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The Official Baldrige Blog

Experienced Baldrige Examiners Share Learning with “Younger Selves”

Female Baldrige examiner holding a sign above her head that says - What could I tell my younger self?
Credit: Photoroyalty/Shutterstock

Serving as a Baldrige examiner® is an “honor, responsibility, and life-changing opportunity,” a learning experience like no other. Volunteers who give of their time to evaluate high-performing U.S. organizations for the Baldrige Award will be immersed in a team learning experience. The learning may extend to a site visit, where examiners will see a potential role-model organization in action. After gaining in-depth practice using the Baldrige Excellence Framework® (including the Criteria for Performance Excellence®), examiners help drive performance excellence across the country.

With the online application to serve as a Baldrige examiner in 2022 now open, we recently invited the most experienced members of the current Board of Examiners for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award® to share what they’ve learned from their experiences. In particular, we reached out to those who have progressed over several years of volunteering for the Board of Examiners to the levels of “senior examiner” and “master examiner” (through their completion of annual assignments, including leadership roles, on the selective board).

Following are some responses from these seasoned volunteers for the benefit of those who are new to the uniquely challenging-but-fulfilling professional development experience of being a Baldrige examiner. Can you imagine what your first day as a new examiner might be like?

Remember the day you first started as a new examiner at Baldrige examiner training. If you could tell your younger self what you will learn about organizational excellence, what would you say? 


Relax. Breathe. Listen. Be vulnerable.

"Relax. Breathe. Listen. Be vulnerable. You will learn about the Baldrige framework through people (fellow Baldrige examiners, the staff of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program) and organizations (case studies of fictitious award applicant organizations as well as actual Baldrige Award recipients). The learning never stops. All teach. All learn. You will not believe how your brain becomes "rewired" over the years as a Baldrige examiner." 

—Brian R. Miller, Senior Examiner

Systematic approaches are highly transferrable.

"If I could tell my younger self what I will learn about organizational excellence, I think that would be, "Systematic approaches are highly transferrable." I have been amazed at how much I learned from non-health-care organizations that was applicable to my own leadership in health care. Getting outside of my home sector was a bit uncomfortable at first. However, crossing over sectors removes the sense of potential competitiveness, simulates innovative thinking, and demonstrates that organizations (like people) have more in common than we sometimes realize. Exploring (and embracing) our diversity is helpful for growth in maturity." 

—Denise Haynes, Master Examiner

an honor, responsibility, and life-changing opportunity

"When I applied to become a new Baldrige examiner, I did not come from a Baldrige framework-using organization, but my employer organization was striving for excellence. I found [the team-based Baldrige Award evaluation process] challenging; we worked with an organization that won the award. What I learned from that [Baldrige Award recipient organization] was an amazing culture. It wasn’t an organization that just had gifted leaders; it also had strengths in its workforce, commitment, and involvement of partners and others in striving to deliver services to its community.  

Once you are on an examiner team, you will learn to work virtually with a team of amazing professionals from all different backgrounds, all of whom are grounded in believing in the value of the Baldrige framework. You will learn to translate what an award applicant is striving to achieve so you can help provide the organization with a feedback report on its journey to excellence.  

If you are lucky enough to serve on a site visit team, this will be a special gift to see Baldrige ‘live.’ It is also a time to listen and learn from the award applicant organization as the Baldrige examiner team clarifies and verifies potential strengths and opportunities for improvement (OFIs). It is an honor to represent the Baldrige Program and “family” of stakeholders, so examiners have a responsibility to be respectful and learn from the applicant. 

Finally, if you’re a Baldrige examiner during a time when organizations are impacted by COVID-19, you will learn versatility. Once you gain experience, you might be selected to be a mentor to a new examiner, which will bring you full circle from where you began. 

Being selected as a Baldrige examiner is an honor, responsibility, and life-changing opportunity to continue to strive for excellence in various fields. You won’t regret the time and commitment because of the [intangible] gifts you will receive." 

—Barbara Oot-Giromini, Master Examiner

Be open, listen, take the best practices

"I have been a Baldrige examiner for 30 years. Based on what I now know, I would tell my younger self, "You are going to experience and learn from the best organizations in the world! Be open, listen, take the best practices you see and hear about, and modify these for your organization to make those best practices even better!"  

—Janet Johnson, Master Examiner

It is an amazing experience!

"I would tell my younger self that just as an applicant embarks on a journey when completing their first Baldrige Award application, becoming a new Baldrige examiner is also a journey. Be patient; the learning as a first-year examiner is overwhelming, but each year that you participate will bring immense value. Whether you’re a first-year or a tenth-year examiner, there is much to learn from the process, and you will add value to the process, as well. It is an amazing experience!" 

—Linda Martin, Senior Examiner  

one of the most meaningful and rewarding adventures of your personal and professional career

"Dear Younger Self:

I know you’re scared. Deal with it. Becoming a competent and reliable member of the Baldrige board of examiners will be one of the most meaningful and rewarding adventures of your personal and professional career. You already know this and that’s why you’re scared. 

Dig in. Work hard. You don’t always need to be right or be the person at your training table or on your team who has “the answer.” But you need to be the team member who consistently meets/exceeds expectations for doing the work on time and in compliance with the tools, techniques, and resources provided in examiner training. 

... Stay strong. Finish strong. Serving as a Baldrige examiner is your contribution to making the world a better place." 

—Jan K. Garfield, Master Examiner  

most significant development experiences in my career

"As I look back on that first-year experience as a Baldrige examiner nearly 20 years ago, I remember that I wanted to learn more about organizational excellence to strengthen my ASQ certification as a manager of quality and organizational excellence. Baldrige examiner training was so much more. It was not just learning the Criteria for Performance Excellence and the meaning and application of this framework. It was (and still is) an opportunity to talk to and network with experts and practitioners in the field of quality and organizational excellence.

After training, I could see (in Baldrige Award applications and site visits) how organizations promoted and attained excellence when they chose to utilize the Baldrige Criteria. Because of training, participation on examiner teams, and seeing organizations living the Criteria of Performance Excellence, I’ve been better able to apply organizational excellence within my organization even when senior leaders have chosen not to pursue a Baldrige Award. Baldrige training and program participation as an examiner have been the most significant development experiences in my career." 

—Patrice (Pat) Griffith, Master Examiner

achieving organizational excellence is not a destination, but an ever-changing, never-ending journey

"I would remind myself to trust the process and to realize that achieving organizational excellence is not a destination, but an ever-changing, never-ending journey."

—Renee Rieder, Senior Examiner

Apply to Become a Baldrige Examiner

Consider applying to be a Baldrige examiner for the 2022 award cycle and “making the world a better place.” Don’t just take the Baldrige Program’s word for what an amazing experience it will be; experienced examiners offer the best advice.  

Share Your Comments

Current or former examiners: You’re welcome to share more responses by submitting comments under this blog.

Enrich Your Career and Improve Organizational Performance

Woman sitting at a table while leaning on her hand and using her laptop to apply to become a Baldrige examiner.
Credit: GaudiLab/Shutterstock

Become a Baldrige Examiner®

If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind professional development and networking opportunity, and the chance to make a meaningful contribution to organizational improvement and U.S. competitiveness, apply to serve as a volunteer on the Baldrige Board of Examiners.

Apply Online Today

Application Closes: January 10, 2022 at 6 pm ET

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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I consider my time spent as a Baldrige Examiner for the 1993, 1994 1nd 1995 award cycles as one of the most significant experiences of my professional career. The training, fellowship and application experienced during my involvement were of a level I consider as second to none and provided a basis to further performance excellence within my own organization.

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