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Baldrige Guide to Performance Excellence for Business Gets New Look, Format for 1999

While you won't find it at your local bookstore or on a "Top 10 Bestseller" list, the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence is one of the nation's most popular business publications.

Thousands of U.S. organizations use the criteria to assess and improve their overall performance. "The 1999 version of the criteria is dramatically different from its predecessors in both format and content," said Harry Hertz, director of the Baldrige National Quality Program, managed by the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology. "This year, more than ever, the focus is on helping organizations enhance their overall performance and competitiveness, resulting in marketplace success," he said.

The 1999 Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence has a new, easier-to-use format, which includes a series of questions covering seven key areas: leadership, strategic planning, customer and market focus, information and analysis, human resource focus, process management, and business results. Questions include:

  • How do senior leaders set, communicate and deploy organizational values, performance expectations, and a focus on creating and balancing value for customers and other stakeholders?
  • How do you listen and learn to determine key requirements and drivers of purchase decisions for current, former and potential customers?
  • How do your managers and supervisors encourage and motivate employees to develop and utilize their full potential?
  • What are your current performance levels and trends in key measures and indicators of financial performance, including aggregate measures of financial return and/or economic value?

Since 1988, more than a million and a half copies of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence have been distributed, and wide-scale reproduction by companies and electronic access add to that number significantly. Just as the Baldrige program urges organizations constantly to improve, the criteria are reviewed annually with that same goal. A wide range of stakeholders, from the business community, universities, companies that have applied for the Baldrige award, trade and professional associations and others provide advice on improvements. As a result, over the past several years, NIST has revised and streamlined the criteria to focus more sharply on overall performance excellence and business results as integral parts of today's management practice.

Gordon Black, chairman and chief executive officer of Harris/Black International Ltd., recently said the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence is "probably the single most influential document in the modern history of American business."

While thousands of organizations use the Baldrige criteria to assess and improve their performance, going through the application process brings additional benefits. For an application fee of $4,500 for large firms and $1,500 for small companies (under 500 employees), businesses will receive from 300 to 1,000 hours of review by at least six experts on the award's private-sector board of examiners. All applicants receive a detailed feedback report from these experts on their strengths and areas needing improvement.

"Organizations that apply for the Baldrige award get a comprehensive, cost- effective, top-to-bottom assessment by a team of business experts," said Gary D. Floss, chair of the Baldrige award's 1998 panel of judges and director of customer-focused quality at Medtronic, Inc., in Minneapolis, Minn.

Single copies of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence are available free of charge from NIST by telephone: (301) 975-2036; fax: (301) 948-3716; email: nqp [at] (nqp[at]nist[dot]gov) or on the World Wide Web at

Named after a former Secretary of Commerce, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the Baldrige National Quality Program are helping to improve the competitiveness and performance of U.S. businesses and other organizations by promoting performance excellence, recognizing achievements of U.S. organizations and publicizing their successful strategies. The award is not given for specific products or services. Since 1988, 34 companies have received the Baldrige award. Baldrige awards are given in manufacturing, service, small business, and, starting in 1999, education and health care.

As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Technology Administration, NIST promotes economic growth by working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements and standards through four partnerships: the Measurement and Standards Laboratories, the Advanced Technology Program, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Baldrige National Quality Program.

Released January 11, 1999, Updated November 27, 2017