NIST Updates Baldrige Self-Assessment Tools Honing in on Preparation, Communication, and Inclusion

Some organizations are content with superficial measures to determine organizational and performance excellence.  Some are looking for something more.

For organizations truly committed to achieving organizational excellence or being considered world-class, it is sometimes necessary to look beyond regulatory compliance, adherence to or certification against international management system standards, or typical managerial metrics highlighting rising profits – although all of those things are important aspects of excellent organizations – to find a meaningful framework in which to execute business activities and gauge performance excellence.

Although we stand behind TQM methodologies and tools and will continue to teach them as being critical for business success, TQM initiatives alone often fall short of this mark.  A 2014 article in the TQM Journal titled Why TQM programmes fail? A pathology approach explored why these initiatives failed to meet their goals and help organizations reach expected levels of performance excellence through an extensive literature review on the topic and found that most reasons that expectations were not met were not from the tools being employed, but from the strategic failings in planning for the changes, communicating their importance for business success, and achieving inclusive support with management and employees.

An examination of 54 TQM empirical studies identified 54 obstacles to successful TQM implementation. There are both theoretical and practical difficulties in applying TQM in organisations. An ineffective TQM package, inappropriate TQM implementation methods and an inappropriate environment for implementing TQM are the main reasons for TQM failure. The most frequently mentioned reasons for TQM implementation failures include insufficient education and training, lack of employees’ involvement, lack of top management support, inadequate resources, deficient leadership, lack of a quality-oriented culture, poor communication, lack of a plan for change and employee resistance to the change programme. (Mosadeghrad, 2014)

You’ll note similar failings when attempting to implement other systems with the aim of improving organizational excellence such as Six Sigma or Lean, and you will typically find the same reasons being cited for why these initiatives miss their mark. When looking at these failings, it’s important to take a step back and think about the strategic nature of the approach that was taken for their implementation.  The examples above are often employed piecemeal with little strategic thought, commitment, or understanding of the end goal.  They are often seen more as something that can be done quickly to tick off a box or reap some quick gains, with small, disconnected, activities happening in isolation, being quickly abandoned when those gains in business performance never materialize and the troubles of the day push teams back into their old habits.

Accepting the risk of appearing to suggest yet another system to implement instead of Six Sigma, Lean, an ISO 9001 compliant QMS, etc., we posit that there is another way to start thinking strategically about these activities and building commitment throughout an organization to get everyone moving in unison toward the goal of world-class performance – one of which that should be strived for indefinitely lest the world pass you by – the Baldrige framework.  While the implementation of a quality management system standard in which the precepts are truly integrated into business processes is a crucial first step toward business excellence, as we’ve previously written, understanding the Baldrige framework and striving for adherence to its criteria helps organizations to move past their infantile stumbling and confidently sprint toward their ultimate goals.

The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award – given annually to those assessed and having been found to effectively follow the framework – was established by Congress to promote improved quality of goods and services in U.S. companies and organizations. The goal of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Improvement Act of 1987 (Public Law 100-107) was to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. businesses. Its scope has since been expanded to health care and educational organizations (in 1999) and to nonprofit/government organizations (in 2007).

Congress created the Award Program to:

  • Identify and recognize role-model businesses
  • Establish a criteria for evaluating improvement efforts
  • Disseminate and share best practices.

“American business and industry are beginning to understand that poor quality costs companies as much as 20 percent of sales and revenues nationally, and that improved quality of goods and services goes hand in hand with improved productivity, lower costs, and increased profitability.”

— Public Law 100-107, August 20, 1987

NIST publishes several self-assessment tools for organizations at varying stages of their journey to performance excellence to assess themselves against the precepts of the Baldrige framework.  Two such publications for beginners on this journey, Are We Making Progress? and Are We Making Progress As Leaders? were recently revised and are currently in their fifth edition.  The revised versions of these tools double down on strategic, high-level concepts that are necessary for organizations to grasp in order to become truly excellent performers, namely the need for preparation, communication, and inclusion.

(Bailey, 2022) Highlights the major changes in the 2022 revisions:

There is an intentional focus on preparing rather than planning, with the understanding that change—both planned and unplanned—is always on the horizon. For example, in the Strategy section, the verb “plans” has intentionally been changed to “prepares.” Similarly, a new statement has been added about whether an organization is “prepared to handle an emergency” and address “sudden disasters or new ideas.” There’s also a statement to check the perception that workforce members receive all the important information they need to make changes to their work when the organization makes unplanned changes.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) figures prominently in the revised self-assessments. A new statement checks the perception of “My organization treats all customers fairly” and “My organization is committed to including and embracing people from varying backgrounds, and treating everyone fairly.” There is also a testing of the perception that “the organization is a good place to work for all employees.”

Themes of communication are interwoven in the revised statements. For example, there is a focus on whether the workforce receives information on how work groups are included in an organization’s plans. The perception of bosses supporting workers and leadership team members supporting each other is also checked.

The importance of continuous improvement comes through in statements to check the perception of regularly reviewing and improving processes, and protecting important assets (property), data, and information (security and cybersecurity).

You can download Are We Making Progress? and Are We Making Progress as Leaders? To use free in your organization to begin your journey toward world-class performance using the Baldrige framework, and you can learn more about and purchase the Baldrige Excellence Framework HERE.  Isometric Consulting is a strong advocate for the use of the framework to help organizations move past certification for the sake of certification to a place of truly operating in a state of excellence and world-class performance.


Bailey, D. (2022, July 12). Revisions to Self-Assessment Tools Focus on Preparation, Communication, Inclusion. National Institute of Standards and Technology. Retrieved July 23, 2022, from

Mosadeghrad, A. M. (2014, March 4). Why TQM programmes fail? A pathology approach. TQM Journal, 26(2), 160-187.,plan%20for%20change%20and%20employee