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2016 Baldrige Case Study Depicts Online Retailer Facing Some Familiar Challenges

What does a high-performing online retail business look like that is using the Baldrige Excellence Framework to improve and excel? What lessons can other organizations learn from studying such a business's best practices and innovation and how the organization responds to the Baldrige Criteria questions?

The 2016 Baldrige case study on a fictitious organization called FitHabits can help organizations of any size and sector learn more about the Baldrige framework and how to use it to assess their own performance.

Baldrige examiners at their most recent national training had the opportunity to do all of this and more. As part of the 2016 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Examiner Preparation Course, they explored how the fictitious 2016 Baldrige Case Study: FitHabits (PDF) answered the questions in the Baldrige Excellence Framework: A Systems Approach to Improving Your Organization's Performance and its Criteria, and how the organization measured up to the Baldrige evaluation factors. 

The 2016 Baldrige case study depicts a fictitious, online distributor of unique and high-end activewear clothing and athletic shoes that promotes a customized, high-touch shopping experience for its customers. This case study was used as a sample Baldrige Award application to be assessed as part of Baldrige examiner training; this same case study is also being used by Baldrige-based organizations that comprise the Alliance for Performance Excellence and by other organizations interested in pursuing improvement and excellence.

Created by volunteer Baldrige alumni examiners, the fictitious FitHabits aims to compete in a niche, boutique market, selling exclusively on the Internet to fitness customers who want a unique, customized, high-touch shopping experience (e.g., advice on products, ability to give input on future products) that they can't get from large Internet retailers and box stores. FitHabits uses the Baldrige Excellence Framework to guide its strategy and leadership and management systems. Like other organizations, FitHabits is challenged by emerging competitors and mergers, cybersecurity, an adequate profit margin, changing customer demands and expectations, and retention of skilled team members in a competitive market.

You can learn how FitHabits scored in an assessment against the 2015–2016 Baldrige Excellence Framework through various products:

  • 2016 FitHabits Consensus Scorebook (MS-Word) was produced by a team of Baldrige examiners who evaluated the fictitious organization against the Criteria. This scorebook also includes insights gleaned from Baldrige examiners who participated in the 2016 Baldrige examiner preparatory class.
  • 2016 FitHabits Feedback Report (PDF) (coming soon) shows the scorebook comments in the format of the reports received by actual Baldrige Award applicants at the end of the annual evaluation process.

For businesses who want to get started with Baldrige, in addition to best practices and other examples found in this case study, resources are available in "Baldrige by Sector: Service," "Baldrige by Sector: Small Business," and "Baldrige by Sector: Manufacturing," as well as in how to get started with the Baldrige framework. Resources for health care, education, and nonprofit organizations are also available.

Each year, the Baldrige Program produces a case study that describes how a fictitious organization is fulfilling the requirements of the framework. The case studies rotate sectors from year to year in order to show examples for a variety of organizations using the three versions of the Baldrige Excellence Framework: Business/Nonprofit, Health Care, and Education.

Baldrige case studies have at least three purposes. First, given that actual Baldrige Award applications remain confidential until award-winning organizations approve selected content for public sharing, the case studies are used to train examiners for the Baldrige Program's annual award process. Second, case studies serve as sample applications for organizations interested in applying for a Baldrige Award or in writing a whole or partial application as a self-assessment. In addition, the case studies show organizations in every sector how they might use the Criteria questions to assess and improve their performance, even if they are not interested in applying for a Baldrige Award.

Additional Baldrige case studies are available in an online archive of publications.


Released June 28, 2016, Updated July 23, 2018