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1983–1986: Commissions, Initiatives, and a First Attempt

On the national stage, in June 1983, President Ronald Reagan established the President’s Commission on Industrial Competitiveness to identify ways to improve the private sector’s ability to compete globally.4 The commission, chaired by John A. Young, then CEO of Hewlett‐Packard, reported to the U.S. Senate in March 1985. Speaking to the Senate, former Secretary of Commerce Frederick Dent, said, “One of the great things, hopefully, to come out of this Commission is to reawaken America to the fact that we are no longer out in front; we’ve got to buckle down, and with all of these elements get to work on increasing productivity and competitiveness.”

Other national groups were also concerned with the nation’s declining competitiveness. In 1983, the final report from seven computer‐networking conferences sponsored by the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC) recommended the creation of a national quality award.5 Later that same year, the National Productivity Advisory Committee, a group of corporate executives, academicians, labor leaders, and government officials, recommended creating a national medal for productivity achievement. In April 1984, a report by the White House Conference on Productivity called for a national medal for productivity. And, in September 1985, corporate quality business leaders formed a Committee to Establish a National Quality Award.6

During this same period, Florida Power & Light (FPL) was working with the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) as FPL prepared to apply for Japan’s quality award, the Deming Prize. Reimann said FPL benchmarked Kansai Electric in Osaka, Japan, which FPL believed to be one of the most quality‐oriented utilities in the world. “FPL was striving to do well what Kansai was already doing well,” he said. Reimann emphasized repeatedly FPL’s persistence and hard work in eventually establishing a national quality award. “They became the main force behind a publicly led national award,” he said.

In January 1986, a Congressional fact‐finding mission to the Far East led to meetings with JUSE and an investigation of the benefits of the Deming Prize to Japanese business.7 At hearings before the House Science, Research, and Technology Subcommittee, FPL Chairman and CEO John J. Hudiburg; Joseph M. Juran, who had predicted in the mid‐1970s that the quality of Japanese goods would overtake the quality of U.S. products8; and John Hansel, chairman of the American Society for Quality Control (ASQC; now ASQ), testified about the need to bring this spirit of competitiveness to U.S. organizations.

The subcommittee’s report noted that

American business and industry is [sic] beginning to understand that poor quality costs companies the equivalent of 20 percent of sales revenues nationally and that improved quality of goods and services goes hand in hand with improved productivity, lower costs, and increased profitability...... Commitment to excellence in manufacturing and services through strategic planning and quality improvement programs is becoming more and more essential to the well‐ being of our nation’s economy and our ability to compete effectively in the global marketplace.9

In August 1986, Congressman Dan Fuqua introduced House Bill 5321 “to establish a National Quality Improvement Award, with the objective of encouraging American business and industrial enterprises to practice effective quality control in the provision of their goods and services.” Congress never acted on it; some speculate that was because the bill called for the award to be administered by the government, which many believed conflicted with Reagan’s “hands‐off” policy.10

4 Review of Findings of the President’s Commission on Industrial Competitiveness, S. Hrg. 99‐75; Hearing Before the Committee on Finance, United States Senate, March 29, 1985

5 “The Birth of Baldrige”

6 “The Birth of Baldrige” 

7 “AQP and the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award,” AQP Report, November/December 1987

8 “Total Quality” 

9 “AQP and the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award,” AQP Report, November/December 1987

10 Snyder, Jamie; DeMean, Valerie; Teo, Sharon; “The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award”


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Created April 17, 2023, Updated April 26, 2023