Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

The Transformation of American Business—and the Other Sectors

1988 First Baldrige Award recipients, Reagan, and Verity
From left to right: 1988 Baldrige Award-Winning Organization Leaders: Robert W. Galvin, chairman of Motorola, Inc.; John C. Marous, chairman and chief executive officer of Westinghouse Electric Corp.; and R. Arden Sims, president, chief executive officer of Globe Metallurgical, Inc.; President Ronald Reagan and Secretary of Commerce William Verity, Jr. 
Credit: The White House/Susan Biddle

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Reimann said, some existing communities of U.S. leaders proudly became part of the Baldrige effort. For example, the Conference Board had a quality council with members such as Corning, Xerox, and IBM, who also gave their support to Baldrige. Reimann said that many U.S. organizations held meetings with quality themes (e.g., on customer satisfaction), and it became beneficial for them to invite the Baldrige Award winners and Baldrige staff. Reimann said he travelled more during the first few years of the Baldrige Program than he had during his entire 25‐plus‐ year career. The award winners themselves also began hosting quality meetings to share best practices. Many U.S. organizations also developed internal quality awards and recognition based on Baldrige; these included Johnson & Johnson’s Chairman’s Award, IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Award, and McDonald’s Sweeney Quality Award. Many other organizations, including Cargill, Eaton, and the Ritz‐ Carlton, have embedded or internalized the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence®, sometimes creating an entire evaluation process for their global operations.

In November 1991, David Garvin wrote in the Harvard Business Review,

The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award® has become the most important catalyst for transforming American business. More than any other initiative, public or private, it has reshaped managers’ thinking and behavior. The Baldrige Award not only codifies the principles of quality management in clear and accessible language. It also goes further: it provides companies with a comprehensive framework for assessing their progress toward the new paradigm of management and such commonly acknowledged goals as customer satisfaction and increased employee involvement.

In 1993, based on growing interest from the business community and several national organizations, including the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association, health care and education experts came to NBS, now called the National Institute of Standards and Technology, to begin work on how to implement the Baldrige Criteria concepts in the health care and education sectors.21 The Baldrige Criteria were distributed to health care and education organizations to review, and pilots were conducted in 1995, with 46 health care and 19 education organizations applying but not eligible for the award.

Dr. Harry Hertz Photo
Dr. Harry Hertz, Director Emeritus, Baldrige Performance Excellence Program

“We had two challenges in implementing the health care and education categories,” said Hertz. “The simpler one was writing the Criteria that were specific to these sectors. Much more difficult was writing case studies that would reflect leading‐edge strategies responsive to the Criteria but still believable in these sectors. The Criteria were proposing concepts that were still far beyond the current state of practice in those sectors. Fortunately, we had help and guidance from outstanding education and health care experts who volunteered their talents to the Baldrige Program and stretching current practice. The challenges that Baldrige provided educators and health care providers are demonstrated by the number of years from 1998 until we had the first award recipients in education [2001] and health care [2002]. The long‐term benefits have been significant.”

In 1998, funding came from the Department of Education and Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration to created versions of the Baldrige Criteria for those sectors, and on October 30, 1998, President Bill Clinton signed an appropriations bill providing additional funding. Health care now generates the largest number of Baldrige Award applicants. Similarly, funding for the nonprofit sector was added in 2006.

Over time, stories have made it into Baldrige lore. For example, when Reimann served as a site visit monitor, during a friendly prank staged by the senior examiner, he was almost tricked into challenging a champion arm wrestler; at the close of the site visit, the company CEO jokingly thanked (the 130 lb.) Reimann for “not embarrassing” his (250 lb.) champion. Other stories are of site visits that had to be evacuated—but the examiners still carried on—due to terrible forest fires, and an entire Baldrige Award recipient that had to relocate its headquarters not once but twice as destructive hurricanes swept through its region. One Baldrige Award ceremony with President Clinton was truncated by a fire in the hotel where the winners were receiving their honors, interrupting the President’s remarks.

Letitia Baldrige speaking at a Baldrige Award event.
Letitia Baldrige
Credit: Baldrige Performance Excellence Program

Many stories were shared over the years by Malcolm Baldrige’s sister Letitia, herself a national treasure as Jackie Kennedy’s White House social secretary and one of the first female U.S. business leaders. Letitia often spoke of her brother Mac and of the pride he would feel in the award, in the Baldrige Program, and in the incredible, dedicated, hard‐working examiners and other volunteers who have made it all possible.



21 Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Update, April 1993


  • Baldrige Customer Service
    (301) 975-2036
    100 Bureau Drive, M/S 1020
    Gaithersburg, MD 20899-1020
Created April 17, 2023, Updated April 20, 2023