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Baldrige FAQs: Applying for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award

We do not need an award to prove that we are a good organization, so why should we apply?

The real value in applying for this award is in the rigorous evaluation process.--Michael Levinson, city manager, Baldrige Award winner City of Coral Springs, Florida

The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award application and review process has been called "the best, most cost-effective and comprehensive business health audit you can get." Baldrige Award applicants and recipients report benefits from the application process itself and from the objective feedback they receive. They say that writing and submitting an application has helped improve alignment of plans and processes, communication, and workforce morale.

In addition, objective feedback, especially from external sources, is both valuable and essential to success, according to organizations that are committed to performance improvement. Every applicant for the Baldrige Award receives an extensive feedback report highlighting strengths and opportunities for improvement, based on an independent assessment completed by recognized experts. Organizations often use their feedback reports in their strategic planning processes to focus on their customers and improve results, as well as to help energize and guide their organizational improvement efforts. In addition, award applicants and recipients have seen improved results after applying for the Baldrige Award.

If you decide that writing a Baldrige Award application is not the best way for your organization to improve, you might consider a Baldrige Collaborative Assessment, perhaps in conjunction with services from or a more limited application to your state or local program.

Is the feedback you receive really worth the investment of time and money?

Is it worth the years of hard work and effort? Unquestionably YES. We have seen our profits increase, employee satisfaction go up, and we have achieved sustainable, managed growth.—Robert F. Pence, president and CEO, Baldrige Award winner Freese and Nichols, Inc.

Yes, if the knowledge is used to improve. Organizations that are committed to performance improvement place a high value on objective feedback from a knowledgeable source. Many organizations that apply for the award already do self-assessments. Such organizations are in the best position to get maximum value from a Baldrige assessment. Organizations that are just beginning their journeys might experience an increase in commitment because of feedback, and those just thinking about starting that journey might be challenged by their feedback to proceed.

Results with Baldrige and Award recipient profiles show some of the results organizations have achieved through Baldrige.

How much does it cost to apply for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award?

Applicants in 2015 pay a nonrefundable eligibility filing fee of $360 as well as an application fee that varies by the organization’s size and sector. (An additional processing fee of $1,250 is required for applications submitted on CD.)

Applicants receiving site visits pay additional fees. The amount depends on a number of factors, including the number of sites visited, the number of Baldrige examiners assigned, and the duration of the visit.

How do I know if my organization is eligible to apply for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award?

To be eligible, your organization must be headquartered in the United States and must have existed for one year. The operational practices associated with all of your major organizational functions must be available for examination in the United States or its territories. Your organization must also be able to share information on the seven Criteria for Performance Excellence categories at your U.S. facilities and at the Quest for Excellence® Conference.

Additional eligibility conditions established in 2012 focus organizations on first achieving readiness for the national Baldrige Award through early, "local" or industry-based reviews. Typically, unless 25% of your organization’s workforce is located outside its home state, your organization must first win a top-level award from a program that is a member of the Alliance for Performance Excellence, a network of Baldrige-based state, local, regional, and industry award programs that serves as a feeder system for the national Baldrige Award. An exception to that eligibility rule was made in 2014: an organization showing a high level of maturity and superior performance metrics could apply for a waiver of the standard requirement of first achieving a top-level award sanctioned by the Alliance for Performance Excellence.

Other exceptions allow your organization to continue applying for the Baldrige Award based on level of achievement during previous award cycles, make prior Baldrige Award recipients qualified to reapply after five years no matter what new or revised eligibility requirements are established, and base the eligibility of an organizational subunit (such as an individual business unit within a larger manufacturing company) solely on its ability to respond to the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence rather than its size or the percentage of external customers its serves.

How long does it take to apply for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award?

The effort of applying for the Baldrige Award will depend on a variety of factors, including how much of the necessary data and other information your organization has on hand. First-time applicants report that it took them an average of 100 hours for their initial response, which included reviewing instructions and writing the application.

Do you need a consultant for the application process in order to win?

No. Many applicants have gone outside their organizations before applying for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award to get objective assessments or to test their own self-assessments. For example, organizations can participate in a state or local Baldrige-based award program. Some have also hired consultants to help them prepare their award applications, but doing so is certainly not a requirement and not all applicants do so. Some have also been able to establish close relationships with prior award recipients, who repeatedly say that the goal should not be to win, however gratifying that may be. Rather, all applicants are winners because they learn so much by applying.

While I would value the feedback, why would I want to put in the work that is required for a site visit?

We . . . wrote the application and we experienced the very intensive examiner site survey . . . because we felt it would make us a better organization.--David Fox, president, Baldrige Award winner Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital

Applicants report that the benefits of a site visit outweigh the costs. They usually desire a site visit because scoring high enough to be selected is a considerable accomplishment, even though a site visit requires the attention of many people in applicant organizations. Applicants that receive a site visit are also delighted because a site visit has an electrifying effect on the organization, increasing workforce morale and commitment to improvement. In addition, a site visit gives the applicant an opportunity to clarify what it wrote in the application, which ultimately makes for a better feedback report. Of course, an applicant can decline to host a site visit, even if it achieves that level in the evaluation process.