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The Official Baldrige Blog

Tata’s Baldrige Advantage: A Multinational’s Model for Performance Excellence

head shot of  Sunil Sinha

 Sunil Sinha; photo used with permission.

Credit: Tata

If you live in North America, you’re probably familiar with Tetley, Good Earth, and Eight O’Clock coffee. These brands are among many owned by some of the more than 100 Tata companies, spanning six continents, whose combined revenue was $83.3 billion in 2010–2011 and whose combined global workforce is over 425,000. Based in India, the multinational conglomerate known as the Tata Group operates in more than 80 countries and exports products and services to 85 countries.

What you might not realize is that Tata companies have been using the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence for more than 15 years. While each Tata company or enterprise operates independently, all Tata-branded companies use the Baldrige systems framework. That’s because all Tata companies benefit from using the Tata Business Excellence Model (TBEM). The TBEM is based on the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence and maintains the seven categories of the Criteria framework by name. To license the Tata brand, each Tata company must sign a legal agreement with the Tata Group holding company, Tata Sons, that ensures that it will follow Tata’s code of conduct and the TBEM.

According to Tata Quality Management Services’s Sunil Sinha, Tata companies began using the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence in the early 1990s. Based on their success, the Tata Group formally adopted the Baldrige Criteria and introduced the TBEM in 1994. Since then, the conglomerate has continually adapted its use of the Criteria to its strategic situation, bolstering self-assessment questions to strengthen each Tata company’s strategy. Tata also has added emphasis on systematically focusing on innovation as it uses the Criteria in its internal performance assessments.

As Sinha affirmed in a recent phone interview, the Tata Group maintains a reputation for strong corporate governance values and practices that reflect a responsibility to society and the environment. “We realized that a group that has global aspirations needed to be strong in [Baldrige Criteria item] 1.2,” he says. So, among other adaptations of the Baldrige Criteria scoring system, Tata companies receive separate scores on their safety processes and safety results in TBEM assessments, and if they score relatively low in safety results, points are deducted from their score on leadership processes.


Sinha presides over the Tata Group’s TBEM assessment process in his role as chief executive officer of Tata Quality Management Services (TQMS), a Tata division that helps other companies in the conglomerate improve their performance. TQMS conducts three kinds of assessments: (1) Basic: a high-level, fundamental assessment tailored for companies at relatively lower levels of maturity that quickly identifies key opportunities for improvement; (2) Standard: a fuller Criteria-based assessment like those of the Baldrige Program’s annual award process; and (3) Intensive: a detailed examination of the Tata company’s strategy and processes, which considers the robustness of its improvement strategies. This is done for the more mature companies and typically is more prescriptive.

For the past 18 years, each Tata company receiving a TQMS assessment has  received a site visit as part of the process. “Every company, whether low-scoring or high-scoring, gets a site visit because we want to give them an opportunity for learning,” says Sinha. During a site visit, a company receives a set of Criteria category scores and category-by-category presentations on its performance; later, it also receives a detailed feedback report. In each case, a TQMS consultant supports the assessment team in ensuring a high-quality assessment.

The assessment system also helps each company create action plans based on the feedback, with a TQMS account manager assigned responsibility for helping the company improve. This account manager works jointly with the TQMS consultant who assisted the assessment team in interpreting the feedback for the assessed Tata company. To prepare internal assessors for this process, the TQMS division trains about 3,000 managers every year from across the Tata Group companies. “This allows for cross-pollination and builds managerial capability across our companies,” says Sinha.

As a result of the use of the TBEM and assessment process, Sinha has witnessed significant benefits to Tata companies around the world. “We have seen a lot of companies becoming more competitive, customer-oriented, and process-focused,” he says. At the same time, he stresses, “The program is an improvement process, not an award process.”

According to Sinha, the key insight that the assessment process must be part of a company’s ongoing performance excellence journey, and not a short-term focus on winning an award, led Tata to rename the model TBEM from an award program originally named for the Tata Group’s former chairman, JRD Tata. “If [the TBEM] is treated purely as award criteria, there could be some resistance to embark on the journey,” says Sinha, adding that this risk is particularly strong where a company’s market is very demanding. However, he says, if use of the business excellence model “becomes part of a focus on continuous improvement, more companies will benefit from it.”

In one of Tata’s Leadership Thoughts videos, Sinha explains more about Tata’s use of the Baldrige-based TBEM program. Another video tracing the evolution of the use of the Baldrige Criteria through Tata’s Business Excellence Model may be found here.

Clearly, Tata’s internal Baldrige-based business excellence model and assessment process have created a unified system to promote performance excellence in its companies around the world. Is it time for your company to start reaping similar benefits from a Baldrige improvement journey? Get started here. Or, if your organization is already using the Criteria to great benefit, please share your story!

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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Having had the pleasure and privilege to consult with the Tata Group for seven years, I can confirm their strong commitment to the TBEM process and its use as an organizational improvement tool. The results obtained by their use of the process are outstanding and any organization would benefit from learning of and applying their approach.
Very insightful .. Great
Over and above the Baldrige Criteria, the Tata Business Excellence Model also appropriately emphasises 4 Focus areas viz. Safety, Innovation, Climate Change and Corporate Governance. This makes the model more holistic.
What does this mean – in what way does the model become more holistic? For example, Baldrige core values emphasize ‘managing for innovation’, ‘societal responsibility’ and ‘focus on the future’ – but what makes Tata’s model more holistic?
Was fortunate to have the opportunity earlier this year to partake in the Balridge training program together with some of my colleagues in the group. We certainly brought back some learnings to further improve our TBEM program. Whats immensely satisfying though is that our TBEM programme which is mirrored on the Balridge program has emerged as truly world class & I'm proud to be part of the journey of excellence.
Business Excellence is one of the best thing which can happen to an individual or an organisation. even Japan has their own BE Model. i was privileged to be in the batch of 1st assessors during the inception years [1994/1995] we were than called as "champions"! also privileged to write the 1st application of Tata tea [ now Tata global ]. Also, to write & win BE application for realty company!
"Hats Off" to top leadership and its commitment to BE That's how you become World Leaders in whatever you do. Wish if I could have more info on TBEM
Like Prabhakar Jadhav, I was also previledged to become a Champion(TBEM assessor/examiner) in 1998 and had hands on experience in application writing, internal and external assessments and follow-up on improvement efforts within when a Feedback Report is received. The model within Tata Group has matured and has introduced many innovative aspects (which are not in MBNQA) to make it more value add for the Group. Now that Tata's presence is also in USA, it should encourage its independent units like Corus, Jaguar - Landrover, Tetley, Good Earth, GCIP (Wyoming natural soda ash) etc. to apply for Baldrige and also its US local employees to become Baldrige examiners and bring comparative learning home.
Great! We look forward to U.S. units of Tata participating in the Baldrige Award process.
This journey of excellence has borne fruit because of the the vision of the Group's Leadership and driven by the resilence and resolve of the participating cross sectoral business heads,the TQMS Consultants,Account Managers the Assessors and the implementation teams across participating companies....which also aligned and integrated the Group...its vision,mission,values,culture,diversity et al. Most important has been the shift of aligning individual company goals and performance to the Group's strategic objectives.Every company and their members have become the key stakeholders to the Group's long term sustainability.
Business Excellence is very well becoming a culture of Tata companies and creating an environment of achievement across the organizations. It is serving as a common thread for learning, sharing and knowing each other. Also it is now realized that the BE is the way to sustainable growth & develops a responsible and caring image in the society.
As a Tata employee, felt very proud to read this article.
A round of applause and indeed thanks are due to Sunil and his team who tirelessly take the company to higher realms of excellence. It is not an easy path and is fraught with temptation to reach out to awards - as he has rightly put it - rather than continuous improvement. Kudos to all you ladies and gentlemen at TQMS - and may your tribe effectively increase....
Hats off to the commitment of Mr Ratan Tata to the TBEM .The diehard commitment shown to the process by the TQMS impressed me during my stint with Tata Metaliks as its CHRO last year.But in reality what I found was that @ Tata Metaliks things were not as structured or driven to excellence as envisaged by TBEM and as reflected by other Tata companies time and again. The assessment was very sharply and realistic last year as the scores came down.I was aghast to see a communique from the MD on the tough financials the company faced .It was horrifically titled-"The Sinking Ship".It was a major communication with employees which was suo moto taken out by the office of the MD without any inkling to the senior management team including the Corporate HR.This is not a leadership behaviour which TBEM or any business excellence model would prescribe. An assessment of the shot up attrition of critical manpower just after this "Sinking Ship" communique may throw up a number of ponderables for the Tata leadership to prevent dark sheep behaviour of any Tata company. . Carrying the Brand Tata with grace and aplomb is very tough in view of such a comprehensive excellence assessment model led by Sunil Sinha . Although no more with the Tata group, I remain staunchly appreciative of the brand Tata and its business excellence model. However on the basis of what I saw at Tata Metaliks may I suggest that the TBEM also includes one pillar of assessment of Statutory compliances wrt contractor labour.I am sure lot of OFIs will emerge .The brand Tata is too respectable to be embarrassed by such OFIs remaining unattended.
No doubt that TBEM has become an inclusive tool for deployment of various improvements across the TATA group. It also become a platform for sharing the best practices and initiate change through learnings from the assessment . I personally feel this process might get diluted as per the new guidliness of TQMS for business divisions are considered. One must appreciate the coordination, trainings and motivation by TQMS in uphelding the process to ensure its robustness and effectivness through out the group.
Dear Prabhakar, It was a previlege to work with you in the initial years of my probationership as a TAS trainee. You would be happy to note that I had the previlege of leading an assessment team year before last. Please accept my regards Sarajit
I have been through the journey of TBEM and been an external assessor for 3 of our group companies, and i must say its a great learning experience and sharp improvement in the knowledge curve. Kudos to this movement. Raise the bar and move high up Tata Group !!
I just completed my 6th assessment. As always a very rewarding and enriching experience. Each assessment provides a new dimension to understand business holistically. Besides engagement with team leaders and mentors provides with ample opportunity to gain insights from their rich experience and business insight. Looking forward to continue this journey in years to come. Kudos to entire TQMS team for providing an excellent platform to Tata Group employees. Regards, Anil Bhogesara Tata Motors, Pune
Subhrajit Basu wrote Sept 5 "over and above the Baldrige Criteria, the Tata Business Excellence Model also appropriately emphasises 4 Focus areas viz. Safety, Innovation, Climate Change and Corporate Governance. This makes the model more holistic." What does this mean - in what way does the model become more holistic? For example, Baldrige core values emphasize 'managing for innovation', 'societal responsibility' and 'focus on the future' - but what makes Tata's model more holistic?

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