The Baldrige Program’s purpose and mission have always been to improve the performance and long-term success of businesses and other organizations by (1) recognizing role models with the Baldrige Award and (2) fostering the adoption of proven leadership, management, and operational practices. Since the program was created in 1987, those practices needed to ensure long-term success have evolved significantly. The 2024 Baldrige Award process reflects that major shift in focus while still being true to the 1987 legislation focused on quality and improvement of U.S. businesses.
The increasing frequency of regional, national, and global disruptions puts the health, education, and economic vitality of communities across the nation at risk, impacting our economy and national security. Our nation needs organizations that can achieve and sustain high performance over time and through various disruptions––be they technological, geopolitical, environmental, or market-based. Building on the Baldrige Program’s legacy of quality and performance excellence, the Baldrige Award will recognize role models of resilience and long-term success—organizations that are ready and able to adapt, innovate, and thrive in an ever-changing, dynamic environment.
The award criteria, application, and evaluation process are being streamlined to focus on identifying role models rather than providing a complete organization-wide assessment against every question in the Baldrige Excellence Framework.
For the first time, participating organizations that advance to the site visit phase of the award process will be officially designated as “finalists” for the award. In addition, site-visited organizations will be eligible for special recognition for having significant impact in an area of importance to their organizations, their key stakeholders, and/or the nation. Recognitions may include reshoring high-quality jobs; improving the overall well-being of their workforce; strengthening the resilience of their supply chain; or enhancing the economic vitality, health, and/or education of underserved populations in their communities.
Starting in 2024, we will leverage certain existing industry recognitions as part of a pre-screening process that will “fast-track” some high-performing organizations directly to the site visit phase. To date, we have identified two such recognitions that have the necessary breadth, depth, rigor, and alignment to the Baldrige Award criteria: Drucker Institute’s Company Rankings and JUST Capital’s Company Rankings; however, note that decisions on which recognitions to consider are ongoing and subject to change. Others will be considered in the future.
An organization’s ability to be resilient and successful in the long term depends on excellence in many areas of its performance.
The award process is focused on role-model determination, not necessarily organizational development/improvement, though this is still the focus of the Baldrige Excellence Framework and its Criteria for Performance Excellence. This change reflects the separation of these objectives. Sharing and promoting the nation’s role-model organizations is aligned with the Baldrige Program’s mission and goals to improve the competitiveness and performance of U.S. organizations for the benefit of all U.S. residents and to provide global leadership in the learning and sharing of successful strategies and performance practices, principles, and methodologies.
Streamlining the award criteria, application, and evaluation process will make it much easier for award applicant organizations to prepare an application and participate in the award process. It should be noted that ease of participation does not mean it will be easy to win the award. Achieving role-model levels of performance should never be easy.
Earning the Baldrige Award and being recognized as a national role model has always had a positive impact on brand reputation and has been considered a major accomplishment. Now, the potential to be recognized as a “finalist” for the award, along with special recognition for having impact in areas of importance to the organization or the nation, all at a significantly lower investment of time and effort, creates substantially more value for participating organizations. In addition, many organizations find value in having a positive impact on the nation through sharing their best practices, thereby helping improve the performance and outcomes across every sector of the economy.
The streamlined award criteria, application, and evaluation process will result in substantial reduction in the time and effort it will take for examiners to complete their individual reviews, and for the examiner team to reach consensus and complete a site visit review.
One of the goals of the redesigned process is to ensure appropriate balance between streamlining and protecting the rigor and integrity of the process. To help ensure the quality and consistency of the evaluations, the Baldrige Program will provide “standard work” tools that will facilitate and guide examiners through their evaluations, from application reviews through site visits.
Examiner recruitment and selection are expected to kick-off in late 2023 or early 2024. All examiners will be required to successfully complete the training program that will include online modules and interactive sessions designed to develop knowledge of the new criteria, skill in the use of the revised evaluation rubric, and familiarity with the standard work tools.
Increasing awareness, interest, and participation in Baldrige at the national level will automatically create more awareness, interest, and participation in the state, regional, and sector-specific programs.
Alliance programs generally serve organizations that are striving to improve their performance, earn recognition as they progress along their improvement journeys, and ultimately achieve the levels of performance necessary to compete for the national award. That will not change. Alliance programs will continue to play a critical role in helping organizations get to that level. However, it is possible that in the future the specifics of the evaluation and recognition offerings could change to ensure alignment to the national award while providing the most appropriate assessment for organizations at varying levels of performance maturity.
“Communities” was authorized by Congress as a Baldrige Award category in August 2022. The Baldrige Program’s authorization to recognize communities of excellence creates an opportunity to create and leverage connections to NIST’s work related to “smart cities,” supply-chain resilience, and community resilience. NIST's community resilience initiative recently recognized the inverse connection that resilient communities require resilient organizations. Organizational resilience depends on a robust/resilient ecosystem, which is why the Baldrige Program has been integrating communities of excellence.
The next revision of the Baldrige framework (including the health care and education versions) is planned for release in 2025. As needed, revisions will incorporate changes to simplify, streamline, and improve its ease of use; updates related to an additional focus on resilience; and other revisions to reflect the leading edge of validated leadership and performance practices. Using the full set of Criteria questions in the framework to focus on improvement and strive for excellence will continue to be valuable for an organization’s efforts toward achieving role-model levels of performance.
For the first time, the award criteria will not be identical to the Criteria for Performance Excellence® found in the framework. The award criteria will be a narrowed set of questions that address organizational resilience and long-term success derived from the content and concepts found in the framework.