of strategy, and pursuing the intelligent risks must be embedded in managing organizational operations.” Innovation can result from such pursuit; the Criteria encourage organizations to use creative, adaptive, and flexible approaches to foster incremental and breakthrough improvement through innovation.

In what ways do you think that the 2015 ISO 9001 edition and the Baldrige Criteria will be complementary?

Note: The 2015–2016 Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence will be available December 16.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

16 More Do’s and Don’ts from Baldrige Award Winners

Posted by Christine Schaefer

We recently shared 16 tips based on the success stories of a health care organization, a small business, and a manufacturing company featured in our 2011 book Baldrige 20/20. The advice from senior leaders of those organizations is still valuable for those of any size and sector that aim to improve their performance using the Baldrige framework for excellence.

Following are two more sets of do’s and don’ts from senior leaders of Baldrige Award recipients profiled in the book—this time from a public school district as well as a small business.Dos and Don'ts

Tips from Terry Holliday, (former) superintendent of Iredell-Statesville Schools (PDF profile), 2008 Baldrige Award winner (education):

  • Don’t call it Baldrige (at least at the beginning of your journey). If you are dealing with a community that mistrusts change and innovation based on its experiences, convey the favorable results rather than labeling the improvement methodology.
  • Don’t allow school staff members to give up on children, and don’t let students continue to fail until they become dropouts.
  • Do focus on relationships and building trust among teachers and other school stakeholders. Listen and learn. Then address negative beliefs about and blame for student learning by modeling the change you want to see: model a learning-centered approach and showcase the results it can achieve.
  • Do create a passion for learning, reigniting this passion among adults. As a school leader, continue to fight the fight.

Tips from Dale Crownover, CEO of Texas Nameplate Company, Inc. (PDF profile), 2004 and 1998 Baldrige Award winner (small business):

  • Don’t retreat into a silo when facing resistance from employees about a Baldrige improvement plan. Rather, recognize your role as change agent within your organization.
  • Don’t assume all organizations must strive for the same “success.” Instead, determine what level of performance your organization wishes to achieve and what type of evidence you need to collect to prove to yourselves and others that you’ve achieved it.
  • Don’t let distrust among coworkers deter organizational decision making. Patiently wait for insights and fearlessly address oversights.
  • Do keep your responses to the Baldrige Criteria’s Organizational Profile, which asks questions about your organization and its situation, current and readily accessible in good and bad times.
  • Do envision where you want to go and, at the least, begin questioning what you really want by going there.
  • Do make the decision to apply for the Baldrige Award—and recognize that your decision will provide many opportunities to benefit.
  • Do study the pros and cons of major changes (e.g., in technology), and avoid the cons as much as possible.
  • Do stay committed to pushing forward with change.
  • Do reach out to receive training and coaching from Baldrige practitioners.
  • Do link the collection of organizational performance data with strategic planning.
  • Do trust your coworkers as much as you trust yourself in preparing a Baldrige Award application.
  • Do be ready to pursue a new improvement journey even after you receive a Baldrige Award—taking your success to the next level.

We hope you have enjoyed old wine in a new bottle with this series of tips reprinted from Baldrige 20/20. If you too have learned what to do—or what not to do—in order to use the Baldrige framework to better manage your organization, please share your tips by commenting below.

Posted in Baldrige Award Recipients, Baldrige Criteria | Tagged , , | 2 Comments