No Organization Is Too Small to Benefit from the Baldrige Criteria

Posted by Christine Schaefer

Frustrated with the leadership of a community organization that doesn’t seem to be making decisions based on facts or meeting your or other stakeholders’ needs? Fed up with a youth sports coach who isn’t listening to concerns from players or their parents? Had a bad experience with customer service from an independent contractor doing work in your home?

Don’t get angry—pass out some Criteria booklets! Or at least take heart that the Baldrige Criteria provide a roadmap for the excellence that you’d probably like to see in organizations of all sizes and in all sectors.

Of course, very small organizations may not have the resources and need to develop and formally document detailed processes for all dimensions of their operations. Nor may it be practical or possible for them to track a wide range of results measures beyond the most important business measures. But anyone can benefit from reading the Criteria. That’s because it’s a self-assessment tool that can be used incrementally to evaluate how you’re performing against the basic, overall, and multiple requirements that are conveyed in each of seven categories of organizational performance.

Let’s start at the top for some examples of evaluation questions from the Leadership category: “How do senior leaders set your organization’s vision and values?” “How do senior leaders’ actions reflect a commitment to the organization’s values?” “How do senior leaders’ actions demonstrate their commitment to legal and ethical behavior?” And “how do senior leaders encourage frank, two-way communication throughout the organization?” With strong processes in place in these areas, church leaders, coaches, car mechanics—and others with whom you do business or interact in nonprofit work—will be sustaining their organizations for the long term.

Now let’s move to the middle of the Criteria, to consider a couple of questions from the Customer Focus category: “How do you listen to your customers to obtain actionable information?” And “how do you follow up with customers on the quality of products, customer support, and transactions to receive immediate and actionable feedback?” Imagine a world where all organizations, great and small, care enough to continuously improve based on the input of the people they serve!

Finally, let’s look at a sample requirement from the last category, Results: “What are your current levels and trends in key measures or indicators of marketplace performance?” Hmmm, if you’re losing your shoppers, your students, your parishioners, or your players to a comparable organization across town, you might need to bookmark the earlier, process-focused categories of the Criteria and consider where and why your practices are failing you.

Want to see more role-model organizations of every size in your neck of the woods? Maybe the Criteria could be suggested reading for your coaches, pastors, and plumbers alike!











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4 Responses to No Organization Is Too Small to Benefit from the Baldrige Criteria

  1. Brian Lassiter says:

    Great article, Christine. I completely agree: the Baldrige Criteria are completely scalable. In Minnesota, we have had organizations as small as 5-10 employees apply the Criteria to their operations. In fact, we had a 2-person classroom in a high school apply for our Award years ago — a chemistry teacher and his assistant. I’m waiting to see the first sole proprietor apply the principles to his/her business (I know you’re out there!), and I’d also love to hear of all-volunteer organizations using the Criteria.

    This framework simply works, regardless of size of organization, type of organization, or any number of other variables.

  2. Jamie Crannell says:

    I’m the chemistry teacher that applied for the Minnesota Quality Award. I found it to be a very worthwhile experience. I’d be happy to share lessons learned with anyone interested.

    Jamie Crannell

  3. Pingback: “Guerilla Baldrige” in the Classroom: Criteria Use at the Micro Level |

  4. Development says:

    As a long time VA employee, I was introduced to Baldrige through the in house VA programs such as Carey. I find the Baldrige criteria an extremely effective approach to improving organizational performance. We are using it widely now within VA New England Health Care System, with very positive benefits. I hope its use becomes even more embedded in the VA.

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