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Baldrige Criteria: Thirty Years of Evolution = Revolutionary Change

Alternate Text Version

The Baldrige Criteria Thirty Years of Evolution=Revolutionary Change infographic comparing the Overview (1988, 1992, 1997 and 2019) , the Core Values and Concept (1992 and 2019), the Item Listings (1988, 2002 and 2019) and the Criteria Evolution Key Dates
Credit: Andrew Krasovitckii/Shutterstock

From Thirty Years of Evolution = Revolutionary Change by Harry Hertz “The Baldrige Cheermudgeon”

The Baldrige Criteria Overview

There have been four major iterations of the framework diagram. (Infographic compares the four major changes in 1988, 1992, 1997 and 2015.)

Perhaps the most profound change in the Baldrige Program occurred at the time of the transition from the second framework diagram to the third. That was the time when the focus on overall organizational performance excellence and a systems approach to that overall performance took hold. That basic framework diagram change was made in 1997, ten years after the start of the Baldrige Program. It was actually slightly modified again in 2001, with the umbrella over the diagram changing to the Organizational Profile, indicating the clear role the Profile plays as an overarching context for the organization’s performance management system. In 1997, Results also became a separate Baldrige Criteria category, emphasizing (with 450 out of 1,000 points of the evaluation scoring system) that having a process without achieving commensurate results was meaningless.

The current framework diagram has three significant changes: (1) the Organizational Profile is now shown as the background “color” for the whole framework, indicating the pervasive nature of your operating environment, relationships, and strategic situation as influencing everything you do as an organization; (2) the word integration is now part of the framework, indicating the holistic, and interrelated nature of the Baldrige Criteria categories and questions; and (3) the Core Values and Concepts are now part of the framework, indicating their foundational nature in a performance management system as values embedded in high-performing organizations. 

Core Values and Concepts

While the Core Values and Concepts were not articulated in the first Baldrige Criteria in 1988, they were as much a part of those criteria as they were in 1992, when the core values were specified for the first time.

(Infographic shows the initial core values and concepts in 1992 and the 2019.)


  • Customer-driven quality
  • Leadership
  • Continuous improvement
  • Full participation
  • Fast response
  • Design quality and prevention
  • Long-range outlook
  • Management by fact
  • Partnership development
  • Public responsibility


  • Systems perspective
  • Visionary leadership
  • Customer-focused excellence
  • Valuing people
  • Organizational learning and agility
  • Focus on success
  • Managing for innovation
  • Management by fact
  • Societal contributions
  • Ethics and transparency
  • Delivering value and results

While there isn’t a one-to-one correspondence between the 1992 and 2019 versions, there is a lot of overlap, with a few notable changes that reflect the evolution of our understanding, and the changing nature, of organizational performance excellence. A Systems Perspective was not present in the initial core values. As the criteria became more holistic and we simultaneously realized that organizations had to be viewed like living organisms with interdependent parts, the systems perspective became a bedrock core concept of the criteria. While Full Participation in 1992 focused on all employees participating in the work of the organization, it did not encompass the full meaning of today’s Valuing People, which recognizes the workforce as the internal customer. Valuing People also recognizes external customers, community members, and other people who are important to the organization. Continuous Improvement evolved to Organizational Learning and Agility, a broader concept that recognizes the importance of an organization’s knowledge base and its use with external data to drive learning and strategic agility. Public Responsibility evolved to the more explicit values of Societal Contributions and Ethics and Transparency. This change reflects the larger role high-performing organizations today have in contributing to their various communities both because they value being good citizens of those communities and because such contributions make good “business” sense. The explicit statement of Ethics and Transparency as a core value was made real by breaches that we collectively observed in our business community. Finally, Delivering Value and Results paralleled the introduction of Results as a separate criteria category, recognizing that an organization must deliver value to all its key stakeholders in order to continue to thrive.

Criteria Item Listings

Originally a set of statements, the Baldrige Criteria became a set of questions in 1999, recognizing that leaders guided an organization’s performance management and that the criteria questions should guide you by asking how you accomplish your mission, how you plan for the future, and what your results are.

(Infographic shows a listing of criteria item titles from 1988, 2002, and 2019.)

The following observations are apparent when you consider these titles and what they mean to your organization.

  1. The number of items has been reduced from 42 to 17 (plus two for the Organizational Profile). This reflects a better understanding of critical components of an organizational performance management system. The change also demonstrates the evolution of the Baldrige Criteria as a resource for quality assurance to process quality to overall organizational performance management.
  2. The Organizational Profile, not in the 1988 criteria, now serves as “category 0” of the criteria, with the purpose of setting the organizational context that provides the basis for your answers to all the remaining questions in the criteria. For many organizations, addressing the questions in this profile serves as a first Baldrige self-assessment, in which organizations learn and define all aspects of their operating environment.
  3. The early focus on data analysis and information generation has evolved to a focus on measurement, analysis, and improvement of all aspects of organizational performance. Management of information and information systems, and the management, sharing, and building of organizational knowledge are now vital components of organizational strength and differentiation.
  4. The focus on strategic quality planning has been replaced by a focus on organizational strategic planning as the criteria have evolved from a focus on product and process quality to a focus on overall organizational excellence.
  5. Human resource utilization, with a component of employee quality training, has evolved to a workforce focus, with recognition that the people in the organization are valued as internal customers who deliver the products and services that engage the end customer. This focus must consider all aspects of the workforce environment and workforce engagement, particularly development of a healthy organizational culture, career development for employees, and appropriate recognition systems.
  6. A focus on product and process quality and auditing of suppliers has evolved to a focus on all key work processes and overall operational effectiveness, including process effectiveness and efficiency, security and cybersecurity, safety, and emergency preparedness.
  7. The initial emphasis on individual quality improvement activities has evolved to consider cycles of evaluation and improvement and, currently, the overall organizational performance improvement system and innovation.
  8. The early focus on customer satisfaction has evolved to focus on customer expectations, customer engagement, and customer loyalty, including a strategic focus on market environments.
  9. Scoring in the 1988 criteria was largely driven by an organization’s process improvement. By 2002, a clear focus on all aspects of organizational performance results was articulated by the addition of the Business Results category, with 450 points allocated for this category out of the total of 1,000 points in the Baldrige Scoring System. More recently, including in 2019, the Results category has an added emphasis on leadership, governance, and strategy results.

The evolution of the criteria has always been driven by the mantra that  the criteria reflect the leading edge of validated leadership and performance practice.

Criteria Evolution Key Dates

1995: Strategic quality planning → strategic planning

2001: Organizational Profile added

2003: Dual purpose: “running the business” & “changing the business”; linkages among categories enhanced

2004: Approach, Deployment, Learning, Integration (ADLI) introduced

2005: Strategic challenges added; leadership category expanded; leadership effectiveness results added

2007: Questions on strategic advantages, strategic opportunities, workforce capability/capacity, work systems, work processes, core competencies added

2008: Levels, Trends, Comparisons, Integration (LeTCI) introduced

2009: Customer engagement introduced; questions on management of information technology/systems added; societal responsibility incorporated as cross-cutting

2011: Innovation incorporated as cross-cutting; intelligent risks & social media questions introduced

2015: Big data/data analytics introduced; organizational change management embedded

2017: Cybersecurity & enterprise risk management focus enhanced

2019: Ecosystems introduced



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Created September 24, 2019, Updated November 15, 2019