Sunday, August 20, 2017, was the 30th anniversary of the signing of Public Law 100-107, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Improvement Act. This legislation established what is one of the most, if not the most, effective and heavily leveraged public-private partnerships in the United States.
The most important concept here is “partnership”—or perhaps “community” says it better. Below, I’ll explain some of what the partnership has accomplished over the years, but the first thing to recognize is that none of it would have been possible without the incredible support of the many members of the Baldrige community:
- the amazing volunteer examiners, judges, and overseers
- the Alliance for Performance Excellence member programs serving organizations in all the U.S. states
- the Baldrige consultant community, which helps so many organizations learn and improve
- ASQ and the Baldrige Foundation, which have supported the Baldrige Program for nearly 30 years
- the Baldrige staff, a true team dedicated to the program and its purpose
- and of course, the thousands of individuals and organizations committed to pursuing and promoting performance excellence
I am humbled and proud to be part of the unique, vast community of public- and private-sector organizations and individuals that have participated in the Baldrige Award process or otherwise supported organizational improvement using the Baldrige framework. The passion for innovation and excellence demonstrated by the diverse members of this public-private partnership binds and inspires us all.
I also want to acknowledge the many outstanding leaders who have brought their organizations down the path to performance excellence by adopting the Baldrige Excellence Framework. It takes tremendous humility and courage to open yourself and your organization to a rigorous Baldrige evaluation, whether it is performed internally or by trained Baldrige examiners. These leaders exemplify the Core Values and Concepts found in the Baldrige framework:
- They put people first (employees, customers, partners, and other stakeholders).
- They embody ethics and transparency, and focus on success, mission accomplishment, and creating value.
- They and their organizations utilize data and information in decision making to continuously learn and improve, and to enable innovation.
In short, they are committed to achieving excellence for themselves, their organizations, and those they serve.
Thursday, August 20, 1987 President Reagan signs the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Improvement Act in honor of “Mac” Baldrige, the late Secretary of Commerce, who I believe also embodied those same qualities.
Intended to help improve our national competitiveness in a global economy, the Baldrige Program—managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and funded through fees earned and financial support from the Baldrige Foundation—was initially tasked with encouraging and enabling businesses to improve the quality of their products and services, something sorely needed by the mid-eighties. We would accomplish this daunting task through a three-fold mission:
- Establish a nationally recognized and accepted standard of quality and performance excellence (the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence)
- Manage a Presidential recognition for role-model organizations that perform very well against that standard (the Baldrige Award)
- Foster the understanding and use of that standard and share the best practices from role-model organizations to improve performance and competitiveness broadly (an array of resources and services)
What has the partnership accomplished over the past 30 years?
- Evolution of the framework and Criteria to address the changing drivers of long-term success and sustainability for businesses of all kinds
- Expansion to address the needs of health care, education, and government/nonprofits—and more recently to help address critical needs in cybersecurity and improve communities across the nation
- Improvement in hundreds of thousands of organizations in all sectors in business performance and in the quality, costs, and outcomes of health care, education, and nonprofit organizations
- Millions of downloads and hundreds of thousands of hard copies of the Baldrige Criteria distributed
- Dozens of state, regional, and international programs modeled after Baldrige, helping to spread excellence across the nation and the world
- Tens of thousands of examiners trained in the use of the Criteria and Baldrige evaluation process
- Nearly 1,700 applications for the Baldrige Award and tens of thousands of applications to state, regional, and sector-specific programs
- 113 Baldrige Awards earned by 31 large manufacturers, 26 small businesses, 22 health care organizations, 16 large service organizations, 11 education organizations, and 7 nonprofits
- Over 55,000 presentations by award recipients on their best practices
While all of this is very impressive, if you drill down from this 30,000-foot level, you see that engaging in the Baldrige process does much more than help organizations achieve their goals. It literally improves the lives of hundreds of millions of employees, customers, patients, students, and community members. Jobs are created, saved, and improved; customers and community members receive better products and services for lower costs; patients receive better care with a better patient experience at a lower cost; and more students of all kinds graduate, receive a better education, and enhanced opportunities for their future.
My deepest thanks and appreciation to all who have contributed to improving our nation through their involvement with the Baldrige Program and our extended community over the past 30 years!