Like other federal programs, the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program is overseen by an advisory committee whose members are appointed by a cabinet member of the Presidential administration; in our case, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. By charter, the Baldrige Board of Overseers is tasked with reviewing the work of the program and recommending improvements.
In this Board of Overseers blog series, we will be interviewing members of the Board of Overseers. In the interviews, they share their insights and perspectives on their experiences, on the Baldrige Program and its products and services, and on the Baldrige approach to organizational improvement.
Following is an interview of Liz Menzer, executive director of the Wisconsin Center for Performance Excellence and vice chair of the Baldrige Alliance for Performance Excellence. Liz’s experience includes serving as a consultant for Studer Education, member of the Board of Trustees for the Higher Learning Commission, and president of Stougthon Area School District Board of Education.
What experiences led you to the role of Baldrige overseer?
Many years ago, I became involved in the Wisconsin Forward Award program—first as an applicant and a few years later as executive director of the Wisconsin Center for Performance Excellence (WCPE); the Wisconsin Forward Award is part of the Baldrige Alliance for Performance Excellence, a network of state, regional, and local Baldrige-based quality award programs that support the Baldrige enterprise in significant ways. As vice chair of the Baldrige Alliance, I represent Alliance member programs on the Board of Overseers. I believe both organizational applicants and examiners gain confidence and receive expert feedback at the state/local level that helps them be more effective on the national level. I have been fortunate to have been mentored by many smart, insightful leaders who helped deepen my understanding of the Baldrige Excellence Framework and how its Criteria can be applied in a variety of settings.
How do you see the Baldrige Excellence Framework as valuable to organizations in your sector/industry?
In my work with WCPE, I’ve seen the power of Baldrige in all sectors and industries. The Baldrige Framework helps businesses improve efficiency and effectiveness, health care organizations improve patient care, schools improve student achievement, and nonprofits and public-sector agencies improve societal outcomes. And after serving nearly a decade as a school board chair in Wisconsin and as a former trustee for the Higher Learning Commission, I’ve seen the impact that Baldrige has on school districts and higher education institutions—in improving academic outcomes as well as overall organizational performance. I know of no better way for organizations to achieve—and sustain—high performance than with Baldrige.
We’re seeing new and different types of organizations gain interest in learning more about the Framework, including some from the manufacturing sector. It is an honor to work with organizations who strive to be good employers, to serve their customers and stakeholders well, and to be good stewards of resources.
The charter of the Board of Overseers says the overseers shall make suggestions for the improvement of Baldrige and act as an advisory committee for the program. As an overseer, what would you like the community/stakeholders to know about the Baldrige Program and its award and other products? What improvements/changes at the Baldrige Program are you most excited about?
I really appreciate that the Baldrige Program continues to “sample its own cooking” in listening to stakeholders and making improvements to the processes that impact customer value and examiner satisfaction. Baldrige has worked hard the last few years to streamline operations, while preserving—or improving—service outcomes. I also appreciate that the Baldrige Program is being more thoughtful and deliberate in collaborating with various partners—the Alliance for Performance Excellence, the Baldrige Foundation, the consultant community (see Baldrige Connect for an innovative, new way that the Baldrige Program can connect consultants with organizations)—to improve the value it brings to its stakeholders. Those partners all share a goal of improving performance in the United States, and I’m encouraged that better collaboration will help us find innovative ways to improve outcomes and enhance competitiveness across the country.
I am also excited about the work being done by the Communities of Excellence 2026 program and the new streamlined evaluation process being piloted by the Baldrige Program and a handful of state programs like Wisconsin.
What encouragement/advice would you give U.S. organizations thinking about applying for the Baldrige Award or using another one of the Baldrige Program’s products or services?
Just get started! The wonderful thing about the Baldrige Framework is that is meets an organization where it is—it’s very developmental in nature. So, rather than waiting until you’re “ready” to start a journey to excellence, start using the Framework in the way in which it was intended: as a validated, diagnostic system to help leaders identify and improve processes, optimize resources, and enhance outcomes. A state or regional program near you is eager to help, and conferences like the Quest for Excellence® and the upcoming Baldrige Fall conference in Nashville, TN, are terrific opportunities to learn more.
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.
This is an excellent article!