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Baldrige FAQs: The Baldrige Criteria; ISO 9001, 9004:2009

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Is Baldrige the same as ISO?

The purpose, content, and focus of the Baldrige Excellence Framework and ISO 9001 and 9004:2009 registration and guidance are very different. The Baldrige Criteria provide an integrated, results-oriented framework for designing, implementing, and assessing all operations of an organization. In addition, the Baldrige Criteria include a strong customer, workforce, and future focus. ISO 9001 is a standard used in implementing a compliance and improvement system and assessing conformity in organization-selected operations. Its central purpose is to provide a common basis for an independent supplier qualification system. ISO 9004:2009 provides guidance to organizations to support the achievement of sustained success by a quality management approach. Overall, ISO covers a small fraction of the requirements in the Baldrige Criteria.

The 2015 revision of ISO 9001 is even more complementary to the Baldrige Criteria, with three focus areas:

  1. The quality management system has to be woven into and fully aligned with an organization's strategic direction.

    How is this complementary to Baldrige? The Baldrige Criteria guide an organization to align work systems and learning initiatives, as well as core competencies, with its strategic directions as part of planning. In fact, the Criteria build alignment across the organization by making connections and reinforcing measures derived from processes and strategy.
  2. Superimposed on the system of processes is the PDCA (plan-do-check-act) methodology, which applies both to individual processes, as well as the quality management system as a whole. 

    How is this complementary to Baldrige? In the Criteria, PDCA is called out as a common process improvement approach within category 6. A key element of this category is improving processes to achieve better performance—better quality from customers' perspectives and better financial and operational performance. In fact, the learning that comes from PDCA is key to how the Criteria are used to evaluate processes. The Criteria encourage organizations to choose the tools (e.g., ISO, PDCA) that are most suitable and effective for an organization in making improvements.
  3. An overall focus on risk-based thinking aims at "preventing undesirable outcomes," such as nonconforming products and services.

    How is this complementary to Baldrige? Measuring product performance (e.g., defect levels, service errors) is part of Criteria item 7.1. Such product and operational performance results demonstrate product and service quality and value that lead to customer satisfaction and engagement.

The Criteria also cover risk-based thinking (intelligent risks) and strategic opportunities. The Criteria encourage organizations to use creative, adaptive, and flexible approaches to foster incremental and breakthrough improvement through innovation.

Baldrige, Six Sigma, and ISO: Understanding Your Options and Performance Excellence: A Systems Approach and Tools (PowerPoint presentation) provide insight into these three performance improvement tools. These resources explain the differences among the three systems and discuss how they can be used individually or in combination to meet organizational needs.

Why should we participate in the Baldrige Program when we have to do ISO 9001 certification?

In today's competitive marketplace, ISO 9001 registration is increasingly becoming a requirement for doing business in many industries and with organizations in Europe in particular—but to remain competitive, organizations need to go beyond ISO 9001. The Baldrige Criteria provide an integrated, results-oriented framework for designing, implementing, and assessing the management of all operations. The Baldrige Criteria focus on competitiveness—specifically the delivery of ever-improving value to customers, the improvement of overall organizational effectiveness and capabilities, and organizational and personal learning. The Criteria also place heavy emphasis on business results in areas such as customer satisfaction and engagement and customer-perceived value; product and service performance; financial and marketplace performance; workforce capability, capacity, climate, satisfaction, engagement, and development and operational effectiveness. Many organizations that have attained ISO registration often find Baldrige as the next step to pursuing excellence.

In "Better Than ISO? How Baldrige Benefits Manufacturers," Dr. Luis Calingo, current president of Woodbury University, said

Manufacturers are continually bombarded with tools and certification systems. . . . The Baldrige framework, on the other hand, focuses on the entire organization as a system of purpose, processes, and outcomes. My suggestion to manufacturers is to pursue those certifications under the umbrella of performance excellence [using the Baldrige framework] so as to avoid the dangers of sub-optimization. . . . Baldrige is about the pursuit of excellence, and isn't that the goal of every CEO? If CEOs really understand Baldrige, they will see it as a natural part of what they would love to do anyway.

In "Baldrige and ISO QMS: A Complementary Relationship," Ron Schulingkamp, professor in the College of Business of Loyola University in New Orleans, said

If you fully implement the ISO 9001 QMS, you may be getting at less than half of what Baldrige asks about. . . . The Baldrige framework provides a holistic, systems-based business model that builds alignment across the organization by making connections between and reinforcing organizational systems, processes, strategy, and results. . . . The Baldrige framework is like the blueprint of a building, with ISO used for specific systems within the building such as electrical and air conditioning systems.


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Created October 26, 2010, Updated June 2, 2021