Why Bother with Baldrige? – Part 2

An Examiner’s Perspective

Part 1 of this post [1] discussed the National Baldrige Awards and the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, by which Award applicants are evaluated and winners chosen. Part 1 also pointed out that the Criteria might also be used as a guide or table of contents for constructing and improving a results oriented comprehensive operations management system. Further, Part 1 suggested ways to become familiar with the Criteria, in order to apply them within your operation. Part 2 proposes an even more excellent way.

Examining as a Learning Opportunity

Baldrige Criteria Cover
A Baldrige Award application amounts to a description of an actual comprehensive operations management system, as it exists in a real organization. The role of the Examiner is to determine the extent to which the applicant’s management system, as described in the application, addresses the Criteria, as well as the maturity and integrity of that management system and of the processes, practices, policies and procedures which comprise that system. Through detailed, systematic, hands-on analysis, the Examiner gains critical insights that can be applied to the Examiner’s organization.

The examination process for each application consists of:

>> A team of about six specially trained Examiners is designated, along with a very experienced Lead Examiner.

>> Each Examiner individually analyzes the application, noting strengths and weaknesses for each Category and Item in the Criteria.

>> The team meets as a group and achieves consensus on a group analysis, which is then scored. Areas of the application where the team needs additional clarity or context are noted for review at Site Visit.

>> Where appropriate, a Site Visit is arranged and conducted, in order to gain clarity and context. Consensus lists of strengths and weaknesses, along with scores, are adjusted if and as appropriate.

Sure, examining is intense, and a lot of work. Because of the team aspect of the examining process, understanding of what performance excellence really requires comes fast. In today’s globalized economy, insights that can improve your organization’s competitive posture are well worth the bother.

To this point, discussion has focused on the national Baldrige Award program. There is also a network of State programs [2]. Most, if not all, State programs include a number of award levels, culminating in a top level award that follows the national Baldrige Award process quite closely. In fact, effective with this year’s Award cycle, applicants for the national Baldrige Award will be required to have won a State award at the highest level. The multiple levels of award offerings in most; if not all of the State programs provide organizations with a structured pathway for improvement over time.

Correspondingly, multiple award levels generate a need for Examiners within the State programs. State programs offer examiner training, along with opportunities to apply that training by examining Baldrige – based applications on levels of increasing intensity. Whether your organization intends to pursue Baldrige – based awards or not, becoming an Examiner in your State program offers a very practical, low cost route to improving your organization’s competitiveness.

: I serve on the Board of Overseers for the Arizona Quality Alliance, the organization that conducts State-level Baldrige based award programs for Arizona, Utah and Nevada. I have also served as an Examiner for the Arizona and the Mississippi programs. Examining is worth the bother.

: What does Baldrige have to do with Sustainability? [3]

: Category 1, Item 1a (3) of the Criteria explicitly addresses actions to build Sustainability into your organization. Category 1, Item 1c (1) addresses actions that recognize your organization’s responsibilities to the environment and to society [4].

Thoughtful comments and experience reports are always appreciated.

Chuck - Vannes
…  Chuck Harrington

: Contact me when your organization is serious about confronting Sustainability.

This blog and associated website (
www.JeraSustainableDevelopment.com) are intended as a resource for smaller manufacturers in the pursuit of Sustainability. While editorial focus is on smaller manufacturers, all interested readers are welcome. New blog posts are published on Wednesday evenings.

[2] Find contact information for your State program at: http://www.baldrigepe.org/alliance/


[3] For more on Baldrige and Sustainability, see Sustainability Planning – The Baldrige Approach, this blog: http://blog.jerasustainabledevelopment.com/2012/04/18/sustainabilty-planning—the-baldrige-approach.aspx


[4] The Glossary of Key Terms in the 2011 – 2012 Criteria for Performance Excellence defines ‘Sustainability” this way:


The term “sustainability” refers to your organization’s ability to address current business needs and to have the agility and strategic management to prepare successfully for your future business, market, and operating environment. Both external and internal factors need to be considered. The specific combination of factors might include industry wide and organization-specific components.

Sustainability considerations might include workforce capability and capacity, resource availability, technology, knowledge, core competencies, work systems, facilities, and equipment. Sustainability might be affected by changes in the marketplace and customer preferences, changes in the financial markets, and changes in the legal and regulatory environment.

In addition, sustainability has a component related to day-to-day preparedness for real-time or short-term emergencies.
In the context of the Baldrige Criteria, the impact of your organization’s products and operations on society and the contributions you make to the well-being of environmental, social, and economic systems are part of your organization’s overall societal responsibilities. Whether and how your organization addresses such considerations also may affect its sustainability.