Before you start on a journey, you have to know where you’re going. So first, let me tell you a little bit about Baldrige and where you can expect it to take you.

Malcolm Baldrige started his career as a foundry hand, and rose to assume the presidency of the same company. He eventually served as the United States Secretary of Commerce during the Reagan administration. Baldrige’s managerial excellence contributed to long-term improvement in economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in government. After his 1987 death in a rodeo accident, the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and the associated award were established in his honor.

The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recognizes performance excellence in the business, health care, education, and nonprofit sectors.The award is administered by the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, which is based at and managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The award is highly competitive. To receive a Baldrige Award, an organization must have a role-model organizational management system that ensures continuous improvement in delivering products and/or services, demonstrate efficient and effective operations, and provide a way of engaging and responding to customers and other stakeholders. Up to 18 awards may be given annually, but as of 2016, only 113 awards have been presented to 106 organizations.

That’s the background. Now, how can your organization benefit from Baldrige?

Even if you never apply for an award, you’ll see results from aligning your organization with the Framework.

The Baldrige Excellence Framework helps organizations assess their improvement efforts, diagnose their overall performance management system, and identify their strengths and opportunities for improvement.

Here’s how organizations similar to yours have improved after adopting the criteria:

  • One small manufacturer reduced its employee turnover by 20 percent over three years
  • A hospital improved its readmission rates by 15 percent and its patient satisfaction scores by 12 percent over five years
  • A small business sustained a 43.8 percent average annual growth rate in net income and a 21.3 percent average annual growth rate in gross sales over 11 years
  • One public school district had a higher graduation rate from 2008-2012 than other county, state and nearby high-performing districts

You can get started at any time. It’s easy.

  1. A self-assessment using the Baldrige Excellence Builder is a great way to jump-start change. The tool encourages you to think deeply about the structure and goals of your organization, and some questions will require doing legworkfor example, what key performance measures or indicators do you use to track the achievement and effectiveness of your action plans? Even as you complete the self-assessment, you will begin to see opportunities for improvement.
  2. Attend the TNCPE summit in February, and learn from winning organizations there.
  3. Get involved with the NCaFE award program, which is North Carolina’s state-level award program. NCaFE has produced three national winners to date. Becoming an examiner can certainly accelerate your individual and organizational learning.

As you begin your journey, there are plenty of resources available to you, so don’t feel overwhelmed by the process. Go to a conference, take a class, or browse NIST’s library of resources for answers to the most common questions about implementing the Framework. And be sure to share your own experiences with your peers—every Baldrige journey teaches us something new!

Kevin GraysonKevin Grayson is Assistant Director, Technology Management at NC State Industry Expansion Solutions. He provides strategic consulting, including business plan and sales development strategy, market penetration, market growth, new product introduction, innovation strategies and product design to clients in multiple industries.