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Baldrige Frequently Asked Questions

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program

What is the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program?

The Baldrige Program is the only public-private partnership and Presidential award and education program dedicated to improving U.S. organizations. Congress established the Baldrige Program in 1987 to recognize U.S. companies for their achievements in quality and business performance and to raise awareness about the importance of quality and performance excellence in gaining a competitive edge.

In carrying out its mission to improve the competitiveness and performance of U.S. organizations, the Baldrige Program

The Baldrige Program is managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. It is funded by product and service fees and by a gift to the Department of Commerce from the Foundation for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Who are the Baldrige Program's private-sector partners?

The Foundation for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award’s main objective is to raise funds to permanently endow the award program.

The Alliance for Performance Excellence is a nonprofit national network of local, state, and regional Baldrige-based programs working with organizations from all industry sectors. Alliance member programs serve as a feeder system for the national Baldrige Award.

ASQ is a nonprofit professional association with members in the United States and around the world. It assists in administering the award program under contract to NIST.

The Board of Examiners evaluates organizations and prepares feedback reports. The Judges’ Panel, part of the Board of Examiners, makes award recommendations to the director of NIST.

The Board of Overseers advises the Department of Commerce and the Baldrige Program. Overseers, who are leaders from all sectors of the U.S. economy, are appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

Baldrige Award recipients share information on their successful performance strategies with other U.S. organizations.

Why did Congress select NIST to manage the Baldrige Program?

NIST is a nonregulatory federal agency of the Department of Commerce. Its primary mission is to advance measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve the quality of life. Congress selected NIST to design and manage the Baldrige Program because of its role in helping U.S. companies compete, its world-renowned expertise in quality and measurement, and its reputation as an impartial third party.

What are the effects of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program?

The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the Baldrige Award recipients constitute the most visible aspects of the Baldrige Program. In addition, the Baldrige Program’s enabling legislation designates it as an outreach and education program with the mission of encouraging performance excellence in all U.S. organizations.

The 102 Baldrige Award winners (including 7 two-time winners) serve as national role models for U.S. organizations. For these two-time role models, median growth in revenue was 92%, and median growth in jobs was 63%. By comparison, according to statistics from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average growth in jobs was 3.5% for a matched set of industries and time periods for each recipient.

The 2010–2015 Baldrige Award applicants represent 567,434 jobs, 2,665 work locations, over $142 billion in revenues/budgets, and more than 449 million customers served. The value of the services volunteered by the 349 Baldrige examiners in 2015 is estimated at $5.3 million. In addition, state Baldrige-based examiners volunteered about $30 million in services in 2015.

The Baldrige Program’s impacts extend far beyond the Baldrige Award winners. In Building on Baldrige: American Quality for the 21st Century, the private Council on Competitiveness said, "More than any other program, the Baldrige Award is responsible for making quality a national priority and disseminating best practices across the United States."

The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) also released a report, Better Health Care and Lower Costs: Accelerating Improvement through Systems Engineering, that calls out Baldrige as an opportunity "for raising awareness of performance excellence" in U.S. health care.

Similarly, in a panel hearing before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Rulon Stacey, chair of the Board of Overseers, spoke of the value of the Baldrige approach to performance improvement. "We are fortunate in the United States to have the world’s finest process to address issues [of increasing access to services and quality in light of limited resources]: The Malcolm Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. . . . The program initially revolutionized manufacturing in the United States, and it is now having the same effect on health care."

The ratio of the Baldrige Program’s benefits for the U.S. economy to its costs was estimated at 820 to 1 in a December 2011 study by Albert N. Link and John T. Scott. Previously, their October 2001 study had conservatively estimated the net private benefits associated with the program to the economy as a whole at $24.65 billion. When compared to the social costs of the program of $119 million, the Baldrige Program’s social benefit-to-cost ratio was then 207 to 1.

Globally, the Baldrige Criteria serve as the model for most of the approximately 100 performance excellence frameworks used by performance or business excellence programs around the world. They are also used by colleges and universities, associations, state and regional performance excellence programs, company-specific programs, government programs, accreditation organizations, and other community and private organizations.

An example of a global organization using the Criteria for improvement is the Tata Group. "Making an Elephant Dance" explains how the Indian company increased profits from $4 billion in 1991 to $103 billion in 2014 through implementation of the Baldrige Criteria.

The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award

Who was Malcolm Baldrige?

A proponent of quality management as a key to U.S. prosperity and long-term strength, Malcolm Baldrige was Secretary of Commerce from 1981 until his death in a rodeo accident in July 1987. In recognition of his contributions, Congress named the Baldrige Award and Baldrige Program in his honor.

What is the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award?

To compete and win in the international arena, U.S. companies are simply going to have to offer products and services that are world-class. That is the purpose behind this award, and it is a national purpose.—President George H. W. Bush

A presidential award, the Baldrige Award is the highest level of national recognition for performance excellence that a U.S. organization can receive. Congress established the Baldrige Program in 1987 to recognize U.S. manufacturing, service, and small business organizations for their achievements in quality and business performance and to raise awareness about the importance of quality and performance excellence in gaining a competitive edge. Congress expanded eligibility to education and health care organizations in 1999 and to nonprofit organizations, including government agencies, in 2007.

To receive the Baldrige Award, an organization must have a role-model organizational management system that ensures continuous improvement in the delivery of products and/or services, demonstrates efficient and effective operations, and provides a way of engaging and responding to customers and other stakeholders. The award is not given for specific products or services.

A total of 18 awards may be given annually across the six categories—manufacturing, service, small business, education, health care, and nonprofit. Within the overall limit of 18, there is no limit on awards in individual categories.

Why was the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award established?

In the early and mid-1980s, many industry and government leaders saw that a renewed emphasis on quality was no longer an option but rather a necessity for American companies doing business in an ever-expanding and more demanding competitive world market. The Baldrige Award was established to promote the awareness of performance excellence as an important element in competitiveness and was envisioned as a standard of excellence that would help U.S. companies achieve world-class quality. From the outset, Congress anticipated how applicable the Baldrige concepts would be for organizations beyond the business sector, and it since has expanded the award to include the education, health care, and nonprofit (including government) sectors.

How many organizations have applied for the Baldrige Award? 

As of 2015, more than 1,600 applications have been submitted for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. From 1988 to 2015, the annual number of applications varied from a low of 22 to a high of 106. In 2012, the Baldrige Program changed eligibility rules to encourage organizations that are in the early stages of their improvement journeys to first apply for a state, regional, local, or industry-based award offered by an Alliance for Performance Excellence member program. As a result, the number of national program applications reverted to the targeted level of 39 in 2012, with no loss in the quality of the applicants: the number of applicants meriting site visits and winning the award was comparable to those in past years. Alliance for Performance Excellence programs received 1,210 applications in 2014, compared with 966 in 2006.

How can an applicant win a state award and be turned down for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award? Are state awards less stringent?

Many state programs offer different levels of recognition for their applicants—and may ask applicants to respond to only selected items in the Criteria for Performance Excellence, depending on the level of recognition for which the organization applies. The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award is given to organizations recognized as role models at the national level. As the population of potential role-model organizations increases, the level of performance required for world-class organizations may increase accordingly.

Is the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award a U.S. version of Japan’s Deming Prize?

While both awards focus on quality and performance improvement, the Baldrige Award focuses on an organization’s overall competitiveness. In contrast to Japan’s Deming Prize, the Baldrige Award

  • focuses more on results and service
  • relies on the involvement and insight of professionals representing many different professions, sectors, and groups
  • focuses on strategy for the future
  • includes a strong focus on customers and the workforce
  • stresses the importance of sharing information

An award that more closely resembles the Baldrige Award is the Japan Quality Award. In fact, the Japan Quality Award, Baldrige Program, and other international quality award programs, called the GEM (Global Excellence Model) Council, meet annually to benchmark each other, work on common concerns, and guide future development.