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Baldrige Frequently Asked Questions


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 U.S prosperity and long-term 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 Performance Excellence 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 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 National Quality Award in close cooperation with the private sector. It also provides global leadership in promoting performance excellence and the learning and sharing of successful performance practices, principles, and strategies.

What is the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award?

The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality 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 in gaining a competitive edge. Congress originally authorized the Baldrige Award to include manufacturing, service, and small business organizations; Congress expanded eligibility to education and health care organizations in 1998. Nonprofit organizations, including government agencies, became eligible for the award in 2007. A total of 18 awards may be given annually across the six categories—manufacturing, service, small business, education, health care, and nonprofit. Within the overall limit of 18, there is no limit on awards in individual categories. 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; Operations Focus; and Results.

What are the effects of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program?

The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the Baldrige Award recipients constitute the visible centerpiece of the Baldrige Program. Between 2005 and 2013, 612 U.S. organizations applied for the Baldrige Award. The 95 Baldrige Award winners (including 6 two-time winners) from 1988 through 2013 serve as national role models. In 2010 alone, the 83 applicants for the Baldrige Award represented 277,700 jobs, 1,500 work locations, over $38.5 billion in revenues/budgets, and an estimated 80 million customers served. The value of the services volunteered by the 578 Baldrige examiners in 2010 is estimated at $8.8 million. In addition, 2,270 state Baldrige-based examiners volunteered about $29.5 million in services to evaluate 1,350 organizations at the state level in 2010.

The Baldrige Program’s enabling legislation also 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. In Building on Baldrige: American Quality for the 21st Century 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. A new study of the Baldrige Program's value to U.S. organizations by Link and Scott released in December 2011 found an even greater benefit-to-cost ratio of 820 to 1.

Why was the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award established?

In the early and mid-1980s, many industry and government leaders saw that a renewed emphasis on quality was no longer an option but rather a necessity for American companies 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 world-class 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.