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New Data Analysis Finds Baldrige Framework Improves Management

A recent study, "Insights from the Baldrige Award Item-Level Applicant Scoring Data," found strong evidence of scoring reliability as well as validity in the use of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence framework as a management system. The analysis of University of Cincinnati professor James R. Evans and doctoral student Feng Mai provides insights on the progress of performance excellence efforts across multiple sectors of the U.S. economy. The researchers also investigated trends and interindustry differences.

"The results support the use of the Baldrige model as a template for enhancing quality management in organizations," they write. "Since their launch, the Baldrige Criteria have served as a quality management assessment tool for a large number of organizations."

Evans and Mai took both longitudinal and cross-sectional views of Criteria item-level scoring data of applicants for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award from 1991 to 2006; the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program blinded and released the scoring data in 2011. The authors analyzed applicant data within each sector (manufacturing, service, small business, nonprofit, education, and health care) and across sectors.

They found that in the Criteria categories 1 (Leadership) and 5 (Workforce Focus) applicants scored consistently across industry sectors, while scores in the other categories (Strategic Planning, Customer Focus, and Operations/Process Management) varied. The authors suggest that this finding is not surprising, as "Leadership and Workforce (human resource) issues have been traditional components of management practice in all organizations for more than a century, while the other categories . . . developed and matured much more recently."

The authors add, "These results suggest that practitioners in weaker sectors should pay more attention to the nonbehavioral factors of the Baldrige Criteria in designing and implementing performance excellence systems. These represent the best opportunities for benchmarking and organizational learning."

Noted is a decline in manufacturing applicants' scores that aligns with a decline in the number of manufacturing applicants for the Baldrige Award, "suggesting that a focus on performance excellence practices is diminishing," they write.

"These results suggest a need for the manufacturing sector to revitalize quality efforts to better influence key business objectives of customer satisfaction and profitability," write Evans and Mai.

In the service and small business sectors, the authors concluded that Baldrige applicants' performance has caught up in most of the categories. "Sharing of best practices—one of the principal objectives of the Baldrige Program—has apparently been achieved, particularly across sectors," they write.

The researchers did run into some difficulties, specifically due to the fact that the Baldrige Criteria have been refined over time to reflect current management practice. To overcome this, they defined "the aggregated items by carefully researching the changes of the Criteria [which provided] a vehicle for drawing conclusions from scoring data based on historical Criteria."

The complete study is published in ASQ's Quality Management Journal, 2014, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp 45-64. If you are not an ASQ member, you can register for free to access the full study.

Released April 4, 2014, Updated April 6, 2017