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.
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.