Baldrige: Answering the Call for Competitiveness

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

The U.S. Council on Competitiveness recently released its 30th annual report—self-described as a “clarion call” for the 45th president of the United States. The nonpartisan council is composed of corporate CEOs, university presidents, labor leaders, and national laboratory directors “committed to advancing U.S. competitiveness in the global economy and a rising standard of living for all Americans.”

According to the report, “For 30 years, the Council has emphasized that increasing innovation-driven productivity is the key to achieving . . . economic growth. The 2016 Clarion Call is a road map to drive productivity, revive growth and generate the good-paying jobs America needs.”

The original 1986 U.S. Council on Competitiveness report was a major influence on creation/passage of Public Law 100-107, which created the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (signed into law on August 20, 1987; I noted that in a 25th-anniversary piece on how the Baldrige Program began as a unique public/private partnership).

Here’s where, I think, Public Law 100-107 and the Baldrige Program, Award, and resources come in. Through the Baldrige Award, the U.S. government has recognized role-model organizations across all sectors of the U.S. economy. And these role-model organizations excel through systematic processes that have resulted in industry-best product, process, health care, student learning, customer, workforce, leadership, governance, and/or financial and market results. These organizations have proven efficiency and productivity, having their Baldrige Award applications receive more than 1,000 hours of trained examiner review, including a site visit review; receive several hours of judges’ review; and be the basis of their selection as award recipients by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

One primary focus in this new report is on health care, an area where the Baldrige Award has seen increased applications. “A study produced by Gallup and the Council suggests that improving efficiency in sectors like healthcare, housing and education could pay large dividends in the form of U.S. growth,” reads the report. “Public and consumer spending for these purposes have grown over the past several decades without clear relative improvements in quality. Making these sectors more productive would enable greater public investment and private consumption for other priorities.”

Cybersecurity, an area of emphasis both for the U.S. government and specifically for the Baldrige Program through its Baldrige Cybersecurity Excellence Builder, is also given prime real estate in the report. “As data and intellectual assets become increasingly valuable, firms also need to renew their commitment to best practices in cybersecurity and elevate the issue to their C-suites and boardrooms. Cybersecurity should be viewed as a business enabler rather than a technology expense. An effort by more senior U.S. corporate leaders to close their firm’s gaps between best practices and execution would make a significant impact.” It should be noted that the Baldrige cybersecurity initiative has multiple phases, including a future phase that may include best practices.

A third emphasis in the report is education, another area where the Baldrige Award has seen role models and continues to learn of high engagement in all areas of education, from K-12 public schools to charter schools to higher education. (In fact, in 2013, the founder of Baldrige Award recipient MidwayUSA and his wife offered $1 million dollars to the first Missouri school district to win the national Baldrige Award.) According to the report, “American higher education also is pursuing new ways to teach entrepreneurship, enable innovation, and prepare students to prosper.”

Although the Baldrige Program cannot publicize organizations who use Baldrige resources but have not yet received the award, many organizations are using the 2017-2018 Baldrige Excellence Framework and feedback from Baldrige examiners to improve efficiency and productivity and to drive innovation. Many consider the Baldrige framework itself as the roadmap to continuous improvement and success now and in the future.

How do you think the Baldrige framework, feedback reports, and other resources can help answer the clarion call to more competitive and sustainable U.S. organizations?

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