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Baldrige Frequently Asked Questions

This is your resource for answers to some questions you may have about the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, including

  • History and purpose
  • Benefits and impact to organizations and the nation
  • How to apply for the Malcolm Baldrige Award, types of applicants for the Baldrige Award, Baldrige Award recipients
  • How to apply to serve on the prestigious Baldrige Board of Examiners and the benefits of doing so
  • Using the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence to drive breakthrough improvement and world-class results in your organization
  • The role of senior leaders
  • Baldrige in health care and education, and more



Who was Malcolm Baldrige?

Malcolm Baldrige was Secretary of Commerce from 1981 until his death in a rodeo accident in July 1987. Baldrige was a proponent of quality management as a key to this country’s prosperity and longterm strength. In recognition of his contributions, Congress named the Award in his honor.

What are the purposes of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program?

The Baldrige National Quality Program is a national education program based on the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. A part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Baldrige National Quality Program is a customer-focused federal change agent that enhances the competitiveness, quality, and productivity of U.S. organizations for the benefit of all citizens. It develops and disseminates evaluation criteria and manages the Malcolm Baldrige Award in close cooperation with the private sector.  It also provides global leadership in promoting performance excellence and in the learning and sharing of successful performance practices, principles, and strategies.

What is the Malcolm Baldrige Award?

The Malcolm Baldrige Award is the highest level of national recognition for performance excellence that a U.S. organization can receive. Congress established the Baldrige Program in 1987 to recognize U.S. companies for their achievements in quality and business performance and to raise awareness about the importance of quality and performance excellence as a competitive edge for attaining organizational success. Congress originally authorized the Baldrige Award to include manufacturing, service, and small business organizations; Congress expanded eligibility for the Baldrige Award to education and health care organizations in 1998. Nonprofit organizations, including government agencies, became eligible to apply for the Baldrige Award in 2007. There is no limit to the number of Awards that may be given annually in each of the categories—manufacturing, service, small business, education, health care, and nonprofit—up to a total limit each year of 18 Awards.

To receive the Baldrige Award, an organization must have a role-model organizational management system that ensures continuous improvement in the delivery of products and/or services, demonstrates efficient and effective operations, and provides a way of engaging and responding to customers and other stakeholders. The Award is not given for specific products or services.  

The Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence provide a framework that any organization can use to improve overall performance. The Criteria are organized into seven Categories: Leadership; Strategic Planning; Customer Focus; Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management; Workforce Focus; Process Management; and Results.

What are the effects of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program?

The Malcolm Baldrige Award and the Baldrige Award recipients constitute the visible centerpiece of the Baldrige Program. However, the Program’s enabling legislation designates it as an outreach and education program designed to encourage performance excellence not only in applicants for the Award but also in a much broader base of organizations that do not apply for the Award. A report, Building on Baldrige: American Quality for the 21st Century by the private Council on Competitiveness, said, “More than any other program, the Baldrige Award is responsible for making quality a national priority and disseminating best practices across the United States.”

An October 2001 study of the economic impact of the Baldrige Program, prepared for NIST by Albert N. Link and John T. Scott, conservatively estimated the net private benefits associated with the Program to the economy as a whole at $24.65 billion. When compared to the social costs of the Program of $119 million, the Baldrige Program’s social benefit-to-cost ratio is 207-to-1.

Why was the Malcolm Baldrige Award established?

In the early and mid1980s, many industry and government leaders saw that a renewed emphasis on quality was no longer an option for American companies but rather a necessity for doing business in an ever-expanding and more demanding competitive world market. The Baldrige Award was established to promote the awareness of performance excellence as an important element in competitiveness and was envisioned as a standard of excellence that would help U.S. companies achieve worldclass quality. From the outset, Congress anticipated how applicable the Baldrige concepts would be for organizations beyond the business sector, and it since has expanded the Award to include the education, health care, and nonprofit (including government) sectors.