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Baldrige Program Update: Several New Initiatives Under Way

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP) is currently planning and implementing several new initiatives, including an external, program-wide review for increased reach and impact; examiner-led assessments of ten organizations that applied for feedback only; and collaborations with the Department of Commerce (DOC) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST’s) Manufacturing Extension Program (MEP) to provide new resources to support job quality and manufacturing in the United States.

External Program Review

Improvement is imbedded in the DNA of the Baldrige Program and the larger Baldrige community. We continually engage with our key stakeholders to evaluate and improve our products, services, and processes. We also regularly explore opportunities for more substantive changes, such as the changes to the Baldrige evaluation process being rolled out in 2022.

Over the past 18 months, the leadership teams at Baldrige, NIST, and the Department of Commerce have been discussing the desire to enhance the reach and impact of the Baldrige Program. After much deliberation and consideration of multiple factors we have collectively decided to initiate a comprehensive, independent review to “reimagine” the Baldrige Program. This review will assess how the program can best advance U.S. competitiveness and address the challenges most relevant in today’s business environment, as well as examine how its impact and accessibility could be increased. The output of this process will inform how the program can best be positioned for maximal future impact to our nation.

We are in the early stages of the contracting process and will be issuing a request for proposals very soon. In the coming weeks and months, we will work closely with all our stakeholders to get input and share information.

Feedback Evaluations

Although the Baldrige Award process is on pause this year to enable focus on the program review, recently trained Baldrige examiners are engaged in non-award-based evaluations of ten organizations’ performance against the 2021-2022 Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence (part of the Baldrige Excellence Framework). The examiners’ findings will be shared with the organizations via confidential feedback reports, designed to validate areas of excellence and promote further improvement and innovation. The organizations include six health care organizations and four nonprofit organizations, which vary in size and are based in regions and states across the country. This year’s teams of evaluators—volunteers selected for the 2022 Board of Examiners based on their complementary sector expertise—kicked off the assessments in the first two weeks of July. They will complete their work in late September.

Framework and Criteria Revisions

Thousands of organizations worldwide use the Baldrige framework and Criteria, which are regularly revised to reflect leading practices, to guide their operations, improve performance, and get sustainable results. For the current revision to produce a 2023-2024 version, BPEP has sought feedback through social media and direct requests, conducted literature reviews, benchmarked other excellence programs, met with experts, and held six webinars to share ideas with community members, including Baldrige Award recipients and applicants, framework purchasers, consultants, and Alliance for Performance Excellence representatives. Emerging themes have related to the virtual/hybrid world of work, advanced technology, supply network challenges, innovation, leadership, and workforce challenges. With the goal to streamline/simplify the Criteria when possible, the Baldrige Program expects to publish the business/nonprofit version in December 2022. Versions for health care, education, and communities, as well as the intermediate Baldrige Excellence Builder, will follow.

2022 Baldrige Executive Fellows

In April, 14 executives  embarked on a year-long journey of learning in the prestigious Baldrige Executive Fellows Program®, the only executive leadership fellowship that provides one-on-one access to leaders of Baldrige Award recipient organizations. They are studying how world-class U.S. organizations and their senior leaders achieve strategic and operational excellence and stimulate innovation. Within a collegial environment, the Baldrige Fellows have a unique opportunity to compare the perspectives of executives across sectors, share candid advice on leadership challenges, and use the insights they gain to address a strategic challenge or opportunity within their own organizations as part of their individual capstone projects. To date, the Fellows have visited Baldrige Award recipients Mid-America Transplant and Honeywell Federal Manufacturing and Technologies. Future visits include Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital and The Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City; in addition to sharing and networking with senior leaders from Freese and Nichols, Inc. and AARP.

Job Quality Toolkit

An outgrowth of a partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) and Department of Labor over the last three years to support various workforce excellence initiatives, BPEP has been leading the effort to develop a Job Quality Toolkit that is intended to be an easy-to-use tool for organizations of all kinds but especially for those that are small and medium sized. The toolkit is a menu of vetted strategies and actions for leaders and their workforces to collaboratively choose from to increase the quality of jobs offered. BPEP’s deep dive into the job quality space included a thorough literature search and extensive engagement with over 60 national experts, nonprofits, businesses, academics, and leaders in government. Part of the objective is to introduce organizations to Baldrige principles and encourage them to engage with their local Alliance program in order to help them with improvements in this area, as well as other areas of importance to organizational success. Implementation plans include working within MEP to distribute the toolkit through existing workforce development relationships. The toolkit is planned to be officially launched by Secretary Gina Raimondo in August.

Engagement with NIST

One of BPEP’s efforts to enhance its sustainability, reach, and impact is to strengthen NIST’s and DOC’s understanding and use of Baldrige. At NIST, BPEP has played a recent, important role in strategic planning efforts. This has given much of NIST’s leadership an opportunity to attain a deeper understanding and awareness of how Baldrige resources might benefit their own organizations. In addition, within the NIST Innovation and Industry Services Directorate--which includes Baldrige, MEP, the Office of Advanced Manufacturing, and Technology Partnerships Office—BPEP has deployed a modified Are We Making Progress? and Are We Making Progress as Leaders? surveys to help identify high-level opportunities for improvement for each of the programs, and for the senior leaders as a whole. The intent is to be able to demonstrate to the rest of NIST that even a simple Baldrige-based survey like Are We Making Progress? can be of significant benefit to their organizations. Finally, two NIST senior leaders, the Executive Officer of the NIST Communications Technology Laboratory and the Director of MEP, are currently participating in the Fellows Program.

Alignment and Partnership with MEP

Several ongoing efforts have been intended to strengthen BPEP’s relationship with MEP and leverage its network to promote Baldrige and encourage manufacturers to engage with their Alliance programs. MEP is a national network of 51 centers (one in every state and Puerto Rico); in 2021, those centers interacted with over 34,000 different manufacturers. BPEP efforts have included a webinar co-presented with the CEO of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence, who is also a Baldrige examiner, to offer ideas on how to use Baldrige Excellence Builder; promotion of Baldrige and Alliance programs in the MEP newsletter; blog interviews with MEP center directors; and work to place MEP clients and/or center directors on the overseers, judges, and other roles of distinction. In addition, for more than a year, BPEP has been working with two MEP centers (Florida Makes and the IL Manufacturing Excellence Center [IMEC]) and two Alliance centers (Florida Sterling and the Illinois Performance Excellence Program) to develop a Baldrige-based assessment for manufacturers to help them understand and improve their preparedness for and adoption of advanced manufacturing technology solutions. This effort is being funded through a grant from NIST’s MEP program. Currently, two different versions of an assessment process are being piloted with at least 100 manufacturers. The purpose is to introduce these organizations to some key Baldrige principles and concepts and to lead them to realize the importance of having robust, effective processes and systems in place before they add advanced technology. They are also encouraged to engage with their Alliance programs for assistance and improvement across a broader spectrum of the organization than just their advanced manufacturing technology solutions. After the pilot and an improvement cycle, the intent is to roll out this assessment to all MEP centers.

Released July 25, 2022