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 Official Baldrige Blog

Baldrige: The Foundation of High Performance

Person using a pen to point to the Baldrige Criteria Overview with bars and an arrow pointing up in the background.
Credit: DYcouple/Shutterstock

There are currently more than 4.5 billion search results for the term “high performance,” depending on your preferred search engine. There’s clearly significant interest in this area, and the world has a lot to say about it. It matters because without high performance—and a system designed around core values and concepts to effectively manage it—organizational and personal learning, competitiveness, and sustainability are in jeopardy.

Understanding High-Performance Work Systems

So, what does “high performance” really mean, and how can Baldrige get us there? Let’s start with these definitions from the 2021-2022 Baldrige Excellence Framework® booklet's Glossary of Key Terms:

High Performance: Ever-higher levels of overall organizational and individual performance, including quality, productivity, innovation rate, and cycle time.

Systematic: Well-ordered, repeatable, and exhibiting the use of data and information so that learning is possible.

The beauty of the Baldrige framework is that it’s adaptable to organizations of all sizes and from all sectors, as evidenced by countless impact testimonials from Baldrige Award-winning organizations' leaders, such as the following:

“Our strong and improving school results over the past decade have been attributed to directly applying the Baldrige Criteria to every aspect of our school. The most rewarding part in realizing our school’s strong results is to know that these results directly relate to student motivation, student achievement and most important, students graduating. Given that our mission is to reduce dropouts and reengage an at-risk student population, results mean everything.”
—Tim Tuter, executive director, The Charter School of San Diego

“Every day, these [Baldrige Excellence Framework] guidelines remind us to raise the bar for our work on behalf of the donor families and transplant patients we serve. The Baldrige approach has truly changed the way we work, empowering our team to align resources; think and act strategically; and engage colleagues, partners, and stakeholders in our lifesaving mission.”
—Diane Brockmeier, president and CEO of Mid-America Transplant

“Our business has grown exponentially over the last 20 years, and that growth coincides almost perfectly with our Baldrige journey. We’ve maintained an average growth rate of almost 10%. So, for anyone who is wondering whether the Baldrige process is worth the time or money, I’d offer this . . . we were on a path of growth before we started practicing Baldrige, but that growth line shifted exponentially after we started.”
—Terry May, president and founder, MESA

“The 2021-2022 framework highlights resilience and agility. Having a systematic approach to crisis management was instrumental to GBMC in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. … Using the Baldrige framework and Lean methods, we have implemented systems thinking to every aspect of our business model.”
—John Chessare, president and CEO, and Carolyn Candiello, vice president of quality and patient safety, GBMC HealthCare  

“We wanted to build a business that served the U.S. federal government in a distinctive way, and one of the things that we thought would help us achieve that would to be very customer oriented, very agile, and very flexible. Adopting the Baldrige Criteria and building our business and our operations around those criteria has helped enable us to do that."
—Scott McIntyre, CEO, PricewaterhouseCoopers Public Sector (now Guidehouse)

“As we began to understand the [Baldrige Criteria], we found that it was very similar to our own vision for improvement that we had been using over the past 10 years. . . . The reason people model themselves around the Malcolm Baldrige model is to get that kind of proven, world-class performance. . . . We've seen dramatic achievements across the business because our senior leaders had the right premises to line up with the Malcolm Baldrige model."
—Steven Sessions, quality director, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control

Leveraging the Baldrige Excellence Framework

The Baldrige Excellence Framework® provides a roadmap to proven leadership and management practices for high performance, including the Criteria for Performance Excellence®. The Baldrige Framework and its Criteria do not prescribe how an organization should structure itself or its operations. Instead, the framework functions more as an educational mentoring resource to help you improve communication, productivity, and effectiveness and achieve your strategic goals.

For example, the Organizational Profile (pages 4–6) prompts you to describe what is important to your organization. And the Criteria include questions that help you explore how an organization is accomplishing its mission and key objectives through its work processes and outcomes in seven critical areas: leadership; strategy; customers; measurement, analysis, and knowledge management; workforce; operations; and results.

The Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence Overview consists of the six categories (Organizational Profile, Leadership, Strategy, Customers, Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management, Workforce, Operations, and Results).

Rulon Stacey, national recognized health care leader and former chair of the Baldrige Board of Overseers, has said:

Rulon Stacey, former chair Baldrige Board of Overseers.

“I don't think you're smart enough to know everything that goes on in your organization I don't mean that disparagingly; nobody is. The only hope you have to understand and to promote every part of your organization to the value of your stakeholders and your customers is the framework of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. And it is crucial that you understand the difference between that operating system and other tactics that are used to support that operating system.

I love Lean. Lean is an operating tactic. I love Six Sigma. Lean Six Sigma is an operating tactic. … Baldridge is an operating system; the former supports the latter.

I encourage CEOs in all industries to understand this. Your organization will never ever do everything it is capable to do until you understand the difference between an operating system and an operating tactic and drive your organization toward the success that comes through the system.”

Learn more about how Baldrige Program helps organizations across all sectors stay focused on key long-term results and continuously enhance their operations.

2021-2022 Baldrige Excellence Framework Business/Nonprofit feature image

Baldrige Excellence Framework®

The Baldrige Excellence Framework has empowered organizations to accomplish their missions, improve results, and become more competitive. It includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence, core values and concepts, and guidelines for evaluating your processes and results.

Purchase your copy today!

Available versions: Business/Nonprofit, Education, and Health Care

About the author

Michelle Peña

Michelle Peña is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program at NIST. Her background includes degrees in English and Spanish from George Mason University, an advanced degree from George Washington University, and more than 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. 

Michelle is passionate about the benefits of personal development in the workplace and helping others become more emotionally resilient leaders in their community. Her blogs provide encouraging perspectives to help employees and businesses thrive and build a culture of continuous improvement.

As a digital marketing enthusiast, she also enjoys sharing motivational social media content and actionable growth strategies that professionals can use to empower their organization.

Related posts


Add new comment

Enter the characters shown in the image.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Please be respectful when posting comments. We will post all comments without editing as long as they are appropriate for a public, family friendly website, are on topic and do not contain profanity, personal attacks, misleading or false information/accusations or promote specific commercial products, services or organizations. Comments that violate our comment policy or include links to non-government organizations/web pages will not be posted.