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Quest for Excellence Conference

Thank you, Bob. Good morning everyone! I’m excited to be here with you today. Wasn’t that a wonderful awards event last night? It was great to have Secretary Ross here. He gets it. The people gathered here know—this Baldrige journey is transformational. It is awesome.

It’s a quest. It inspires greatness. A quest is an adventure. It has noble purpose. It requires vision, dedication and perseverance and integrity. Constancy of purpose. You know it in your heart: There is great value both in the journey and in the achievement of the goal.   

Last night at the awards ceremony, Secretary Ross pointed out that studies of the Baldrige program’s impacts demonstrate that it generates an estimated 1 billion dollars in economic benefit each year—and that is clearly a conservative figure. The Baldrige journey helps organizations grow revenue and profits, and to outperform their peers. And more than the economic results, Baldrige helps improve patient outcomes and save lives, to enhance employee, customer and stakeholder engagement, increase graduation rates, and continuously improve products and service delivery.

We know firsthand that Baldrige is all about aligning the organization and its people toward true north for you—your central mission, your organization’s very reason for being—and ultimately making the changes and delivering the results that really matter. 

This is why we at NIST are pleased that Congress has supported the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program—it is now part of the core budget for the programs of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It is an honor for us at NIST to work with and to interact with the Baldrige winners. You all help make NIST better in our own Baldrige journey. Thank you for giving your gifts.

A real power of the Baldrige process is the questions that it asks of you as leaders, and your organization and stakeholders. It’s not a formula, but it’s a framework—because the answers are uniquely your own. You define your future, and the meaning and impacts you will create. Each organization’s journey with Baldrige is unique. 

Last night we heard some very impressive facts and statistics about each of this year’s Baldrige Award winners: Alamo Colleges District, Donor Alliance, Integrated Project Management, Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center, and Tri County Tech. These truly are role-model organizations for America. Let’s give them all another round of applause for their outstanding achievements. 

Today these five Baldrige winners will share more insights about their journeys, the wisdom they have gained through their quest for performance excellence. We’re grateful to all these organizations for their desire to share these experiences and learning. They understand that, once you’re a Baldrige Award winner, you move to a new phase of your journey. The journey is never over for a learning organization, where the passion for excellence is what motivates you and your people. This truly becomes a virtuous cycle of mutual accountability, respect, progress.

I want to thank all the essential members of our Baldrige community of excellence who make this program possible. If you are an examiner, a judge, an overseer, a Foundation Board member, a NIST Baldrige Program staff member, a consultant, and provider of tools for the journey and especially a past award winner who has mentored others and shared your experience, thank you. It’s a whole lot better to find your way when you have a guide who’s been there before. 

One commonality we heard about last night, however, is the importance of our people. Good processes only make a difference when they are used by talented, dedicated people who connect at the core with your mission and live the values. 

I have certainly seen that at NIST. Our people have passion for precision measurement, and core values of excellence, perseverance, integrity and inclusivity. We teach them our values from the first day they are on the job.  

This year I was privileged to witness the people of NIST reaching a goal they had been doggedly pursuing for many decades. It was our quest. In November of last year, I was honored to lead the U.S. delegation to Versailles, France, where the member nations of the Treaty of the Meter, more than 50 countries, voted unanimously to fundamentally redefine the International System of Units. 

This redefinition links the world’s measurements to the unchanging constants of nature. This means accuracy of measurement anywhere in the universe. You may have read this in the newspaper or seen something about it on social media. This change goes into effect worldwide next month, on May 20. 

What does this have to do with Baldrige? Everything! The original French inventors of the metric system had a vision in 1790 that a measurement system should be “for all times, for all people.” It was a few years before, in 1787, that the founders of America wrote into Article 1 of the Constitution the essentiality of trusted measures and standards and currency. That was the foundation of NIST. 

It took us 228 years, but that dream will finally be realized on May 20, 2019. Throughout this time, from 1790 to the present, measurements have been continuously improved. Throughout this time, our scientists have steadfastly pursued a vision of precise measurement available to everyone, everywhere. 

Lord Kelvin famously said, “To measure is to know.” And Baldrige is all about measurement and improvement, defining and achieving a vision. Measure where you are. Continuously improve. Strive constantly toward excellence. 

I challenge you to make the most of this Quest conference. You are here for each other. You are the inspiration. You have the transforming knowledge and tools that are defining excellence and are helping to lead America to a very bright future.  

Thank you. 

Created April 23, 2019