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The Official Baldrige Blog

Say It Isn't So, Barbara Fischer!

Photo of Barbara Fischer standing in front the the Baldrige Award Crystal.
Credit: BPEP

Unfortunately, it’s official: Barb Fischer will soon retire from the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP). Her colleagues are trying to focus on how this change will be good for her—but frankly, we’re gonna miss her! In the meantime, we honor her service.

In her career of 40 years, Barb has served the last 18 at NIST’s BPEP. As she joined BPEP after working at the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), one might have assumed that her experience in a hierarchical military organization would create difficulty for her transition to our relatively “flat,” highly collaborative structure based on self-managed teams. But she had already alternated assignments as a leader or member of a series of integrated project teams at the Naval Air Systems Command, which prepared her well for BPEP’s work environment.

Photo of Barb Fischer and other Baldrige staff at the 2013 Examiner Recognition Event.
Barb, third from right, front row, with current and retired colleagues after an examiner recognition event.
Credit: BPEP

During her tenure with BPEP, she has been both a member and leader of our former Outreach and Communications Team, a member of our Coordinating Council, our Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) on the Baldrige Administrator contract with ASQ, and a member of our current Marketing and Partnership Team. She has led or co-led the planning of 11 annual Quest for Excellence® conferences hosted by BPEP, along with nearly as many regional Baldrige conferences and national Baldrige Award ceremonies. During the annual Baldrige Award process, she has traveled with and supported volunteer teams of Baldrige examiners on 14 site visits at organizations around the country. And her skillful contract management has saved thousands of dollars for BPEP—and stretched two five-year contracts to streamline support for the program over six years.

In her many roles on the staff, Barb has demonstrated understanding of BPEP’s strategic, long-term “big picture,” while also focusing daily on details and data in managing projects. She noted recently that she has especially enjoyed that her BPEP work has introduced her to “an evolving and growing community of organizations” that use the Baldrige Excellence Framework to improve their performance and ensure their long-term success.

Following are Barb’s own words in response to questions we asked her after she announced her retirement.

Would you please describe a few of your most memorable experiences working at NIST’s Baldrige Performance Excellence Program?

There have been so many since I joined the program in 2002! Both my first Baldrige Award site visit with an examiner team and my first Baldrige Award ceremony top the list. The site visit and the award applicant literally brought the Criteria for Performance Excellence [part of the Baldrige Excellence Framework] alive for me—and the dedication and professionalism of the volunteer examiners was impressive. The ceremony was celebratory as well as breathtaking and inspirational. Many site visits and many ceremonies later have not changed this for me.

Photo of Barb Fischer with a group of people at the Quest Gala.
Barb, second from right, celebrates the successful event with colleagues at the conclusion of the 25th Anniversary Gala.
Credit: BPEP

Also memorable for me was having the opportunity to plan and experience the Baldrige program’s 25th Anniversary “QuestCereGalamony” events, which demonstrated not only the best-in-class practices of the Baldrige Award recipients of that year and prior years, but also the resilience of our organization to those throughout our extended Baldrige communities. It had been a tough year, but those events assured people that BPEP was not going away. Our outreach and impact have been demonstrated over and over since then.

Another highlight of my tenure with BPEP is being a member of the initial and current teams to take Baldrige into the social media space, experimenting with new platforms, including establishing our very own blog—this one! Blogrige was the second blog at NIST, and now 12 years later, it is the longest running of NIST’s blogs. I’ve served as a moderator since the blog’s beginning, and our team of writers and administrators has been recognized twice with NIST awards.

Photo of Barb Fischer and other staff winning a NIST Award for Blogrige.
Barb and Baldrige colleagues receive the 2011 George A. Uriano Award for their outreach via social media.
Photo of Barb Fischer and other Baldrige blog staff winning the NIST Bronze Award.
Barb, second from right, and members of the Blogrige team recognized with a 2018 NIST Bronze Award, NIST's highest honor.

Would you please share highlights of your previous work before you came to NIST?

Before coming to NIST, I spent 20 years gaining contracting, program analysis, and management experience at DoD—having started as an intern with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) in Philadelphia in 1981. With a bachelor of science degree in biology, I initially planned to be part of DLA’s medical supply-chain management, but instead I followed a path toward naval aviation. In that phase of my career, I visited, evaluated, and collaborated with many of the major manufacturers in the United States. I also served alongside U.S. Navy and Marine officers and enlisted as the configuration/project manager of the executive helicopter program, gaining extensive budgeting and contracting responsibilities over eight years. During that period, I earned a master of science degree in management as well as completed a senior executive management development program. I then returned to DLA to concentrate on major acquisition-reform efforts, including the “single process initiative,” as well as forging strategic alliances, challenging manufacturers to assist our organization with those efforts.

What are you most proud of during your career?

Photo of the Baldrige Staff at the 2018 Ceremony.
Barb, immediately to the right of the Baldrige Award crystal, with Team Baldrige at the 2018 Baldrige Award ceremony.
Credit: BPEP

I’m proud to say I’ve been a member of a small cadre of dedicated professionals who have a passion for performance excellence, who innovated and banded together for the survival of BPEP when our government funding was lost [in 2012]. We, along with our key stakeholders, developed a new business model that was approved by NIST and the Commerce Department. Implementing this business model with the help of our public/private partners—including the Foundation for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award—sustained BPEP. My personal contributions largely centered on cost control within BPEP’s contracts, as well as successfully bringing the sales and fees from our product offerings into BPEP’s contract with ASQ, which demonstrated to agency financial managers that BPEP could help fund itself through fee-based services.

More broadly, I’m proud to have had the opportunity to work with so many dedicated people in both the civilian government, military, and private sectors—as colleagues and volunteers—and to know that I’ve made a difference along the way.

What advice or parting words might you have for your coworkers?

I’ll be forever grateful for both the personal and professional support they have provided to me, in dark times as well as happy ones. I’m delighted that these friendships are sure to last. I know the BPEP staff will continue to support and rely on one another, as well.

What do you most look forward to doing (or not doing!) in retirement?

I am looking forward to being reunited with my grandchildren, family, and friends; playing more with my dog Max; traveling; and exploring new gardening, cooking, and creative endeavors.

Anything else you wish to say?

Toward the end of a four-month course for program managers at the Defense Systems Management College in 1998, we could select from a few elective sessions. I chose one on the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. It was there that I learned that the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence were used as the basis of the Presidential Award for Quality, which two of the DoD organizations I worked within had pursued and received. I also learned that the Baldrige program was housed at NIST, less than ten miles from my home! A few years later at DLA, I was selected to develop the structure for an award program to recognize defense contractors that were successfully implementing one of our acquisition reform initiatives. Coincidentally, both the Criteria categories and the scoring dimensions were loosely based on the Baldrige Criteria. Kismet! I always felt I was meant to be associated with Baldrige—and I have loved it all!

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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We will miss you Barbara. Enjoy this new stage of your life.

25 May 2021 - Congratulations Barbara! I can only imagine the fun and the challenges you've experienced. Wishing you the best. David

Barb-I am sorry that we didn't have more time working together at NIST, but I enjoyed the time we did have together. Over the last 18 years, I have enjoyed keeping up with the Baldrige Program by reading the excellent posts that you have authored. Best wishes for an enjoyable retirement. Barry

Congratulations on a well-deserved retirement! I appreciate all you did for the program and for those of us that were fortunate to work with you on Baldridge site visits! You will be missed. Hugs and love!

Thank you .


Thank you for your superlative service to BPEP and well beyond! Your contributions are incalculable and deeply appreciated. We wish you the very best as you transition. With respect, John J.

Barb—Congratulations on your retirement! You have accomplished so much throughout your career and I am very glad that I had the opportunity to work with you during your time in Baldrige. Best wishes on this new chapter in your life! Jackie C.

Congratulations, Barb! I'm so excited for you. It has been a pleasure working with you all these years, and I wish you great success in whatever's next in your journey!!


Mazel tov on your retirement and thank you for your outstanding service to the Baldrige Program, NIST, DOC and the entire nation. Most of all, thank you for being a terrific colleague and even better, a treasured friend.

Wishing you much joy as you begin this new adventure!


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