Better Than ISO? How Baldrige Benefits Manufacturers

Posted by Christine Schaefer

In a recent article published by Manufacturing Business Technology, Dr. Luis Calingo, a veteran Baldrige examiner and current president of Woodbury University, spoke of the great benefits of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence to the manufacturing sector today. In a follow-up interview, he offered the following additional insights.

The title of the Manufacturing Business Technology article suggests that the Baldrige Criteria can provide a more valuable management tool than ISO 14000 for manufacturers. Would you please explain the comparative benefits?

Thank you for this question as the statement in the Manufacturing Business Technology article did not fully capture my sentiments. The popularity of the ISO family of standards has accelerated whenever customers make certification to such standards a requirement for their suppliers, which has indeed been the case. While the ISO standards are mandatory customer requirements, the Baldrige framework is a voluntary roadmap to organizational excellence.

When business leaders hear “Baldrige,” they think that adopting [the Criteria] will require a lot of work and that they will need to hire consultants on how to use the Criteria. This reminds me of what a guru has written about the nature of work: Work is expending effort on things we don’t want to do. Passion is expending energy on things we love to do. The goal is to do no work. 

Baldrige is about the pursuit of excellence, and isn’t that the goal of every CEO? If CEOs really understand Baldrige, they will see it as a natural part of what they would love to do anyway.

Manufacturers are continually bombarded with tools and certification systems (such as ISO 9000 for quality management systems, ISO 14000 for environmental management systems, OSHAS 18000 for workforce health and safety, SA 8000 for social accountability, ISO 27000 for information security management systems); to a large extent, those have gained in popularity because they are customer requirements, that is, requirements of customers for their suppliers. All of these certification schemes may be useful in areas where they address specific opportunities for improvement.

The Baldrige framework, on the other hand, focuses on the entire organization as a system of purpose, processes, and outcomes. My suggestion to manufacturers is to pursue those certifications under the umbrella of performance excellence [using the Baldrige framework] so as to avoid the dangers of sub-optimization.

Operationally, what that means is that a business should first conduct a Baldrige-based self-assessment—not necessarily the full-blown application for the Baldrige Award or state-level award, but rather, questionnaire-based assessments such as Are We Making Progress? so that they can identify their opportunities for improvement (OFIs) first, and based on those, then determine which certification schemes will be most useful, for example, for OFIs in quality management, ISO 9000; if health and safety issues are present, OSHAS 18000; and so forth.

You have spoken of the perception among some business leaders today that the Baldrige Award may be rooted in outdated concepts. How would you recommend that those who are familiar with the evolution of the Baldrige Program and the iterative nature of the Criteria for Performance Excellence speak to this point?

There is, indeed, the perception that the Baldrige Award may be rooted in outdated concepts like Total Quality Management, although I am quite certain that business executives would agree that quality is important. As an educator myself, I’ve seen how management thought has evolved through the centuries, producing enduring concepts. For example, the earliest known reference to product quality dates back to the Code of Hammurabi (1772 B.C.): “The mason who builds a house which falls down and kills the inmate shall be put to death.” I believe that the root cause of this perception problem is that, culturally, Americans tend to have a shorter time orientation or attention span. One way to overcome this is to have more schools, particularly business schools, teach Baldrige concepts as part of their curricula.

Dr. Luis Calingo

Dr. Luis Calingo

I have done volunteer work in other countries such as the Philippines and Thailand helping them build their Baldrige-based national quality award programs, and there is no shortage of manufacturers applying for their quality awards. Their governments have been able to link their award programs to their national action agenda for improving productivity and competitiveness. It is very important for businesses to see that the Baldrige program is part of a larger program to create more jobs and increase the quality of life of all Americans.

Tell us more about how you believe the Baldrige Award helps build accountability of businesses to their customers and employees through performance measurement.

At the risk of oversimplification, first and foremost, the Baldrige Criteria require that senior leaders listen to their customers and formulate a strategy that addresses, among others, the needs and expectations of their customers. Second, the Baldrige Criteria require that that organizational strategy is translated into processes, that there is a sufficient, capable, and engaged workforce and a plan to flawlessly execute those processes, and that there is a performance measurement system that enables the leadership to track their collective success in achieving intended outcomes.

In short, the Baldrige Criteria encompass a total system of accountability that is applicable to a wide range of organizations. In fact, we’re using Baldrige in my university without calling it that—maybe when we’ve got all our processes lined up and results to show, we’ll apply for the California Awards for Performance Excellence and, eventually, the Baldrige Award.

At risk of sounding prescriptive, I recommend that all manufacturers have a balanced scorecard, which translates their visions of their future into goals and eventually strategic initiatives and action plans. The scorecard provides a foundation that enables senior leaders to adopt the Baldrige Criteria as a roadmap for sustainable performance excellence and, at the same time, guiding them to the appropriate tools and certification schemes (such as the ISO standards) that will help them address their opportunities for improvement.


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9 Responses to Better Than ISO? How Baldrige Benefits Manufacturers

  1. michael mayo-smith says:

    Very thoughtful comments, which provide a lot of insight into Baldrige vs. ISO.

  2. Voravuth Bill Chengsupanimit says:

    Dr. Calingo has reached a rock star status in our performance excellence community in Thailand. For 10+ years, he endowed upon us Baldrige principles, motivated and inspired thousands of Baldrige based assessors. It is not uncommon for PE practitioners in the education, healthcare, private, or public sector here to quote Dr. Calingo whenever there’s a need to emphasize or clarify issues. Another reason for thanking the Baldrige Program in sending one of your very best! Thank you Dr. Calingo.

    Bill Voravuth

    • Luis Calingo says:

      Khàwp khun krap, K. Voravuth. I am truly honored by your kind comments. Truly, if you’re expending energy on something that you love to do, that’s hardly work but passion. I am thankful for the opportunity to be of service and I look forward to seeing you next year.

  3. Edith M. Fuentes says:

    Dear Dr. Calingo, if I might say – In a short time that I have known you and have personally mingled with you, I am very impressed and humbled to know more and learn more about you. As an Educator and Administrator myself, Quality of Life and Service we give to others become a passion, then a goal. I specifically liked what you quoted from that guru, and if I may quote: “Work is expending effort on things we don’t want to do. Passion is expending energy on things we love to do. The goal is to do no work.” You are a genius, a visionary and an inspiration, Dr. Calingo. Nice to have met you!!! Edith

    • Luis Calingo says:

      Thank you very much, Edith. The source of that quote about work and passion is Simon Sinek, the author of Start with Why. You may view his TED talk at

  4. Vito Aberin says:

    The biggest challenge is how to get government leaders to embrace the Baldrige values and concepts. Because of their short tenures in office, they seldom think long-term. Once the administration changes, it is usually back to square one. Even in the USA, the government has given up support for the Baldrige. Isn’t it ironical? The originator of this much admired and globally-copied Quality Management System model just blinked! Now the US is at a standstill!

  5. Luis Calingo says:

    That’s an insightful analysis, Vito. Wasn’t it the late Konosuke Matsushita who announced a 100-year vision when he founded his company almost 100 years ago?

  6. Chona Sano says:

    I have always regarded the Baldrige criteria as “The Ultimate” quality model for an organization. I have worked in both big and small (healthcare) organizations in the US for the past 14 years and I can understand their challenges in using the criteria. Their primary focus is meeting regulatory requirements first and the rest is dependent on how much their leaders know about all these quality models/standards. Fortunately, as you mentioned, Dr. Calingo, these concepts are now being taught in schools as part of the curricula not just in business courses but in healthcare as well. The challenge is how to integrate these concepts into the organizations at a faster rate. And the even bigger challenge is how do you integrate these concepts into the regulatory requirements.
    It’s good to “meet” you again, Dr. Calingo. I was an auditor in the second cycle of the Philippine Quality Award and had the opportunity to be in your auditing class.

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