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Learn About Quality

What Is Organizational Excellence?

Quality Glossary Definition: Organizational excellence

Organizational excellence is defined as the ongoing efforts to establish an internal framework of standards and processes intended to engage and motivate employees to deliver products and services that fulfill customer requirements within business expectations. It is the achievement by an organization of consistent superior performance—for example, outputs that exceed meeting objectives, needs, or expectations.

Component Definitions:

  • An organization is a group aggregated and combined under specific leadership to function as a single entity for a particular purpose.
  • Excellence is a measure of consistently superior performance that surpasses requirements and expectations without demonstrating significant flaws or waste.

Organizational excellence continues the progress established by a foundation such as total quality management, in which all levels of the organization participate in continual improvement.

Organizational excellence model and framework

One program highlighting the traits and attributes of organizational excellence is the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. In the Baldrige Excellence Framework, the attributes of organizational excellence include:

  • Leadership
  • Strategic planning
  • Customer and market focus
  • Measurement, analysis and knowledge management
  • Human resources/workforce focus
  • Process management
  • Business results

Organizational Excellence Framework
Organizational Excellence Framework

A similar protocol, the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) Excellence Model, includes the following items:

  • Leadership
  • People
  • Strategy
  • Partnerships and resources
  • Processes, products, and services
  • People results
  • Customer results
  • Society results
  • Business results

The Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) created the Deming Prize, with specific awards for individuals and for organizations and operating divisions. From a definition of "company-wide quality control" (CWQC), the Deming Prize identified multiple levels and categories of organizational excellence that include:

  • Organization and its management
  • Education
  • Quality information
  • Planning
  • Analysis
  • Standardization
  • Control
  • Quality assurance
  • Results

These different perspectives suggest that the common traits of organizational excellence are consistent across different cultures and nations.

Managing for organizational excellence

Another perspective is to view organizational excellence as the successful integration of technology, infrastructure, and personnel.

Organizational excellence is often the result of transitional and transformational activities. Successful organizational outcomes require deliberate management and improvement in six key areas:

  1. Information: Metrics, measures, and decision support
  2. Structure: Roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities of each functional area
  3. People: Total human capital within the organization
  4. Rewards: Compensation and incentives
  5. Learning systems: Knowledge and training
  6. Work processes: Interaction and linkage of workflows

Organizational excellence is dependent upon gaining sufficient commitment to embrace and apply positive changes in the above areas. Organizational change management is necessary to effectively communicate the changes to those affected in order to minimize uncertainty and obstructions. Collaboration is critical, and the evidence of organizational excellence can be demonstrated across the organization with a balanced scorecard that covers the following perspectives:

  • Financial
  • Customer
  • Internal business processes
  • Learning and growth

Organizational excellence is incremental. Different tiers or “maturity levels” should be identified as interim targets for each of the organizational excellence characteristics. By focusing on the performance expectations of an accessible maturity level, employees and stakeholders will be more inclined to make the necessary changes within their control and capabilities. And as maturity levels are reached, participants should be recognized for their efforts.

Benefits of pursuing and achieving organizational excellence

The pursuit of achieving organizational excellence can strengthen the overall prestige of an organization both internally and externally. Any additional costs to infrastructure and overhead have the potential to be repaid with greater returns resulting from engaged employees, satisfied customers, and more efficient operations.

As detailed in The Impact of Baldrige on Organizational Performance, a survey of 273 Baldrige Performance Excellence program applicants showed a benefit-to-cost ratio of 3.0 to 1 associated with using the Baldrige Excellence Framework, a 107 to 1 benefit-to-cost ratio when considering financial gains associated with increased customer satisfaction, and a ratio of 820 to 1 when also considering financial gains associated with increased value of sales in excess of resource costs.

View a list of Malcolm Baldrige Award case studies detailing more results organizations have achieved with their approaches to the organizational excellence model.

Organizational Excellence Resources

You can also search articles, case studies, and publications for organizational excellence resources.


2021-2022 Baldrige Excellence Framework (Education)

2021-2022 Baldrige Excellence Framework (Health Care)

2021-2022 Baldrige Excellence Framework (Business/Nonprofit)

The ASQ Certified Manager Of Quality/Organizational Excellence Handbook


Journey To Excellence (Quality Progress) This article describes capstone projects created by Baldrige executive fellows, a group of senior leaders embarking on a program to look at leadership through the perspective of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. Projects included improving healthcare processes; moving from a compliance model to a performance excellence model; creating a customer feedback loop; and creating a strategy that would improve the entire Department of Defense supply chain.

Social Responsibility And Performance Excellence (Journal for Quality and Participation) This article explores how some successful organizations are using the Criteria for Performance Excellence associated with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. These organizations are using the criteria as a framework to drive their ability to achieve excellent performance results while serving as role models for societal responsibility.

Case Studies

Aligning, Improving Key Measures Net Texas Healthcare Organization Baldrige Honor (PDF) When St. David’s HealthCare first adopted the Baldrige criteria, leaders viewed it as an improvement framework to shape a culture of quality and performance excellence. Once immersed in the framework, leaders used it as a tool to help align and improve the work of the organization and key performance measures.

The Corning Journey To Performance Excellence: Innovation Spanning Three Centuries (PDF) For 160 years, Corning Incorporated, a company known for innovations in the development of glass products and glass- and ceramics-based applications, has had a commitment to manufacturing what it invents. Falling into a slump in the early 2000s after an uptick in globalization, Corning returned to profitability and reclaimed its stronghold by renewing its commitment to quality and adding rigor to its innovation process.


The Journey: Achieving Sustained Organizational Success Charles Cianfrani, Isaac Sheps, and Jack West, authors of the book The Journey, team up to provide a great introduction to the book, and an overview of the proven approach they recommend for organizations that want to achieve sustainable success.

Excellence Frameworks: Their History, Development, And Future Shawn Flynn, a Baldrige Examiner and prior judge for the ASQ Team Excellence Awards, provides a thorough overview of excellence frameworks from around the world and shares insights on how to select the right framework for your organization.

The Baldrige User's Guide John Vinyard, the author of multiple Baldrige publications and coach for 16 award recipients, walks you through the key features and areas of Baldrige User’s Guide and provides insights and tips for any organization seeking to leverage the Baldrige framework to achieve excellence.

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