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?