One of the recommendations I have been making for some time is the re-orientation of the Baldrige Quality award into something broader. (See our 2008 report Crafting an Obama Innovation Policy). Over the years, the criteria for the Baldrige Award have changed with the times. As these criteria have shifted and broadened, the award has become much more productivity and innovation focused. Much of this shift, however, has not been recognized. The change in the name would both better advertise the broader nature of the award and provide an opportunity to review and modify the criteria to reflect this broader view. In addition to changing the name, the award should be given greater visibility by the President. By presenting the awards personally, the President could use it as an opportunity to showcase innovative American companies and collaborations.
This would obviously be more of a symbolic act. But it could be used to highlight the issue. And the reorientation of the criteria would help promote organizational performance.
Earlier this month, the Commerce Department announced that it was changing the name of the program to the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. The Dr. Harry Hertz, the program director, put it this way:
Today, the Baldrige Criteria focus on the way a successful organization can effectively plan and mange its operations for current success and long-term sustainability. The Criteria form a management framework covering everything from leadership, strategic planning, and knowledge management to a focus on the workforce, customers, and all performance results. To reflect the 23 years of changes since our program was created, as of October 2010, our name is changing from the Baldrige National Quality Program to the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program.
I think this is a step in the right direction. But I was disappointed to see how quietly this was rolled out. I hope with the new name there will also be a reinvigorated effort to publicize the program. The program was successful in meeting the quality challenges of the 1980s and 1990s. A reoriented and reinvigorated program can help address the transformation and innovation challenges facing us today.