25 Years of the Baldrige Program

First Baldrige Award Ceremony, White House, November 14, 1988

Today we observe the 25th anniversary of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.  There will be several opportunities to celebrate the 25th anniversary, but this is the actual date the legislation was signed. The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Improvement Act of 1987. Public Law 100-107.  

The legislation was quite visionary.  It created a private-public partnership and challenged the private sector to create funding in support of the effort, which the Foundation for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award did. The legislation set in motion a remarkable course of events that has set thousands, tens of thousands, maybe even globally millions of organizations on a journey of excellence. 

Globally there are some 40 national and regional programs that follow similar models, and in the U.S. there are another 40 or so state and regional programs using similar approaches. The state programs are federated under the State Alliance for Performance Excellence, if you want to take a look.  And it wouldn’t be right to wax on too long without giving Japan its due in having created The Deming Prize in 1950. The Deming Prize clearly served as the source of inspiration.  

Legions of people have become Baldrige zealots.  Trained by the Baldrige Program or one of the state programs, or perhaps even within their organization, I’m guessing that upward of 50,000 examiners have and continue to serve as expert resources in organizations of all kinds and in every sector of the economy.  

The body of knowledge that the Baldrige Award recipients have shared with us over the years serves ready and waiting to inspire our own improvement not with generalities and platitudes, but with models, processes, and results. Ready and waiting for any organization whose leaders have a vision of excellence and need only to adopt, or adapt, what is proven. 

At the center of the effort is the staff of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program at NIST who have dedicated their careers to the program. (See NIST’s 25th anniversary site, and ASQ’s.) The same is true of the state programs and programs all over the world.  A small band of dedicated people have made, and continue to make, programs of high integrity available to everyone interested.

 Yes, you might easily conclude that I would be happy to call myself a Baldrige zealot, because I humbly use the model, and find inspiration in the stories of the recipients.  I encourage ASQ staff to be examiners and welcome their newfound understanding as a benefit in our efforts to improvement. I call upon senior examiners, and former Baldrige judges, and they freely offer their time and expertise to aide our efforts. I look to organizations that have embarked on Baldrige journeys with a great deal of regard. 

It seems all too easy in this day and age, with executive tenures often lasting months, to focus not on the whole but some small aspect of the whole in an effort to make a mark. Suboptimize the whole for the benefit of this quarter’s performance.  When I know, and we all know, that enterprise quality is not easy, not simple, not always fast, but certain.  Certain to provide results, sustainable results.  

So, the question that comes to mind, and it’s a tough one, is: With 62 years of Deming Prize history in Japan, and 25 years of Baldrige history, and similar histories of programs around the world, why is enterprise quality, or enterprise excellence if you prefer, still the exception rather than the rule?

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5 Responses to 25 Years of the Baldrige Program

  1. Kay Kendall says:

    Thanks for your continued support of the Baldrige Program and your personal leadership in the field of “Big Q” quality.

  2. Manu Vora says:

    Paul, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the 25 Years of the Baldrige Program.

    Enterprise excellence is a high road traveled by enlightened leaders. Over the years we have seen organizations rise and fall with the arrival and departure of great visionary leaders. Challenge is to have leaders at all levels of an organization, so the enterprise excellence journey continues. Sustainability requires roots through leadership and constant nurturing by everyone.

    Manu Vora

  3. Is Baldridge the answer?
    Maybe the problem lies within the program itself. See my blog posting for contrary-minded details:

    • Sofyan says:

      Elaine Huggins Hi Jim I met you several years ago when you came out to help us at Vandenberg AFB with an AFSO21 orpject that turned out to be more of a cut drill than a real process improvement but my co-worker, Dave Marston and I learned quite a bit from that experience. (We were in-training for our AFSO21 black belts; we also had Brent Braun-now deceased-, Dave Fewster, and I think Tom Peppard, from Air Force Space Command, co-facilitating). Anyway, Dave and I have always remembered your tool-box and the facil way you were able to use what ever was necessary to get the group going and keep them on track. I have since retired from the Air Force (one reason being that I was so impressed with your tool box that I too, wanted to develop some expertise in other methods, like six sigma but I ran into a road block in trying to do that-the organization was not supportive of learning six sigma!). Anyway, I am working for the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) in their medical service organiziation in Dhahran, doing process improvement for them. I am keenly looking forward to your book, because during the process of my hiring, which was about six months from interview to setting foot in Dhahran, there has been a change in leadership, and the opportunity to do improvement events and employ lean techniques seems to have passed. I am going to be limited to more of a orpject management approach, using weekly meetings to move us along in these orpjects that the leadership gives me too do. So, I’ve been sensitised to the need for leadership and how personalities interact that either make or break the opportunites for improvement. I am thrilled to see how you’ve moved along I’ll bet your kids are growing up fast! I have two in college already another reason to retire and move into something that pays better! Take care, Jim, and all of the best too you! Elaine Huggins RN, MSN, CPHQ, AFSO21 Black BeltJune 17, 2011 6:42 am

  4. Kishore says:

    This is response to question posted in ASQ CEO’s blog http://asq.org/blog/.

    With 62 years of Deming Prize history in Japan, and 25 years of Baldrige history, and similar histories of programs around the world, why is enterprise quality, or enterprise excellence if you prefer, still the exception rather than the rule?

    Excellent question. There is no simple answer to this.

    Lack of long-term thinking, lack of quality culture, lack of systems thinking, 20th century thinking in global economy are still persistent in several organizations that are preventing these organizations to achieve and sustain organizational excellence.

    Awards such as Baldrige definitely contributed to the organizational excellence and transformed the way managers think, feel, and act.

    There are serious shortcomings with these awards that must be addressed. Here are few recommendations to make Baldrige program work in the global economy.

    • Eliminate individual award system – Deming’s philosophy does not support individual awards or individual performance evaluation. Baldrige award culture contradicts Deming’s philosophy. Eliminate award culture.

    • Encourage continuous improvement – The Baldrige program for organizational performance excellence should promote continuous improvement culture and not award culture. Promote continuous improvement culture.

    • Knowledge sharing – Promote knowledge sharing culture through Baldrige program. Encourage organizations to use Baldrige program for self-assessment and improvement.

    • Stakeholder focus – Government or Awards do not define quality. Customers of products and services define quality. Encourage organizations to share their performance excellence stories with stakeholders including customers.

    • Systems thinking – Include stakeholders (Employees, Managers, Suppliers, Customers, Board of Directors, Government, and Suppliers) in the continuous improvement effort. Everyone is responsible for quality. Educate management on longer-term thinking and not short term thinking.

    • Learning – Promote national or international performance excellence summits to specifically focus on sharing successes and lessons learned by organizations that use quality improvement programs such as Baldrige program. Provide appreciation certificates and not awards to all participants. Don’t include any programs that involve awards or certification or accreditation to avoid conflicts of interest.

    • Provide consulting assistance – Spend effort in assisting businesses to use Baldrige program to identify improvement opportunities. Volunteers that serve on the Baldrige program are great resources to assist with consulting.

    • Cost of Quality – Spend money wisely. Don’t spend money on awards. Spend money on education and training.

    o Spend money on providing educating and training small businesses to implement and improve quality management practices.

    o Spend money on providing scholarships to students pursuing education in quality management. These educated students (Future work force) will be instrumental in promoting quality culture within the organizations leading to improved organizational excellence and performance.

    • Globalization – With federal budget cuts, Baldrige program is no longer a national program. Consider expanding the scope of the program to include all businesses that conduct business with the US.

    • Innovation – Encourage innovative processes, methods, tools, and techniques to implement continuous improvement programs such as Baldrige. NIST can collaborate more with ASQ, educational institutions, organizations, and industry leaders to promote innovation in implementing Baldrige program for organizational performance excellence.

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