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The Official Baldrige Blog

What Your Board of Directors Needs to Get Better

Cover image of "Baldrige for the Board of Directors" resource

What does a high-performing board of directors do?

A McKinsey Quarterly article published in April described a progression in the scope of activities of governance boards reflecting higher levels of engagement. Authors Chinta Bhagat and Conor Kehoe wrote, “In performance management, … many boards start with a basic review of financial metrics. More involved boards add regular performance discussions with the CEO, and boards at still higher levels of engagement analyze leading indicators and aspire to review robust nonfinancial metrics.”

A February 2014 article from the McKinsey Quarterly makes a case for more involvement by governance boards in an organization’s long-term strategy:

“The best boards act as effective coaches and sparring partners for the top team,” authors Christian Casal and Christian Caspar wrote. “The challenge is to build processes that help companies tap the accumulated expertise of the board as they chart the way ahead.”

Want to assess the performance of your board of directors? Interested in advancing the board’s role in supporting the performance of the entire organization? If so, here is a government-produced resource that will help you: The Baldrige Excellence Framework (which includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence) can help senior leaders and advisory boards alike to better understand how well their organization is performing in all key aspects of the governance system.

The Baldrige Criteria offer organizations a comprehensive and complex means of improving and reaching excellence. But an organization need not use the resource in full to benefit. And it is certainly not necessary for an organization to aspire to win the prestigious Baldrige Award in order to begin using the framework in modest efforts that could lead to substantial improvements. For example, 

  • A governance board can benefit from understanding and adopting the systems perspective and other core concepts built into the Baldrige Criteria.
  • Governance board members can better equip themselves to effectively review an organization’s performance by learning how to evaluate the strength of processes and results based on Criteria-based evaluation factors.
  • A board of directors may benefit from using only the questions in the “Leadership” chapter (category 1); those could be used to outline considerations for performance reviews of the senior leadership (item 1.1) or the governance system (item 1.2).
  • A governance board may also become the catalyst for launching the entire organization’s Baldrige improvement journey by introducing the Criteria to the organization.

In the case of 2013 Baldrige Award recipient Pewaukee (WI) School District, for example, the board of education initiated the idea of the school system’s full adoption of the Baldrige framework.

To prepare for your board of directors to get started using the Baldrige Criteria, download a free copy of A Baldrige Perspective for the Board of Directors (PDF) from the Baldrige Program website. This document provides governance boards with a sampling of self-assessment questions on an organization’s performance that span all seven categories of the Baldrige Criteria.

May the Baldrige framework support good governance in your organization, regardless of your size or sector.


"A Baldrige Perspective for the Board of Directors," available for free downloading on the Baldrige Program's website (from link in text above)



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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