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Welcoming Remarks at Quest for Excellence

Marriott Wardman Park, Washington, DC
April 16, 2012
Dr. Patrick Gallagher, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director


Good morning, everybody. Oh, you can do better than that. Good morning, everybody. You wore yourselves out last night cheering for the recipients.

It is my pleasure this morning to welcome you all here and kick off the Quest for Excellence program. I’m going to make a confession.

Last night we had the privilege and honor of recognizing the Baldrige award winners from both 2010 and 2011—all 11 of them. It was an outstanding event. I know most of you were here last night joining us.

But what we’re about to do today is actually one of my favorite events of all. And the reason for that really comes to the essence of the Baldrige program. This is where we learn from those model organizations who have really been recognized for achieving this incredible state of high performance.

The Quest for Excellence is the place where we come together and exchange ideas and best practices so that we can all benefit and improve our organizations. And there is an energy in this community that I find infectious and compelling.

Every one of us is here today because we believe in the power of positive change, and the Baldrige process is about systematically understanding our customers and ourselves so that we can implement that change.

You know last night as I listened to the award winners give their remarks, I was struck hearing the diversity of organizations that we recognized. We had health care, engineering, education, pet food, fast food, consulting, publishing, medical devices. This is an enormous spread of missions, products, services, and organizational needs and sizes. And all of those organizations utilized the Baldrige Criteria to reinvent, shape, and improve their organizations.

But what struck me was they each did it in their own way. Each leader had found the right vocabulary to inspire their employees, the right things to measure their performance, for the right reasons, and the right way to reach out to their customers, the right way develop their leaders who could bring about the changes and the strong organizations that they have.

Baldrige is fundamentally about getting results, and it‘s easy to make the case that it works. Five businesses, including MEDRAD in 2010, have earned the Baldrige Award twice. These are the Baldrige “ninjas,” the best of the best. All have used the Baldrige Program for at least six years, resulting in an immediate 93 percent growth in revenue and a 63 percent growth in jobs. At the same period of time, their peers’ mean job growth rate was 3.2 percent.

Recent results for hospitals that either won the award or received site visits are equally impressive. A Thomson Reuters study found that they outperformed other hospitals on nearly all performance measures. Baldrige hospitals have fewer deaths, fewer complications, higher profits, and are six times more likely than non-Baldrige hospitals to be ranked in the top 100 list.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina and Dartmouth did an overall economic impact study and found that the cost-to-benefit ratio for Baldrige applicants wasn’t 10 to 1, wasn’t 100 to 1—820 to 1. This is astounding performance, and it doesn’t even include the overall benefit to the economy from the added jobs, the enhanced productivity, the better service to customers, and other key results.

In short, we’re here today because Baldrige is a program that has proven its worth year after year for an enormously diverse group of organizations, and they all use it to strive for performance excellence for themselves, but also for the nation as a whole.

The benefits we are seeing are both benefits for each organization itself, but also benefits that we all share in terms of better economy, more jobs, better health care, better education—you get the picture. It’s really important.

One of the things I want to do this morning is extend a very special set of thank you’s.

As many of you know, federal funding for the Baldrige program was terminated this year, and this has been a year of great uncertainty for everybody in the Baldrige family—both within NIST and the community outside of NIST. And we are really excited, because out of this year of enormous uncertainty, the Baldrige Foundation and our other partners—The Alliance for Performance Excellence and ASQ—have recommitted and rededicated themselves to the program. The Foundation announced just a few weeks ago their commitment to financially support the program through 2015. And they have just embarked on a new fundraising campaign to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Baldrige enterprise well beyond that date.

Foundation Chair Debbie Collard, when she made this announcement, noted the Foundation’s confidence in the ongoing transition to a sustainable business model for this program. This model will be based on fee-based products and services and an enhanced Foundation role.

I am deeply grateful to the Foundation for the leadership they have shown, and I would like really to recognize them for that today.

The other group I want to thank Harry has already mentioned, but in a year of so much uncertainty, it has taken a great tax on the people who care so passionately and deeply about this program, I want to personally thank Harry Hertz for his leadership. This was a difficult journey for the program, but one I think that we now can see the chance of coming out stronger, even stronger than we were before. I want to thank the remarkable staff of the Baldrige program for their perseverance, their leadership, and guiding this program to a vibrant future.

Quite simply, Baldrige works, for all of our organizations, for our country. So I want to thank you for all that you do every day to put this Baldrige Criteria to practice, and I want to thank you all for your continued support of this program.

Thank you, and enjoy the conference.