2015 Baldrige Criteria Changes

2015 Baldrige Criteria Changes Updates

2015 Criteria Changes:

  • More than 100 new Criteria requirements have been added for 2015 - 2016: There are more than 800 individual requirements (questions) in the new 2015 Categories 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6 and more than 1,100 individual requirements (questions) in total. This represents an increase from 985 individual requirements in the previous Criteria version.

  • Big changes to the Core Values . . . none are the same as the original ones but a few are similar. Core Value Titles that are no more include: Continuous Improvement, Valuing Partners, Focus on the Future, Employee Participation, Partnership Development, and Design Quality, and Personal Learning. In addition, "Agility" has been demoted from a lead role to a sharing role.

  • "Continuous Improvement" has been redefined and is now at odds with the ASQ definition and most other widely-accepted definitions. (See: Baldrige and Continuous Improvement Conflict).

More soon but first, congratulations to our customers and newest Baldrige winners: St. David's HealthCare & Hill Country Memorial!!!

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MISSION: Accelerating the total organizational improvement rate beyond the capabilities of all Business Excellence approaches combined. Paul


Breaking Badrige: Nobody ever said the Baldrige Winners are perfect . . .


2015 Criteria Developments

The illusion of listening?: The the Baldrige Program's credit, they have reached out more than perhaps ever before. But soliciting input and listening with an open mind are not the same. In fact, the type of improvement feedback solicited was narrowed to only a few topics. History indicates that the Criteria will retain most flaws and introduce new ones.

Why Criteria Terminology Changes are Necessary: In May of 2014, about 50 Baldrige Senior Examiners and Judges participated in a work session to analyze Criteria terminology including 'work systems', 'work processes', 'innovation', 'alignment', and 'integration'. The participants represented more than 500 years of Baldrige experience. Baldrige Program officials facilitated the session in Gaithersburg. All of these terms were unanimously reported as being confusing and/or difficult to understand. So . . ., if the experts find these terms to be difficult to understand, how can the applicants possibly understand them?

Short (?) 2015 Criteria Version: There has been a lot of speculation about a new shorter version of the Criteria for 2015. A draft of the 'Short Criteria' has been developed and it appears that they will consist of nearly 200 separate requirements . . . if this is true, the lack of practicality in the existing Criteria will be preserved in the short version . . . and that is not good.


Eleven is a Charm!

Vodafone was my 11th telecommunications client in 11 different countries. I am pleased to report that all eleven achieved their project objectives  . . . which for most of them was to win their 2013 national quality/excellence award . . . thank you Vodafone for keeping the streak alive . . . and, thank you for the special honor of inviting me to work with a truly outstanding organization that never stops improving.

Fiji FBEA Vodafone

Has the Baldrige Award Program Gone Out of 'Business'?

For the first time in the 27 year history of the award, there were no Baldrige business applicants
and Criteria degradation and impracticality are looking more and more like the primary causes

2013 Baldrige Applicants Summay

Source: NIST Baldrige Website

To put this in perspective, not one of the 20 million for-profit businesses in the United States applied for the Baldrige Award this year.

The Baldrige Criteria are regarded by some (myself included) as a valuable tool for organizational and performance excellence assessment.

However, there is a wide gap between their actual value and their perceived value as measured by the 20-year decline in private sector participation show here.


Millions of copies of the Criteria were downloaded but no business organizations applied in 2013. The growing consensus is that Criteria issues are the cause. At a high level, key problems identified by users include:

We can all agree or disagree with the reasons for the decline. What is clear is that the Criteria purport to offer a means to improve organizational performance excellence and profit organizations are desperately in need of and open to a means to improve their performance. Defiance of the basic laws of economics: There is an ideal market scenario with both inexhaustible supply and unquenchable demand . . . but, something [arguably the Criteria] has not only prevented growth in the number of 'for profit' applicants but caused a steady exodus. 


What follows is a summary of Criteria improvement opportunities (OFIs) identified by users including winners, Examiners, Judges, former Baldrige Foundation Chairman, national award leaders, and an advisor to two US Presidents. Everyone wants to see the Baldrige Program regain its former stature.

Please Note: This summary of the new Criteria changes is being continuously updated. It is possible that in some cases the findings presented may be incorrect. However, if the Criteria are correct and the perception is that they are not, there would appear to be an important opportunity for the Criteria to better communicate to the users.

How many words is too many? There are 5,878 words in the 2013 Criteria and 4,595 additional words in the explanatory notes under the Criteria. Some users think this is too many.


Reinstate 'world-class': As Baldrige celebrates its 27th anniversary, it may want to consider reinstating the original 'world-class' requirement in both processes and results scoring guidelines. America ranks lower internationally in manufacturing, health care (worst among large nations), and education than it did when the Baldrige Program began in 1988. Lowering the competiveness bar for winning to national or regional benchmark levels is not compatible with the award' original purpose and is not the best approach to improving America's competitiveness. Reinstating the original 'world-class' threshold will result in fewer winners but State and international excellence award programs have addressed this effectively by using tiered award levels.

Baldrige Work Systems Relevance The Migratory Habits of 'Work Systems'

'Work Systems' were relocated from Operations Focus to Strategic Planning for 2013.
During the past 20 years, Work Systems have been relocated to the Criteria requirements in 13 Criteria Items, the Organizational Profile, and six of the seven Categories. Work Systems never-ending quest for a permanent home has long confused and frustrated users. Confusion and frustration are not conducive to improvement.

 Problematic: In the 2013 Criteria, the design, development, implementation, control, improvement, and sustainability of approximately 95% of the 'key processes' of a large manufacturing organization (e.g., automotive) are not included in the Criteria 'work processes' or 'work systems' requirements because they are performed by suppliers?

Some users perceive that the relationships between and among 'work process' and 'work system' are convoluted or in some cases ilogical. Here is an example: A 'work process' is defined as being performed internally. The same process when performed by a supplier is (as of 2013) included under 'work systems' in Strategy Development. If the same process is performed internally, it is required to be assessed for design, development, implementation, control, improvement, and sustainability. However, these requirements are not part of a Baldrige assessment if a supplier performs the work.

Guide to Knowing What 'Is' or 'Is Not' a 'Work Process': Assembly of Samsung Galaxy smartphones is a 'work process' . . . but, assembly of Apple iPhones is not a 'work process' . . . is there any wonder why the Baldrige Award business applicants dropped to zero in 2013?

 SUPPLIERS DENIERS: There Would Not Have Been a Baldrige Award if it Was Not for Suppliers

Baldrige stunned the business community in 2001 by deleting all Supplier-dedicated Criteria Items, Criteria Areas, and Criteria questions.

There would not have been a Baldrige Award if it were not for suppliers: President Reagan was concerned that the Baldrige Award Program could fail if it did not receive wide support from the manufacturing community. He required that financial support for the award be funded 50% by manufacturing suppliers as a condition for his support. For every $300,000 asked from each major manufacturing sponsor organization, it was required that there be an additional $300,000 from their suppliers.


Most Baldrige applicants in the early years were suppliers: The chart at the top of this page paints a bleak trend for manufacturing/supplier applicants . . . from nearly 100 in the early years to only six in 2012.


Baldrige Faux Excellence FrameworkBaldrige stunned the business community in 2001 by deleting all Process and Results Criteria Items, Areas, and Criteria questions dedicated to suppliers. This led to the December 2001 Quality Digest Magazine cover titled: "Is the Baldrige Award Still About Quality". The feature story was written by Richard J. Schonberger a world-acclaimed author and expert in the field of Lean - Six Sigma and World-Class Manufacturing. He cites several flaws in the Criteria including the removal of the Items dedicated to suppliers. Dr. Schonberger's position accurately reflected the sentiment throughout the business community that sustained the already declining award participation rate of the business community. Today, a consensus is growing in other sectors including education and health care that it is important for the Criteria to accountably address the supplier and partner organizations that represent on the order of 50% of their total expenditures. These costs often take the form of management, design, HR, maintenance, contract workforce, IT, customer support, and operational functions.
Good News (sort of):
For 2013, Supplier-dedicated Criteria Areas (not Items as before) have returned to the Criteria. This marks a significant first step towards restoring the importance of suppliers in achieving excellence. More pressure needs to be applied to restore the Criteria to their previous supplier recognition level in years 1988 through 2000 but even that will be insufficient.

Baldrige may want to check out the European Model to gain a better perspective of the importance of suppliers and partners to achieving organizational excellence.]

Suppliers and partners are not second class stakeholders. Give them equal status with other major stakeholders (e.g., workforce, customers) by adding a dedicated Suppliers and Partners Focus Category and a corresponding results item. Doing this will establish applicant accountability to addressing these valuable stakeholders. The winners’ application summaries (especially healthcare) make a compelling argument that to win the Baldrige Award it is no longer necessary to meaningfully address supplier and partner organizations . . . nobody wins when the value of suppliers is minimalized.


“On Her Majesty’s Secret Product” . . . Product? Didn’t you mean ‘service’ Mr. Bond? No M. The Queen is using the Baldrige Criteria now. This silly analogy refers to the Criteria requirements references to products and services being deleted in 2008 (with a few exceptions) and replaced with references to products only. In 2012, I had the opportunity to introduce the Criteria through assessment training to more than 30 public and private service organizations in several countries. In every session, I was asked a question by someone new to the Criteria equivalent to this: ‘The Criteria do not apply to us because it asks about how we address products and what our product results are. We don’t have any products. We are a service organization.’ Disillusioning potential Criteria users and providing ammunition to Criteria critics within existing users is not a good strategy for gaining acceptance from service organizations. In fairness to the Criteria, the Glossary explains that products, programs and services are intended to be covered by the word 'products'. Good luck trying to find this information in the glossary though because it is well-hidden and also not included in the Index of Key Terms. However, this hidden information exemplifies a universal problem that is arguably one of the Criteria's worst problems . . . practicality . . . you would need to search through all 64 pages of the Criteria booklet to find the definition of any term in the Criteria requirements and retain what you read . . . and repeat this process thousands of times to effectively understand the Criteria meaning. This impracticality discourages people and organizations from initially embracing the Criteria and severely limits the efficiency of using the Criteria. The Criteria could benefit from being written more from the perspective of the users.

Strategy Results Have Been Deported Back to their Home Country for 2013: In 2011, 'Strategy Results' ran away from their 'Leadership Results' (Item 7.4) home and illegally entered 'Product Results' (Item 7.1) at a remote border crossing under the cover of darkness. Complaints led to Passport Control eventually locating the adventuresome 'Strategy Results' and unceremoniously deporting them back to their home country of 'Leadership Results'. [Action Consideration: Take away the power to impose the new Criteria without user review and acceptance and these type of changes will be filtered out.]



Proposed Baldrige Criteria Improvements Based on User Inputs

2013 Baldrige Criteria Framework Improvement Opportunity

 Baldrige Criteria Development Process Improvements

2013 Baldrige Criteria Improvements

Category 6 Improvements?

Core Terminology Improvements

Baldrige Faux Integration Graphic

 Baldrige Flawed Integration Graphic

Does Baldrige understand what 'integration' is? Unless some users are really, really wrong, this may be the single-most damaging integrity problem for the award because integration is a core element of both the Criteria and the Scoring Guidelines. The first words of the definition ("integration" refers to the harmonization of . . .")  introduced in 2002 are vague and create a sense doubt. When the "Integrated Approaches (70% - 100%)" graphic at the left was added to the Criteria booklet that same year, it appeared to confirm the worst case scenario. This graphic does not depict integration

Additional confirmation that alignment is improperly substituted for integration can be found in the 100% scoring band wording for both the Process and Results Scoring Guidelines. Degrading the meaning of integration to alignment greatly lowers the standard of excellence bar and impedes the learning of Criteria users . . . if Baldrige would better define and illustrate integration as well as correct the wording in the Scoring Guidelines, this issue goes away. . . and the effectiveness of the Criteria could be improved as much as a quantum level.

Scoring Points Improvements

Criteria Engagement Improvements

2013 Baldrige Scoring Guidelines Improvements

Baldrige Case Study Writing Improvement

Have the Baldrige Case Study writers 'lost the plot'? Warning: The answer is graphic in nature. Viewer discretion is advised.

Baldrige Glossary Improvements

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" . . . but, it is not 'innovation' . . . unfortunately for the Baldrige Glossary

Eliminate the words "Innovation involves the adoption of . . ." from the definition for Innovation to ensure a focus on new and not only copied improvement.

Baldrige Faux Innovation Graphic
Baldrige Faux Integration Graphic

Why? The word innovation comes from Latin word ‘nova’ which means new. The Baldrige definition for innovation is based on the action verb “adopt” which does not have the same meaning as new. Adopting something that is not new and defining it as innovation because it is new to the adopting organization does not make something that is already used . . . ‘new’. For example, one Baldrige winner adopted a process that had been used previously for more than fifty years and presented this in their application and in post-award presentations as innovation . . . not good. However, I suppose that one could salvage some face-saving value by arguing that at least this was an innovative application of an old process. But, that is not simply not good enough for a role model winner. The point is that the organization should not be faulted . . . rather, the Baldrige definition is the enabler of this degradation of the meaning of the term 'innovation'..

Further, it appears that Baldrige may have mistaken a classic corrective action process for innovation in the Criteria Booklet graphic to the left.

Most importantly, allowing imitation to be credited as innovation adversely affects the competitiveness improvement rate of organizations using the Criteria.


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MISSION: Accelerating organizational improvement beyond the capabilities of Business Excellence approaches. Paul Steel

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