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Execute Strategy with the Baldrige Criteria

Nicole Radziwill

Creating a strategy that tells your organization where it needs to go is easy, but actually getting there can be hard.

Fortunately, there are tools available to make strategy execution much easier, including one with a 30-year history that’s been developed and continuously improved by thousands of senior leaders in quality and operations -- the Baldrige Excellence Framework.

In early May, I had the honor of attending the 2019 gathering of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA) Board of Examiners. Baldrige Examiners, many of whom have served for multiple years, are senior and executive managers in quality and operations. The MBNQA, the only Presidential award for performance excellence in the United States, is guided by the Baldrige Excellence Framework. This intricate guidebook of criteria questions can be used by organizations for self-assessment, or to formally prepare for the award process.

The Baldrige Excellence Framework asks organizations to critically examine seven interconnected areas:

  1. Leadership. Senior leaders set the tone by establishing the vision, mission, and values, developing protocols for governance and robust communication, and creating the conditions for success. Senior leaders model the behavior they wish to see throughout the organization.
  2. Strategy. A solid process for identifying a strategy is key, but it must be supported by development of relevant core competencies, development and execution of action plans, and timetables that are matched to resource availability.
  3. Customer Focus. Figuring out what customers want should be a data-driven, holistic, continuous process. Mapping customer needs to product and service offerings that appeal to defined customer segments will influence the potential for success. Actionable plans to engage those customers should also be included.
  4. Data and Knowledge Management. Measuring and improving performance based on data is also critical. These criteria questions help organizations avoid “data silos” and decision making based on incomplete information.
  5. Workforce Management. Strategic objectives can’t be realized without capable, engaged, motivated employees who have manageable workloads. A solid workforce management plan emphasizes retention, and helps the organization understand how to adapt to changing needs.
  6. Operations. Work processes are developed to establish how inputs are transformed to outputs, and provide a basis for growth and innovation. Understanding how those work processes align with processes in the broader supply network can also impact success.
  7. Results. Processes and structures are only as good as the results they can achieve. The final category links each of the previous categories to overall performance.


Many organizations that adopt the Baldrige Excellence Framework also implement standards for management systems like ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015, and ISO 45001:2018. The added value of using the Baldrige Excellence Framework in addition to these standards is that it encourages organizations to think holistically. By drawing out the connections between people, processes, data, and technologies, silos can be eliminated from the organizational design.

Additional Reading

Freeman, G. (2019). Culture of Quality: Achieving Success with Tools, Processes, and People. Intelex Insight Report. Available from

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). (2019). Baldrige Excellence Framework (Business/Nonprofit): Proven leadership and management practices for high performance. Available from

July 03, 2019 @ 10:20 AM EDT Manufacturing Operations, Quality

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