Baldrige Award

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This article explains the Baldrige Award in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this interesting quality management award.

What is the Baldrige Award?

The Malcom Baldrige award (National Quality) is annually awarded in the USA to American organizations for performance excellence. This may be organizations of both the profit and non-profit sectors. The Baldrige Award is the only formal recognition of top-level business performance and is presented by the President of the United States.

Baldrige award criteria

The Award is managed by the Baldrige National Quality Program, which in turn is managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The Award is named after Malcolm Baldrige jr., who was the United States State Secretary for Commerce during the Reagan administration. The Baldrige Award strengthens the positions of organizations and they can distinguish themselves from their competition. Furthermore, they will have an opportunity to publicize their successful strategies and exchange information about this with other organizations. However, this organization must ensure continuous improvement of its products and/or services. Efficient and effective operational management provides a way in which an organization can be distinguished from other organizations. The Baldrige Award is not given for specific products or services.


Every year, 18 Awards are given across six categories: manufacturing, service, small business, education, healthcare and non-profit. In addition, the categories are organized into seven criteria:

  1. Leadership
  2. Strategic planning
  3. Customer focus
  4. Measurement, analysis and knowledge management
  5. Workforce Focus
  6. Operations Focus
  7. Results

These criteria are contributory factors to enhancing competitiveness. They help organizations improve their opportunities, performance and results. They also facilitate  communication and exchanging information with other organizations. Finally, they serve as a working instrument to learn, manage and understand performance and they help steer planning in the right direction.

Integrated approach

The Baldrige Award criteria provide organizations with an opportunity to integrate management strategies in their strategic policy. This may eventually result in:

  • Delivery of ever-improving products/ services that contribute to sustainability.
  • Improved effectiveness and efficiency within an organization.
  • Organizational learning opportunities by means of evaluation.

History of the Baldrige Award

In the 1980s, many US industry magnates and government leaders saw that it was necessary to renew the emphasis on quality in order to be able to compete with an ever-expanding world market. The Baldrige Award was proposed as a standard of excellence that would provide American organizations with an opportunity to achieve a role-model function in the area of world-class quality. The first director of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Program, Curt Reimann, and his co-workers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) developed an award for quality performance including an evaluation scheme from the government.

This Award is now known as the Baldrige Award.

It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Is the Baldrige Award applicable in today’s modern economy and business world? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more suggestions? What are your success factors for efficient and effective operational management?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. Bemowski, K., & Stratton, B. (1995). How do people use the Baldrige award criteria?. Quality Progress, 28(5), 43-48.
  2. Blackburn, R., & Rosen, B. (1993). Total quality and human resources management: lessons learned from Baldrige award-winning companies. The Academy of Management Executive, 7(3), 49-66.
  3. Wisner, J. D., & Eakins, S. G. (1994). A performance assessment of the US Baldrige Quality Award winners. International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, 11(2), 8-25.

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