Baldrige Performance Excellence Program

More than just an award

Ryan E. Day

April 19, 2019

If you have worked in the quality field for anytime at all, you have probably heard of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award—it’s the highest level of national recognition for performance excellence that a U.S. organization can receive. The award focuses on performance in five key areas and it is not easy to achieve the Baldrige award.

The current criteria are very thorough, and implementation is all-encompassing. As you might imagine, the audit is also very thorough. Now, when most people hear, “Baldrige program,” what they think of is, “Baldrige award.” But there's a lot more to the Baldrige Program and it goes way beyond just the award.

“We are just about ready to celebrate our 2018 Baldrige award recipients in a couple weeks,” says Robert Fangmeyer, Director of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. “On April 7, 2019, we will have our annual awards ceremony, the 31st award ceremony for the Baldrige award, and we will be honoring five organizations from four different sectors. That will be followed by our quest for excellence conference which runs from Monday to Wednesday.”

Historically, most recipients of the Baldrige award were in the manufacturing sector. Although 2018 award winners do include one small business and one nonprofit, quite a few recent recipients have come from the fields of health care and education.

“Small business has certainly been fairly active in Baldrige over the last 25 years or so, but manufacturing used to be the biggest category for the award,” muses Fangmeyer. “The one thing though that the application numbers and the recipient numbers don't show is the number of organizations that use the Baldrige framework and our criteria as a leadership and management guide to help them improve their performance and ensure their long-term sustainability. There are many organizations that engage with the program with no intention of applying for the award and we do know that there are a number of manufacturing organizations that are in that category. However, I do think that the move towards healthcare applicants certainly has been very strong and beneficial for the nation.”

Beneficial or not, the Baldrige program lost its funding in 2012 government budget cuts. In a somewhat heroic fashion, the Baldrige organization proved the value of its tenets by applying them to their own situation.

“Back in 2012 we lost our federal funding, which was 90 percent of our budget,” explains Fangmeyer. “We had to very rapidly figure out how to survive and sustain this program on far, far less revenues and funds than we had before. We had to go through a process of radically streamlining our key work processes, all our operations, and our staffing. At the same, we were designing, piloting, and implementing new offerings that would provide more and better products and services to our customers so we could increase revenues and sustain the program.”

Check out the full Quality Digest Live April 19, 2019 interview on our Quality Digest Live Podcast.

About The Author

Ryan E. Day’s picture

Ryan E. Day

Ryan E. Day is Quality Digest’s senior editor for solution-based reporting, which brings together those seeking business improvement solutions and solution providers. Day has spent the last decade researching and interviewing top business leaders and continuous improvement experts at companies like Sakor, Ford, Merchandize Liquidators, Olympus, 3D Systems, Hexagon, Intertek, InfinityQS, Johnson Controls, FARO, and Eckel Industries. Most of his reporting is done with the help of his 20-lb tabby cat at his side.