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The Official Baldrige Blog

Cheers for the Baldrige Program's Volunteers

Thank you Baldrige Program Volunteers from the Baldrige Program with a bright shining star in the background.
Credit: Sonia Spina/Shutterstock

Thank You, Baldrige Examiners!

As teams of Baldrige examiners are busy this summer assessing the performance of ten organizations that applied to receive non-award-related feedback based on the 2021-2022 Criteria for Performance Excellence, I think it’s a fitting time to highlight the significant contributions of the annually selected, all-volunteer corps known as the Board of Examiners

It's clear to anyone familiar with the Baldrige Program that we cannot thank these volunteers enough for their generous service within the annual Baldrige Award process since its inception in 1988 through 2021. During that period, each of the thousands of Baldrige examiners (at least 300 per year) who have completed an evaluation of an organization applying for the Baldrige Award have donated an average of at least 100 hours per applicant! That estimate does not include the days they’ve spent in (annual) Baldrige examiner training, on site visits (the last phase of the award process evaluation for finalists), and/or participating in the award judging process (given that some examiners later become judges). They’ve given all that time and talent to the fundamentally patriotic cause of helping American enterprises in every sector improve their performance.

Selected for their sector expertise and trained by the Baldrige Program every spring, examiners conduct their evaluations in teams led by seasoned peers. Individually and then together with their teams, they analyze the processes and results of U.S.-based organizations against the requirements of the Criteria for Performance Excellence® (part of the Baldrige Excellence Framework®). In recent years, this work has taken place primarily in summer months, when examiners on each team have worked together virtually to combine their individual analyses in draft scorebooks and then refine their findings online and during video meetings (and in past years, via conference calls). Eventually, their insights are conveyed in a feedback report for each award applicant detailing the organization's strengths and opportunities for improvement.

And That’s Not All Baldrige Examiners Do! 

Every year, some of the most experienced examiners also help the Baldrige Program by serving on two other volunteer teams. One is an annual Case Study Development Team, which creates a fictitious organization’s application for the Baldrige Award. (This is necessary because actual applications are kept confidential, yet examiners need training on the process for evaluating an organization’s performance against the Criteria for Performance Excellence.) The other examiner-led team each year is the Training Scorebook Team, which creates a model scorebook on the annual case study for use in examiner training.

Clearly, the Baldrige Program is deeply indebted to its volunteer examiners. Of course, the organizations that apply for the Baldrige Award and feedback on their performance are key beneficiaries of the examiners' work. As stated more than a decade ago by Sister Mary Jean Ryan, FSM, former CEO and chairman of the board of SSM Health Care (the first organization in the health care sector to receive the Baldrige Award),

For us, Baldrige has provided the best consulting services we’ve ever received and the least expensive. Over the four years that we applied, we received more than 200 pages of feedback from highly trained, experienced, and professional examiners, who spent literally hundreds of hours with our application and on site visits.

Appreciating Baldrige Examiner Service

Beyond such organizations, millions of U.S. citizens also might owe some appreciation to Baldrige examiners for their service. That's because the benefits of the Baldrige Award process have a wide reach. The ultimate beneficiaries are the customers and other stakeholders of the American businesses and nonprofit organizations, large and small and in every sector, that have improved their operations and results using the Baldrige Excellence Framework and Criteria for Performance Excellence.

No wonder many examiners have shared with the Baldrige Program that a key reason they’ve volunteered for the Baldrige Program is their sense that they are fulfilling a patriotic duty.

Although it’s not easy work to evaluate the performance of an organization to help it achieve long-term success, let it never be said that Baldrige examiners’ work is thankless. Consider this a salute to the entire 2022 Board of Examiners as well as those who served in past years.

If you’re a Baldrige examiner, cheers to you!

About the author

Christine Schaefer

Christine Schaefer is a longtime staff member of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP). Her work has focused on producing BPEP publications and communications. She also has been highly involved in the Baldrige Award process, Baldrige examiner training, and other offerings of the program.

She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Virginia, where she was an Echols Scholar and a double major, receiving highest distinction for her thesis in the interdisciplinary Political & Social Thought Program. She also has a master's degree from Georgetown University, where her studies and thesis focused on social and public policy issues. 

When not working, she sits in traffic in one of the most congested regions of the country, receives consolation from her rescued beagles, writes poetry, practices hot yoga, and tries to cultivate a foundation for three kids to direct their own lifelong learning (and to PLEASE STOP YELLING at each other—after all, we'll never end wars if we can't even make peace at home!).

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Kudos for the Malcolm Baldrige Award examiners across our country and the work that they have been doing since the late 80s. As a nation, we need to implement these concepts throughout our government, starting with the challenges that require immediate attention. Our leaders need to speak to the Malcolm Baldrige process as the standard for excellence and contracts, perhaps, could be awarded based on an organization's proficiency in implementing these skills. I'd love to see a politician talk about the benefits of the Malcolm Baldrige in government. Thank you.

Thank you, Christine, for continuing to recognize Examiners for their service to our Country.
As a decorated military veteran, I receive a similar sentiments many times. I always respond, "No thank you for allowing me to serve."

I feel the same way about Baldrige service. Similar to my military experience, the values, camaraderie, and skills I learned during both service experiences have served me well.

Training and service as a Baldrige Examiner enables someone to ask the most important questions to understand -- and help applicants understand -- how an organization produces the results it is getting and how to improve those results systematically. Remember, every process produces exactly what it was designed to produce. If you are not getting the results you expect, improve the process systematically. That’s’ Baldrige in 25 words or less.

Learning aphorisms like this is a valuable skill set that has enriched my life and made me a more valuable workforce asset. So, just like when someone who did not avail themselves of opportunities I did by being a military and Baldrige professional, I turn the compliment around and say, “Thank you for allowing me to serve.”

That though produces a small rush of oxytocin in me.

Christine, always such an honor and pleasure to serve with you, the other Program staff, and my fellow examiners.

Serving as an examiner was rewarding.

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