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Baldrige Program Celebrates 25 Years of Performance Excellence

Commerce Secretary Malcolm "Mac" Baldrige and President Ronald Reagan

Commerce Secretary Malcolm "Mac" Baldrige and President Ronald Reagan return to the White House after horseback riding in June 1981. Shortly after Baldrige was killed in a rodeo accident, President Reagan honored his friend and colleague on Aug. 20, 1987, by signing the bill that established the Baldrige National Quality Award.

Credit: The Baldrige Family

Not many 25-year-olds can boast that in their short lifetime they have helped thousands of organizations develop and maintain world-class operations, innovative management, efficient procedures, involved workforces and highly satisfied customers. But one certainly can: the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, the nation's premier means for organizations of all types to seek, achieve and maintain performance excellence.

On August 20, 1987, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Improvement Act, establishing the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and its supporting program "to spark U.S. competitiveness and create a sustainable economy." Named after Malcolm Baldrige, the 26th Secretary of Commerce, the Baldrige Award and the Baldrige Program have guided organizations worldwide on their journeys toward continuous improvement and enhanced performance through the seven Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence—leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; operations focus; and results.

The Baldrige Program is managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in cooperation with the private sector. It also is a partner in the Baldrige Enterprise, which includes the private-sector Baldrige Foundation, the Alliance for Performance Excellence—a body made up of the 33-plus state, local, regional and sector-specific Baldrige-based programs serving nearly all 50 states—and ASQ, an international organization promoting quality. The program raises awareness about the importance of performance excellence in driving the U.S. and global economy; provides organizational assessment tools and criteria; educates leaders in businesses, schools, health care organizations, and government and nonprofit organizations about the practices of national role models; and recognizes them with the Baldrige Award.

To celebrate its silver anniversary, the Baldrige Program has created a special Web page, "Honoring Our Past. . . Building an Even Better Future" (link no longer active), that provides numerous links, including:

  • The first-hand story of how the Baldrige Award, the program and the Criteria came to be;
  • Congratulatory letters, including ones from Congress, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, and international quality award programs;
  • A list of the "25 Ways that Baldrige Adds Value" (for example: jobs created, lives saved and a benefit-to-cost ratio of 820-to-1);
  • Success stories and testimonials showing the benefits gained through use of the Criteria (for example: Baldrige Award-winning manufacturers have seen a 48 percent rise in revenue through 2010, far exceeding their competitors);
  • Impact statements on how "The Baldrige Enterprise Creates Value for Organizations and the Economy" (for example: Baldrige education organizations effectively improve reading and mathematics proficiency and graduation rates); and,
  • An invitation to participate in the grand finale of the silver anniversary celebration at the 25th Anniversary Gala that will be part of the 25th Annual Quest for Excellence Conference (which will include the ceremony for the 2012 Baldrige Award recipients), April 7-10, 2013, in Baltimore, Md.

For more information, go to

Released August 20, 2012, Updated January 17, 2023