Judging Organizations for America’s Highest Award for Excellence

By Christine Schaefer

Fifteen organizations recently received site visits as part of the evaluation process for the 2016 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Those finalists had already proven they are relatively high-performing businesses, nonprofits, and education or health care organizations. First, even to establish their eligibility to apply for the Baldrige Award, most of the organizations earned top-tier awards for their performance through regional or state-level Baldrige-based programs. Second, the 15 organizations were selected to receive site visits by the panel of judges in August based on their scores in two earlier phases of the rigorous evaluation process for the annual Baldrige Award.

In early November, the 12 members of the 2016 Judges Panel for the Baldrige Award will meet to review the extensive information and data gathered by the 15 teams of Baldrige examiners who participated in this year’s site visits. Based on their deliberations during the private meeting, the judges will then recommend award recipients to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. The winning organizations will be revealed on November 15, 2016, through a public announcement from the Commerce Department.

For those interested in learning more about the judging process and the judges themselves, following is a list of links to 11 blogs that share exactly what goes on “behind the curtain,” consider the impacts of the awards, and profile individual judges on the 2016 panel.

“A Peek Behind the Curtain”

“What’s So Exciting about the Baldrige Awards”

“Baldrige Award Judges Panel: Interview with New Member Tammy Dye”


“Focus on the 2016 Judges Panel: Major General John C. Harris, Jr.”

“Focus on the [2016] Judges Panel: Dr. Ken Davis”

“Focus on the [2016] Judges Panel: Miriam Kmetzo”

“Focus on the [2016] Judges Panel: Dr. Greg Gibson”

“Focus on the [2016] Judges Panel: Dr. John C. Timmerman”

“Focus on the [2016] Judges Panel: Fonda Vera”

“Focus on the [2016] Judges Panel: Ken Schiller”

“Focus on the [2016] Judges Panel: Michael Dockery”

Baldrige Award crystal photo
The 2016 Baldrige Award recipients will be recognized for their achievements next April at an official ceremony in Baltimore, MD. The ceremony, traditionally attended by the President of the United States or a designee, will precede the Baldrige Program’s annual Quest for Excellence® Conference.

At that best-practice-sharing conference, the national role models will share with other organizations in every sector their Baldrige journey stories and their effective processes for addressing leadership, strategic planning, knowledge and data management, and all other categories of the Baldrige Excellence Framework.

Through such teaching and learning, the Baldrige Award recipients named next month will ultimately help strengthen the U.S. economy as a whole. And that is what some of us find most exciting about the Baldrige Awards!

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2 Responses to Judging Organizations for America’s Highest Award for Excellence

  1. Jim Nelson says:

    Where are the manufacturing organizations?

    Some interesting information in this Oct 2016 Journal for Quality & Participation article:

    Baldrige Manufacturing Study Results:

    What are you seeing in the State Program’s applications?

    • Christine Schaefer says:


      In response to your first question, I’m excerpting below for your consideration an expert observation and viewpoint from former Baldrige judge Roger Triplett (a VP at the manufacturer Eaton Corp.) in an interview we shared here last year (read the full interview at this URL: http://nistbaldrige.blogs.govdelivery.com/2015/08/04/focus-on-the-2015-judges-panel-judge-roger-triplett/):

      QUESTION: You have a great deal of experience in the business sector, particularly in manufacturing. How do you see the Baldrige Excellence Framework as valuable to organizations in that sector/industry?

      ANSWER: “Particularly for publicly held organizations in the United States, investors’ demands for quarter-to-quarter financial performance drives many such organizations to maintain a relatively short-term focus. At the same time, operationally focused performance-improvement initiatives or tools such as Six Sigma and Lean have become popular and important tools to help improve the cost side of the financial performance equation. These initiatives can be deployed with a relatively small investment and often generate measurable, beneficial results in a pretty short period of time. The relative ease of deployment and quick gratification provided by these tools has enhanced their traction in manufacturing businesses.

      These tools fit seamlessly within the bigger picture of the Baldrige Excellence Framework, which addresses performance excellence organization-wide and encourages a long-term view. The Baldrige framework enhances the overall sustainability of a manufacturing organization and, in doing so, protects the long-term interests of all stakeholders, including investors. Concepts that Baldrige “insiders” embrace, such as process integration, drive the efficient use of organizational resources; enhance the quality of product, process, and financial outcomes; and poise an organization to be more nimble and successful at navigating through frequent, significant, and often unexpected changes in markets, customer requirements, and the competitive environment.

      The “elephant in the room” question you haven’t asked is, “Why aren’t more manufacturing organizations pursuing Baldrige today?” In my opinion (and that’s all it is), there are a couple of factors. First is the focus on short-term performance I mentioned earlier. This is not an instant gratification process. It may be a cliché, but Baldrige is in fact a journey. It is a journey that requires some leadership vision to undertake and some courage to stick with until results appear. The degree of senior leadership churn that we see in some organizations may inhibit this demonstration of vision and courage.

      Second, to a degree that is not as significant in health care or education, manufacturing today is highly competitive and global. The global nature of markets and manufacturing capabilities along with the ease of communications and logistics has driven many manufacturers similar to our early Baldrige Award recipients to diversify and to establish a significant presence in numerous regions of the globe.

      The Baldrige Excellence Framework is still extremely valuable to these diversified, multinational organizations, but they may find distilling the “story” of their diverse and dispersed enterprise into a 50-page response to the [Baldrige] Criteria to be daunting (and yet still incomplete); as a consequence, we don’t see them pursuing the award. I think the Baldrige family could do a better job of articulating the Baldrige value equation for these manufacturing organizations.”

      As for state programs, you can see state-by-state data on our website on the following web page:


      Hope this info. helps!


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