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Improvement Tools

The Baldrige Excellence Framework and Baldrige Criteria, Lean, ISO, Six Sigma … how do you know which performance improvement tools are right for your organization?

These improvement tools are complementary, not mutually exclusive. For example, Baldrige, Lean, and Six Sigma all

  • focus on results

  • use a team approach

  • require management by fact

  • are customer- and market-focused

  • require strong leadership for  long-term effectiveness

These tools also share the concept of continuous improvement. The Baldrige Criteria help you identify areas within your organization that are most ripe for improvement, and continuous improvement is an integral part of the cyclical steps of Lean and Six Sigma. For example, in a Lean environment, you work continuously to identify and eliminate waste-generating processes. In the control stage of a Six Sigma project, you generate and monitor data continuously to identify needs for further improvement.

Here’s one difference: the Baldrige Criteria serve as a comprehensive framework for performance excellence. They focus on business results as well as organizational improvement and innovation systems. Lean and Six Sigma methodologies drive waste and inefficiencies out of processes, and ISO 9000 is a series of standards for an efficient quality conformance system. Overall, ISO 9000 registration covers less than 10 percent of the Baldrige Criteria.

Integrating the Baldrige Criteria and Other Improvement Tools

Any organization—no matter its sector or size— can use the Baldrige Criteria as a roadmap for performance excellence. In fact, many organizations begin their improvement efforts by using the Criteria for self-assessment. Through the Baldrige Criteria, you pinpoint strengths and opportunities for improvement, but the Criteria allow you to choose the most suitable tools for carrying out improvements. For example, you might

  • use Baldrige to develop an overall performance map, identify areas for improvement, and track results

  • use Six Sigma, Lean, or other tools to design operations or improve processes


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“What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing." —Aristotle


The Baldrige Framework

“While other approaches focus on a single aspect, such as leadership or process management, the Baldrige Criteria provide an integrated management framework that addresses all the factors that define an organization’s operations and results. And the process is compatible with Lean and Six Sigma strategies as well as ISO 9000. ”

—Robert W. Galvin, Chairman, Motorola Commercial, Government & Industrial Solutions Sector, 2002 Award recipient


Baldrige Customer Service:
301.975.2036 Telephone
301.948.3716 Fax
baldrige@nist.gov Email

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