In 1987, President Ronald Reagan famously said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"; the cost of a first-class stamp was $0.22; Oliver North, Jr. testified to Congress; Martina Navratilova won Wimbledon; Prozac was first released in the United States; and most folks left the movie theater watching either Wall Street or Fatal Attraction with very different perspectives on business and life.
But there was something else brewing in 1987.
He said in July 1987, “there was pent‐up feeling that something needed to be done about national competitiveness and quality problems.” There were articles in Business Week about the need for an “upheaval in corporate culture” and influence from W. Edwards Deming’s continual improvement approach in Japan. There were presidential commissions on quality, and productivity conferences and committees hosted by corporate quality business leaders, who all recommended some kind of national honor for U.S. industry.
Then, on July 25, Malcolm Baldrige, the government’s most notable business leader, Secretary of Commerce, and close friend of President Reagan, died after a rodeo accident.
According to Reimann, “This terrible accident suddenly created a vehicle that people could rally around. Those kinds of confluences are very rare. It was an accident of circumstances.”
On August 20, President Reagan signed the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Improvement Act of 1987 into law.
On November 14, 1988, after government staff were in place to manage the award, fundraising was conducted to support the award, a Board of Overseers was in place to advise the Baldrige Program, and a Board of Examiners was in place to recommend organizational award winners, President Reagan gave out the first Baldrige Awards:
American industry is again the class of world-class competition. Yes; America’s future is bright. And today’s ceremony reflects both the progress we have made and the promises that we have yet to keep.
America’s economic strength depends on industry’s ability to improve productivity and quality and to remain on the cutting edge of technology. That’s why the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award is so important. The award recognizes the contribution that companies across the country are making to our economic growth. Companies that make the highest quality products.
And today we salute three corporations that reflect American industry’s dedication to quality. Each of them and thousands of others keep America strong by making America’s products the best products available. They and others like them exemplify the belief that quality counts first, foremost, and always. The one trait that characterizes these winners is that they realize that quality improvement is a never-ending process, a company-wide effort in which every employee plays a critical part. They realize that customer satisfaction through better quality is the goal, and they know that America’s economic strength and future depend more and more on the quality of its products.
This award was established and carried out in the spirit of cooperation between government and the private sector, and that’s the way it should be. . . . This award has a special meaning for me because it’s a fitting way to honor a good friend Malcolm Baldrige, a dynamic businessman and a great secretary of commerce. Today we honor Mac with a lasting tribute to quality.
And now it’s time to recognize the awardees. These awards are won by companies, but they are earned by individuals working together in the quest for excellence.
Since 1988, 118 awards have been presented to 110 organizations, including eight two-time award recipients. Several years ago, the Baldrige Program looked at three areas of potential growth (sites, revenue, and jobs) for those two-time winners;
55.5% Median growth in number of sites
86% Median growth in revenue
4.56% Comparative average growth in jobs for the matched industries and time periods
I believe President Reagan would agree that 30 years since his Baldrige Awards presentation, America’s future is still bright, and the Baldrige Award still recognizes the contributions of U.S. organizations. Thirty-one years later, the award also recognizes contributions to the nation’s health and education, and to society.
So happy birthday to the Baldrige Program and the community that has supported it for 30-plus years. I think we can all agree with President Reagan that the nation’s future still depends on quality and excellence, and the Baldrige Program and Award still offer the highest honor (including education and outreach) for organizational performance excellence.
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.