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Survey of Baldrige Examiners Reveals Current Perceptions of Performance

Management and non-management personnel across a broad cross-section of U.S. organizations see eye-to-eye on mission, customer focus and commitment to success but differ significantly in their views on how to best measure quality of work and customer satisfaction. These are a few of the findings from a recent survey of nearly 500 members of the 2011 Board of Examiners for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Baldrige examiners are experts from industry, educational institutions, health care providers, government at all levels and non-profit organizations who volunteer many hours reviewing applications for the award, conducting site visits and providing each applicant with an extensive feedback report citing strengths and opportunities to improve. The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program asked this year's examiners to assess their own organizations using either the program's "Are We Making Progress?" or "Are We Making Progress as Leaders?" questionnaires, depending on whether or not the examiners worked in management. These survey instruments* are based on the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence and allow an organization to gauge its progress in achieving high performance and define where improvements are needed to reach that goal.

The questionnaires ask employee respondents to gauge their level of agreement with statements related to the Baldrige criteria, such as, "I know who my most important customers are." Managers are quizzed on their perceptions of their organizations ("Our employees know who their most important customers are."). The 173 employees and 294 leaders taking the surveys were in strong and positive agreement, regardless of institution, on a number of factors, including understanding of the organization's mission, clear identification of most important customers and strong commitment to success. Both groups also matched up on areas where they perceived that the organization was not performing well, such as actively seeking input for long-range planning, using good processes to perform tasks and removing obstacles in the way of progress.

Perhaps most interesting were the areas where employees and leaders differed significantly in their perceptions. These included knowing how to measure work quality (78 percent of employees felt they had such knowledge while only 51 percent of leaders agreed that they did), using work quality measures to make improvements (74 percent of employees said that they did while only 43 percent of leaders recognized that ability), and feeling that customers were satisfied with work performed (85 percent of employees felt their work achieved this status while just 69 percent of leaders agreed). The one statement with a large response discrepancy where the leaders agreed more than the employees—84 percent to 69 percent—was "My boss and my organization care about me."

"The survey results indicate a lot of opportunity exists for better communication between leaders and employees, as well as improving performance measurement and overall organizational performance," says Harry Hertz, director of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program.

The complete results of the 2011 Examiners Survey are available online for the employee responses and for those of the leaders. Both sites also include results from an earlier survey of examiners to compare and contrast current perceptions of performance with those in the past.

* Access either or both of the two self-assessment tools are available online.

Released August 30, 2011, Updated January 17, 2023