“Our country is discussing ways to meet the economic challenges and global competition facing our nation and the necessity to make some concessions to help solve our national debt and deficit problems, and yet we already have a program that benefits the United States by driving economic development through increasing business productivity, workforce efficiency, and job creation.”
Last Friday, E. David Spong, president of the American Society for Quality, past chairman of the board of the Baldrige Foundation, and CEO of two Baldrige Award winners, testified before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies in support of increasing, not decreasing, funding for the Baldrige program. President Obama has proposed cutting the program’s funding from $9.6 million annually to $7.7 million.
Spong points out that “federal funding is in fact only a small measure of the total amount of hours, funding, and value contributing to the program. Yet government support is significant as it provides the integrity, consistency, and continuity the program needs; and without an efficient and effectively managed program, the entire stakeholder system would collapse.”
To those who think the purpose of the Baldrige program is the Award, Spong argues that “the intention is not to simply give out awards, but to establish role model organizations that would share their successful strategies with other U.S. businesses.”
His speech, available here (pdf), lays out a compelling case for the Baldrige program, and Spong is the perfect person to make that case. I wrote about his Baldrige accomplishments here. Yet his speech also exposes what I believe is the greatest weakness of the Baldrige program, which is its failure to reach a broader audience. Interest in Baldrige has remained consistent for twenty years, with bumps in attention when healthcare and education criteria and awards were added, but it has never really caught on in executive suites and boardrooms across America. Those organizations that have integrated Baldrige know how well it works, but they remain a small minority in a country that could truly benefit from the Baldrige model.
As Spong concludes: “From the employees of the program applicants (those who apply for the award and use the Baldrige framework to improve their operations), to the customers of these organizations who benefit from the focus on customer service and efficient management structure, participants in the Baldrige community strive to implement the Baldrige principles in a way that measurably improves the fabric of American society.”
Let’s hope Congress fully funds the program—and the program finds new ways to reach more organizations across the country.