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The Official Baldrige Blog

The Organizational Profile: Most Valuable Preface Ever Written?

Shakespeare writing and thinking


What are your main product offerings? What is the relative importance of each to your success? What mechanisms do you use to deliver your products?
What are your stated mission, vision, and values?
What are your organization’s core competencies, and what is their relationship to your mission?
What is your workforce profile? What recent changes have you experienced in workforce composition or your workforce needs? What are your workforce or employee groups and segments, the educational requirements for different employee groups and segments, and the key drivers that engage them in achieving your mission and vision?

Those are the first eight questions from the preface to the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, known as the Organizational Profile. In many books, the preface is not essential reading: giving scant attention to a prefatory section will not usually make it impossible for the reader to meaningfully complete the rest of the book. But that is not the case with a Baldrige Excellence Framework booklet when you are using this resource to assess the performance of an organization.

As stated in the Baldrige Excellence Framework booklets (which include Business/Nonprofit, Health Care, and Education versions), “The Organizational Profile is the most appropriate starting point for self-assessment and for writing a [Baldrige Award] application.” Here are three reasons the profile is critically important:

  • It helps you identify gaps in key information and focus on key performance requirements and results.
  • You can use it as an initial self-assessment. If you identify topics for which conflicting, little, or no information is available, use these topics for action planning.
  • It sets the context for and allows you to address unique aspects of your organization in your responses to the Criteria requirements in categories 1–7.

Many organizations that have used the Baldrige framework to raise their performance, particularly Baldrige Award recipients, have affirmed the value of the Organizational Profile as a beginning and ongoing tool for performance assessment and improvement.

For example, Lisa Muller, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning for 2005 Baldrige Award-winning Jenks Public Schools, provided a testimonial regarding the value of the Organizational Profile in which she described four benefits of using it as a tool for performance measurement and improvement:

  • It encourages valuable conversation about the organization’s identity.
  • It provides opportunities to discuss the organization’s strategic situation.
  • It creates a snapshot in time of the organization, how it operates, and the challenges it faces.
  • It introduces the idea of core competencies.

In a recent Blogrige interview, Dr. Meridith Drzakowski—a senior Baldrige examiner and assistant chancellor at the Baldrige Award-winning University of Wisconsin–Stout—also promoted use of the Organizational Profile. Drzakowski described its value in regard to how an organization can ensure, when faced with the need to make budget cuts, that it protects its strategic priorities: “I think in terms of the Baldrige framework that the Organizational Profile really can help organizations ... to identify what’s most important and be able to handle those kinds of reductions in strategic ways,” she said.

In addition, Dr. John Timmerman, chief scientist of customer experience and innovation at Gallup, said in a 2014 Blogrige interview, “I encourage organizations to complete the Baldrige profile assessment because it gives them the context to assess the appropriateness of best practices for their business model.” (Timmerman, a member of the judges panel for the Baldrige Award since last year, served as corporate vice president of quality and operations for the two-time Baldrige Award-winning Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company during its journey to excellence).

At the upcoming Baldrige Conference in Chicago on September 8, the session “How to Get Started on Your Baldrige Journey” will also encourage use of the Organizational Profile. The presenter is Dr. Melanie Taylor, deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction at Iredell-Statesville Schools in North Carolina, a school district that received the Baldrige Award in 2008.

When asked recently to share her key guidance for Baldrige beginners, Taylor responded, “If you’re looking to get started using the Baldrige Criteria to improve your organization, doing some deep, honest self-reflection is a great way to begin the journey. You may want to start with the Organizational Profile. That will clarify your context so you can begin to identify your organizational strengths and opportunities for improvement. Then you will have set off on the Baldrige journey to improvement.”

Are you or other people in your organization not yet familiar with how to use the Baldrige framework in your improvement efforts? If so, consider, as an introductory step, working together in groups to answer the Organizational Profile questions. Completing the Profile can build a common understanding within your organization of all the key factors of your structure and situation. You can download a copy of the Organizational Profile for free from the Baldrige Program’s website here (PDF file). Make the Organizational Profile the most valuable preface ever written by 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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Helpful article. Many, if not most, people need a place to start. This article points them to a good place to start. The next thing people need is permission to start. Quality is a proactive discipline. Don't wait for permission. Get started!
Useful article. Good reference information for companies to start with.
The brief & very precisely summarized outline is of critical elements of any organization as well as individuals of the said organization. The analytical identification of progress, performance may be worth praising ... It is a very transparent way forward for improvement, prompting enhanced performance & delivery of output, [inventory] turnover, etc. It is bound to improve the individual performance as well as elevate overall the institution/organization/division etc. The approach is a very useful, beneficial & assertive process for a wonderful upward journey, enjoying the fruits of success & performance comforts. Dr. ROOP N. BHARADWAJ,ITS
I thoroughly enjoyed your Organizational Profile blog and agree that it has uses well beyond the Baldrige Application. In fact, I have my students use it to both help them understand the organizations they intern with during college and apply to for jobs after college. Further, I encourage them to use the Organizational Profile to develop questions to ask prospective employers during their interviews. It is the simplest and most useful tool I know of for this purpose. And it gives my students an advantage over other job applicants.
Very good article. Involving senior leaders in preparing the Organizational Profile is a great way to get all senior leaders on the "same page" on what is most important to the organization as well as the organization strategic direction.
How many key factors can be found in one organization? To my knowledge, the numbers can range from 25 to 40 in one organization. And what is the most beneficial is for CEOs to know their organizations' key factors.

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