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Baldrige Excellence Without Limits:
A New Paradigm for International Development
by Craig A. Anderson
April 2005

No Limits!

Imagine a world of overseas development projects that achieve real results,
building sustainable capacity and literally transforming the management and
business culture of entire industries and sectors in emerging economies around
the world.  Well, imagine no more. We are poised on the edge of a world of
international development without limits! Baldrige Performance Excellence, fresh
from transforming large swathes of the American economic and political
landscape, is now poised to make a dramatic, timely, and hugely important impact
on the world of international development. This isn’t an idle dream. We have seen
first hand through our work in Indonesia and elsewhere the magic that can arise
when Baldrige Excellence crosses borders. It is time to stop reinventing the wheel
when it comes to international development. Baldrige Excellence is here now. The
Baldrige Criteria have already been field tested, honed, and deployed in
thousands of organizations worldwide. There is simply no finer platform in the
world today for aligning and integrating all parts of an organization, sector,
industry, or even a nation, than Baldrige Excellence. So why is this American born
and bred marvel not part of the standard development toolkit?

What makes Baldrige so powerful overseas? First, the self-assessment
foundation of the Criteria is very much in sync with societies and cultures that place
a higher value on reflection and inquiry. We are an American company, and we
love the energy of our own free enterprise system, but that does not mean that we
automatically want to be prescriptive about the “right” way to run any organization.
Baldrige Excellence is non-prescriptive by design, seeking to find the balance and
harmony within the existing organizational culture, structure, and processes.

The holistic nature of Baldrige Excellence is another compelling factor. When you
strip away the fluff, what you find at the core of many international “capacity
building” projects is a program of training and professional development activities
(usually with a significant number of overseas field trips!) along with some new
computers. Is it any wonder that these initiatives underachieve? How could it be
otherwise? Any first-year Baldrige Examiner can tell you there is no way that a
focus on ONE of seven Baldrige Performance Categories, (e.g., Category 5:
Human Resource Focus) can achieve lasting results. The whole point of Baldrige
is that capacity can ONLY be increased by a broad based set of interventions
across the entire set of Performance Categories. And ONLY when these
interventions are aligned within an integrated management system that begins with
leadership and customer requirements, and ends with measurable results. It’s the
SYSTEM that matters much, much more than the sum of the individual capabilities.

Our commitment at GPS is to work tirelessly with our international partners at
USAID, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and other bilateral and
multilateral development organizations to make the case for Baldrige Performance
Excellence as a core element of international capacity building initiatives. It is
WAY past the time to move beyond random acts of improvement to embed a
culture of high performance in all organizations that are involved in building better
futures for their people, whether in Indonesia or around the corner from where you
are. This is not new thinking: we all know it is better to teach a man to fish than to
provide him with a fish. Baldrige is a tool for building fisherman with the
knowledge, skills, and methods to make excellence a way of life.

No Limits! No more tinkering around the edges of failed concepts. Baldrige
Excellence will take international development to places it has never been.