Although they were to be used by any type of business, the first Baldrige Criteria in 1988 were easier for manufacturers to access. That makes sense since the focus of the quality movement at that time was on manufacturing, most notably in the automobile and electronics industries.
After four years of significant revisions, the 1992 Criteria had become relevant for manufacturers and service companies alike, although small businesses still balked at the formality requested by the Criteria for processes they could handle well informally.
Curt Reimann, the original leader of the Baldrige program, estimated that he spent 400 hours revising the 1991 Criteria. “When I talk to companies with good quality systems, I ask them, ‘What part of your story can’t you tell with our Criteria?’ or, ‘What story am I asking you to tell that you feel is irrelevant or is getting in the way of your quality?’”1
The answers to those questions continue to shape the Criteria today. Annual reviews and revisions for the past 18 years have produced Criteria that bear little resemblance to the 1992 Criteria. Although both have seven Categories, the Categories in 1992 were:
- Information and Analysis
- Strategic Quality Planning
- Human Resource Development and Management
- Management of Process Quality
- Quality and Operational Results
- Customer Focus and Satisfaction
The 1992 Criteria had 28 Items; the 2010 Criteria have 18 Items. Core values have been modified and added. New areas of focus in the Criteria have emerged to reflect new areas of emphasis for today’s organizations including agility, sustainability, and ethics. The evaluation dimensions have changed from approach, deployment, and results to process (approach, deployment, learning, and integration) and results.
You can see the seeds of the current Criteria sown 18 years ago. For example, the 1992 Criteria asked about “senior executives’ leadership, personal involvement, and visibility in quality-related activities of the company” including “(1) reinforcing a customer focus; (2) creating quality values and setting expectations; (3) planning and reviewing progress toward quality and performance objectives; (4) recognizing employee contributions; and (5) communicating quality values outside the company.” While some items on this list have been scattered to other Items, they are very similar to questions being asked in today’s Criteria.
“Organizational learning” is a Baldrige core value that describes the evolution of the Baldrige Criteria from a manufacturing-oriented system to a model any type of organization can use to assess and improve. By continuing to ask Reimann’s questions, the Criteria will remain the global standard for how to create and run a high-performing organization.
1The Baldrige Quality System by Stephen George, John Wiley & Sons, 1992