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The Official Baldrige Blog

Higher Education, It's Time to Refresh Your Understanding of Baldrige

Much has been discussed about the value of tomorrow's leaders learning about the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence while still in school.

As an example, I remember listening to a presentation by Bruce Kintz, president of Concordia Publishing House, a 2011 Baldrige Award recipient, about how he remembered that the Baldrige Criteria were part of his leadership training when he came to the struggling publish house; as a new president, he implemented the Baldrige Criteria and turned the organization's future around.

Over time, the Baldrige community has worked hard to plant the seeds of Baldrige in academia through dedicated professors with Baldrige examiner experience, presentations, participation at conferences (in fact, my colleague recently staffed a Baldrige booth at the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs conference), LinkedIn groups, and meetings with deans and professors, among other initiatives. But like anything today, more brand name awareness, more education, and more proof of outcomes are always needed.

As students are one of the largest groups that contact the Baldrige Program's customer service line, we recently developed a "Criteria 101" document (found on the Baldrige website's home page under Popular Links) that specifically answers their what, how, why, and where questions in simple language. We've also been reaching out to professors, as time allows, to ask how and why they teach the Criteria and what the Baldrige Program might provide to support them.

We've learned that professors who teach the Criteria, most often

  • use them as a management and/or self-assessment tool, often asking students to assess a Baldrige case study or their own organizations (either dreamed up or real)
  • start with the Organizational Profile and then ask students to develop strategy and deployment, with objectives and metrics, until they can build an organizational system and understand its complexities and needs for alignment
  • review Baldrige case studies (including scorebooks) from a variety of sectors, as well as actual Baldrige Award recipients' application summaries and profiles
  • practice the Baldrige approach-deployment-learning-integration (ADLI) and levels-trends-comparisons-integration (LeTCI) approaches, and then ask students to offer organizational improvement suggestions
  • view Baldrige multimedia on YouTube and flickr
  • use Baldrige self-assessment tools such as Are We Make Progress? and easyInsight: Take a First Step Toward a Baldrige Self-Assessment
  • focus on the Criteria's Core Values as the basis for an assessment project, requiring students to extract the relevant themes from the Core Value descriptions and use them as a basis for assessing their own organizations
  • help students to realize a performance excellence initiative for their own organizations

According to Ferris State University professor Dr. Anita Fagerman, a current examiner for Baldrige-based Michigan Performance Excellence, there is great value for students in learning about the Baldrige Criteria: "The Criteria are so important to assessing an organization to determine where you’re at and where you want to be. . . . [Use of the Baldrige Criteria] is all encompassing, cross-cutting. It keeps an eye on the money at the same time as addressing business concepts." She added that teaching the Organizational Profile yields some of the best insights from students.

Dr. Britt Watwood, who teaches an  online interdisciplinary doctorate program on leadership at Creighton University and who is a former examiner and judge for the Baldrige-based Georgia Oglethorpe Award, said, "What always impressed me about Baldrige is not that it tells you how to do quality but asks you the right questions that drive the thinking that leaders need. Quality is just the lens that helps leaders become better. I can think of no better lens for leadership than Baldrige." He added, "I would continue to use the Criteria for leadership questions about quality . . . because the Criteria are well thought through, and the systemic approach is what really grabs the students' attention."

Dr. Jim Evans, a professor at the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati and former Baldrige judge and examiner, has collected reflections from his masters' of health administration students on learning about Baldrige:

It is my personal goal to attempt to receive the Baldrige Award, whether as a CEO or merely as a person working for a company attempting to improve itself through the Baldrige process. 

I anticipate that my in-depth training in the Baldrige process . . . will be a real asset to me and as well as my organization as we begin our own journey toward excellence.

The last page of the "Criteria 101" document contains information that deans and professors who may not have looked at the Criteria for years—even decades—may find of interest. In fact, these links were recently shared with a dean at the Yale School of Business who said he felt that his colleagues' knowledge on Baldrige should be refreshed. So, please help in planting and sowing the seeds of Baldrige with tomorrow's leaders. Feel free to share the "Criteria 101" document with professors in higher education in your area, and we will keep sharing, too. And if you teach Baldrige or can share pearls of wisdom on how to encourage deans and other professors to take a second look at the Criteria, please share!

About the author

Dawn Bailey

Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program and involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 25 years of experience, 18 years at the Baldrige Program. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.

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Until recently, I tried to teach Baldrige in business schools. I was one of the few--a "random act of improvement." In my experience, the reason that Baldrige is not embraced by academia is that Baldrige is designed exactly the opposite of the curricula. In academia, faculty members are rewarded for knowing more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing. Baldrige requires a working knowledge of the other categories, which few professors have, so that integration and alignment can be taught. Professors who teach, say, HR tend to know little about strategic planning, much less marketing, IT, and finance. Teaching Baldrige is all but impossible for people who have spent their entire life navigating an increasing narrow silo that makes those in practice look gigantic. In the last years of my academic career, I headed the MBA Program and force fed a Baldrige structure over the program, including 6 Sigma and Project Management. I used mostly outside instructors to teach in the program. Students got great jobs at high salaries, employers were highly pleased, and student success continued in their careers. As soon as I left, the college undid most everything I did and went right back to the traditional MBA program.
Thanks for sharing your insights. In a post on the Baldrige blog on June 12 (linked here:…), Ron Schulingkamp, a visiting assistant professor in the College of Business of Loyola University in New Orleans, made a similar observation. Here’s an excerpt: “The concept of a nonprescriptive, interrelated, systems-based business model is contrary to teaching in most business schools. … The typical professor in business school is an expert in a very specific field of study. Business leaders usually have studied with brilliant professors in accounting, economics, marketing, management, statistics, etc. But it is rare for a business professor to be an expert on the interrelationship, alignment, and integration of business systems. In fact, few business schools teach ‘quality management’ beyond the level of an overview course.”
Dears, I work at the Unervisity of Talca, Chile. I appreciate your comments. Here we have implemented in recent years the Baldrige model. However, like you feel that this model should be shared more in schools Regards

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