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The Official Baldrige Blog

Learning from Role Models: Category 2: Strategy

Baldrige Excellence Framework Overview showing the Criteria Category 2 Strategy item highlighted.
Credit: sdecoret/Shutterstock, Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. 2017. 2017–2018 Baldrige Excellence Framework.
Baldrige Criteria Blog Series

In this blog series, we are highlighting some of the learning (successful strategies and programs) shared by Baldrige Award recipients to highlight the categories of the Baldrige Criteria and how your organization might consider using them as guidance. 

Part of the purpose of Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Improvement Act of 1987 (Public Law 100-107) is to disseminate information about the successful strategies and programs of Baldrige Award-winning organizations that “practice effective quality management and as a result make significant improvements in the quality of their goods and services.” Such sharing by Baldrige Award recipients is done face-to-face and with the option of asking questions of and networking with these recipients at the Annual Quest for Excellence® Conference, as well as at the Baldrige Fall Conference. Baldrige Award recipients also often host sharing days after their wins to share best practices.

What is Category 2?

Category 2 of the Baldrige Criteria covers your organization’s strategy.

2017-2018 Baldrige Excellence Framework Criteria Overview highlighting Category 2 Strategy.
Credit: Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. 2017. 2017–2018 Baldrige Excellence Framework.


Category 2: Strategy

The Strategy category is divided into items for strategy development and implementation. The category asks how you develop strategic objectives and action plans, implement them, change them if circumstances require, and measure progress. The category stresses that your organization’s long‐term organizational success and competitive environment are key strategic issues that need to be integral parts of your overall planning. 

While many organizations are increasingly adept at strategic planning, executing plans is still a significant challenge. This is especially true given market demands to be agile and be prepared for unexpected change, such as volatile economic conditions or disruptive technologies that can upset an otherwise fast‐paced but more predictable marketplace. This category highlights the need to focus not only on developing your plans, but also on your capability to execute them.

Baldrige Award Recipient Best Practices

Following are some practices shared by Baldrige Award recipients (Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital and Stellar Solutions) in the realms of developing/implementing/changing/measuring progress of strategic objectives and action plans, and using strategic planning to ensure long‐term organizational success and a competitive environment.

What could your organization learn/adapt?

Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital

2016 Baldrige Award Recipient, Health Care

Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital (MHHS) is part of the Memorial Hermann Health System, the largest nonprofit health system in Southeast Texas. MHHS is a 149-bed, full-service acute care community hospital located in Sugar Land, Texas, just southwest of Houston. 

MHHS gathers input across the Memorial Hermann Health System to develop its strategic plan, with a focus on  ADVANCE Strategies:

  • Align with Physicians
  • Deliver Quality Care
  • Value Employees
  • Achieve Operational Targets
  • Nurture Growth and Innovation
  • Consumer Centric
  • Enhance 

The ADVANCE strategies are used to form strategic initiatives, metrics, and targets for each business unit to reliably execute the plan. The strategic initiatives have one- (short-term) and three-year (longer-term) time frames. 

Each strategic initiative and related action plan is assigned a leadership sponsor and involvement by one of five strategy councils; the intent is to foster ownership, ac­countability, and focus on the initiative. Once the action plans are validated and finalized, they are moved to processes for deployment, execution, and monitoring, which  involve the workforce and key stakeholders.

Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital, Quest for Excellence Conference
Credit: Credit: Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital, Quest for Excellence Conference

Credit: Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital, Quest for Excellence Conference
Credit: Credit: Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital, Quest for Excellence Conference

Measuring accountability is an important part of strategic planning at MHHS. Strategic initiatives always align with leadership goals and are cascaded to departments to develop aligned plans. Outcomes are sustained through eight channels of spe­cific accountability, including strategy champions reporting monthly on key metrics and variances; informal, daily empowerment through safety huddles, messages on public bulletin boards, and personal com­munications from directors as they review their daily updates; use of Baldrige thinking and performance improvements tools to sustain outcomes; and monthly Medical Executive Committee meetings. These channels enable ongoing review of plan deploy­ment effectiveness. Should an opportunity to improve the process be identified, it is either addressed immediately or integrated into future planning cycles. 

Stellar Solutions

2017 Baldrige Award Recipient, Small Business

Stellar Solutions is a global provider of systems engineering, integration, and program management expertise in government and commercial programs related to the aerospace field. A woman-owned, professional engineering services business, Stellar was founded in 1995 to provide technical expertise and management for national and international aerospace programs.

Ensuring long‐term organizational success and a competitive environment are integral parts of Stellar’s overall planning. The organization ensures that strategic planning is

  • grounded in its vision: identifying critical customer needs and aligning those with employees’ dream jobs,
  • highly integrated through other key processes including employee development and individual incentive planning, and
  • driven by employees to keep them engaged in the future success of Stellar.

Part of ensuring a long-term planning focus is a questionnaire about employees’ perception of the work environment and potential opportunities or challenges. Questions include the following:

  • How can you/Stellar provide “higher impact” support to our customers? 
  • How can you/Stellar improve your dream job? 
  • How can you/Stellar increase value for our customer? 
  • How can you/Stellar identify the right candidates and remove obstacles in order to close on important work? 

Strategic Planning Stellar
Credit: Credit: Stellar Solutions, Quest for Excellence Conference
Employees participate in strategic plan all-hands meetings prepared to answer these questions and share responses. Developed in these meetings are key strategic plan elements, including how to maintain current business and continue satisfying the critical needs of current customers (near-term horizon), and how to ensure situational awareness of opportunities on the longer-term horizon. Ideas from the meetings become the draft strategic plan for each sector, which vice presidents present to the executive leadership for approval and collaboration across sectors. In alignment with specific goals in the strategic plan, individual incentive plans are used to evaluate employees. 

The strategic plan has to be dynamic and adaptable throughout the year as the environment changes. Summer meetings, held across Stellar’s three major geographies, are another opportunity to get the workforce together to review progress against the strategic plan, brainstorm ideas on how to execute on goals for the remainder of the year, and start thinking about the strategic plan for the upcoming year. In addition to these company-wide events, the senior leadership team meets on a monthly basis to review performance metrics against the strategic plan, share knowledge from employees and customers, and adapt the plan as needed—an ongoing monthly process called Convergence. 

Continue Learning Best Practices from Baldrige Award Recipients

Baldrige Criteria Blog Series: Upcoming Blogs

Category 1: Leadership
Category 3: Customers
Category 4: Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management
Category 5: Workforce

Baldrige Criteria Blog Series: Previous Blogs

Category 6: Operations

A Systems Approach to Improving Your Organization’s Performance

2019-2020 Baldrige Excellence Framework Business/Nonprofit cover artwork

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

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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I've looked at Cat 6 before and now with Cat 2, you've simplified yet thoroughly described those 2 categories.
Appreciate all your help
It's a great source of learning and I would encourage all applicants and examiners to read them.
Toni Kfuri, MD, MPH.

Thanks so much for your comment, Toni!

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