A Baldrige Update and Q&A With Bob Fangmeyer

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program published the latest revisions to the Criteria for Performance Excellence in 2015–2016 Baldrige Excellence Framework: A Systems Approach to Improving Your Organization’s Performance. The program also recently released a brochure-length Criteria-based resource: Baldrige Excellence Builder. In this guest post, Baldrige Program Director Bob Fangmeyer responds to questions quality professionals may have about using these resources to help organizations improve their performance.


In 2013, Fangmeyer became the third director to lead the Baldrige Program since its establishment by Congress in 1987. In his tenure so far, Bob has worked to lead the expansion of product and service offerings, strengthen partnerships and collaborations, and focus on increasing use of the Baldrige Excellence Framework in all sectors.

If my organization is not applying for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, how can we still benefit from using the Criteria?

First, it is important to understand that the Baldrige Excellence Framework, which includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence, serves two purposes: as the standard of excellence that award applicants are evaluated against, and as an educational document designed to help any organization achieve better outcomes and results.

Second, it is important to understand that Baldrige is not a substitute for the quality and processes improvement tools you use, such as lean, Six Sigma, and ISO. We provide a framework that works in conjunction with such improvement tools to ensure that your organization is making appropriate improvements to the most important processes in order to achieve organization-wide goals and objectives. Complementary to quality or process improvement tools, the Baldrige Excellence Framework is a systems approach to leadership, management, and organizational performance improvement that ensures an integrated focus on the unique factors that drive success for your organization.

The many benefits to be gained by using the Criteria—or derivative products such as  Baldrige Excellence Builder (go here for a free sample) and Are We Making Progress? surveys—as a leadership guide and/or self-assessment tool include improved communication, understanding of customer requirements, organizational alignment, employee and customer engagement, and, of course, business and operational results. One easy first step is to see if you can answer the questions in the Organizational Profile (the prefatory section to the Criteria), and if others in your organization, including the leadership, would answer them the same way. We hear from organizations of all kinds that this simple exercise was one of the most important and impactful steps in getting their people and processes aligned, thereby enabling significant and rapid gains.

How is the new version of the Criteria different from previous versions?

The change to the title of the booklet aims to clarify that the contents are not only “criteria” for the Baldrige Award but also a framework for improving performance and achieving excellence based on a systems perspective.

The graphical depiction of the framework (see below) has changed to better highlight key attributes; as one example, the Organizational Profile more clearly shows that it’s the context for all performance areas. We also streamlined the Criteria’s format to make it more concise, readable, and user-friendly.

Last but not least, we have made revisions to the Criteria, as we do every two years, to ensure that the Baldrige framework represents what we call the leading edge of validated leadership and performance practice. Those revisions, centered around change management, climate change, and “big data,” are detailed in the “Changes from 2013-2014” section of the booklet.

There seem to have been a lot of other changes in Baldrige recently, including new products and services. Why is that?

The Baldrige Program’s purpose is to improve organizational performance, competitiveness, and sustainability. Our mission is to define, recognize, and foster organizational performance excellence in every sector of the economy.

If we are to accomplish our mission and purpose, we need to reach and engage with as many organizations as possible. Therefore, we have been developing new products and services that meet the needs of a broader audience, including establishing a highly regarded executive development program, in-depth training on the Baldrige framework and Criteria, and assessment services unrelated to the Baldrige Award.

I want every organization that is interested in achieving better results to think “Baldrige equals excellence” and “Baldrige can help us get better.” One of the best ways to do that happens to be getting an objective external assessment, either through the national Baldrige Award process, or through a local or regional program, but I want them to explore and use Baldrige even if they never apply for any award or recognition.

What if my organization’s leadership believes adopting the Baldrige approach isn’t easy enough?

One answer is that achieving excellence is not easy. If excellence were easy, it would be common, and there would be no need for Baldrige! But the good news is that an organization can get started with a Baldrige approach and achieve significant improvements without heavy investment, particularly with our new products and services.

The dramatic improvements and long-term success of organizations that have embraced the Baldrige framework prove that it is worth the investment. By making this commitment, organizations of any sector or size can achieve desired results despite an increasingly challenging environment.

June Roundup: What's the Value of Organizational Excellence Programs?

In June, ASQ CEO Bill Troy asked the Influential Voices bloggers about the value of organizational excellence programs such as the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in the U.S . What can a company learn after undergoing this exercise—even if an organization is not in the running for an award or external recognition?

ASQ’s bloggers assessed the value of excellence awards—from going through the exercise as part of continuous improvement to following through after winning (or losing). See their blog posts below.

Tim McMahon lists five practical ways to make the most of organizational awards—such as “use the feedback.”

Jennifer Stepniowski suggests a thought exercise: Apply award criteria to your organization even if you’re not applying for the award. In fact, Nicole Radziwill adds that you don’t need to use or implement all sections of the Baldrige criteria for it to yield immediate tangible value for your organization.

Dan Zrymiak assesses organizational awards in terms of a public relations exercise versus a genuine improvement tool. Anshuman Tiwari compares an organizational excellence journey to training for and running a marathon.

Scott Rutherford suggests SIPOC as a tool for organizational excellence. And Manu Vora writes about his extensive career experience with organizational excellence.

Some excellence programs are based on the Malcolm Baldrige model, but there are a number of other business excellence awards. Lotto Lai outlines the Hong Kong Quality Award. Rajan Thiyagarajan writes about the India-based Tata’s business excellence model.

And Jimena Calfa reflects on the next steps after winning (or not winning) an award. The journey doesn’t stop when you submit the application. It has only begun.

The Organizational Excellence Journey–and ASQ

I want to let you know about the terrific news we recently received.  ASQ has been awarded the Excellence level of achievement for the 2014 Wisconsin Forward Award. The Wisconsin Forward Award is essentially the state-level equivalent of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in the U.S.

The Excellence level of achievement is exceptionally challenging and represents an organization that is performing at a very high level across its entire breadth.

This award is not just a reflection on ASQ headquarters in Milwaukee.  The Baldrige criteria require a much broader look. The examiners talked to ASQ member leaders and board members to really gauge what kind of organization this is.  I think the results demonstrate unequivocally that ASQ practices what it preaches.

We believe in rigorous self-examination and continuous improvement— in fact, we believe in it strongly enough to put ourselves through it, too.  This extraordinary recognition reflects the untiring efforts of our staff and ASQ member leaders who make us what we are.

Have you been part of an organization that has embarked on an excellence program?  In the end, such a program is really not about the award, but about improvement. What has been your experience with this exercise in organizational self-examination?

Quality Trends in Uncommon Places

[This is a guest post by Julia McIntosh of ASQ’s Communications department.]

Most of the keynote speakers at ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement weren’t traditional “quality” professionals. Yet all wove the theme of quality into their presentations, which ranged from what motivates us in the workplace to how to be more interesting (useful when courting potential clients and employers).

For May’s monthly theme on View From the Q, we’re breaking with tradition a bit and offering multiple topics for discussion. All are themes that came up at the conference. Yet these subjects are relevant to the quality community far beyond one event. Take a look.

Workplace Motivation and Goals: What motivates you at work? Keynote speaker and author Daniel Pink argued that rewards motivate us to accomplish very simple and rote tasks, but they’re useless in encouraging complex and creative work. Interestingly, ASQ blogger John Hunter (who wasn’t at the conference) just wrote a post for the W. Edwards Deming Institute blog featuring a podcast by Pink and this insight: “Quotes by Dan Pink are backed by decades of research , and support W. Edwards Deming’s views on managing people.”  Here’s a sampling of Daniel Pink’s case against rewards for performance:

  • Short-term motivators have outlived their use for 21st century work. Dr. Deming figured this out years ago.
  • Fact: Money is a motivator—it’s the standard of normal fairness. Pay enough to take issue of money off the table.
  • Besides money, the three key motivators are autonomy, mastery and purpose.
  • The technology for engagement isn’t management, but self-direction over time, tasks, team, and technique.

Do you think Pink and Deming are correct about about motivation in the workpalce?

Charm and Fascination (or “Soft Skills): Both Sally Hogshead and James Melton spoke at the conference about making oneself likeable, fascinating, and charming. You may think of these as “soft skills.”  Do soft skills matter if you’re extraordinary at the technical aspects of your job? Sally and James said yes! Key takeaway from James Melton: “Treat strangers with the same courtesy as you do loved ones. You will go far.” You never know when that stranger turns out to be a client or an employer. Sally Hogshead said that you don’t have to be the best at your job to be successfu.  But you do need to be distinct. How do you make yourself distinct as a quality professional?

The Quality/C-Suite Connection: Author Karen Martin spoke about the disconnect between the quality department and the C-suite. It’s a common problem, and one covered on this blog. See: Can We “Sell” Quality? and Baldrige In the C-Suite.  How can you, the quality professional, help build a bridge to the C-suite? Karen suggests becoming a coach, teacher, and mentor in your organization. Do you agree?

What’s The Future of Quality? Futurist Jamais Cascio laid out his vision of epic global changes in the next decade. How will the quality profession change in tandem? It’s a question of great interest to ASQ. Every three years we conduct a Future of Quality study, anticipating the future of the field and preparing for the changes it will bring. The latest study was done in 2011, and you can read it here (PDF). Speaking of the future, ASQ’s just-released Global State of Quality research  gives a comprehensive look at the quality function in organizations around the world. The research is certainly helping us plan for the future by uncovering current trends. Look for a more in-depth post on The Global State of Quality later in May. Paul Borawski will be back with additional insights on the research.