Baldrige Core Values:
Key Differentiators in a Brutally Competitive World
Craig A. Anderson
In an article in this month's Popular Science magazine about rampant industrial
espionage and product "cloning" in China, the following line caught our eye: "In the
south, one cloning operation didn't just copy a technology company's product
line--it duplicated the entire company, creating a shadow enterprise with corporate
headquarters, factories, and sales and support staff." Duplicated the entire
This got us thinking about what "the entire company" means, in a global sense.
What is your "entire company"? What is the essence of your organization that
cannot be cloned? What is your true differentiator in a world where ideas and
capital can flow across borders at the speed of light?
If you struggle with answering this, we have a recommendation: go back and
sharpen up your management operating system with Baldrige Performance
Excellence. Just like an operating system that optimizes the performance of the
integrated systems and resources in a computer, your management operating
system is unique to your organization and is the single most important element in
your long-term success. Baldrige Performance Excellence is the blueprint for what
a world-class management operating system looks like.
But a management system is not enough. Focus on the Baldrige Core Values, the
"hidden" keys to performance excellence. Too often overlooked in the rush to
"implement" Baldrige, the Baldrige Core Values are the foundation for long-term
As described in the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, the 11
interrelated core values "are embedded beliefs and behaviors found in
high-performing organizations". Rather than have us list them, you can read more
on pages 1-4 of the online version of the Criteria for Performance Excellence.
What matters is that these "embedded beliefs and behaviors" are the foundation
of your organization and cannot be "cloned" by anyone; people and technologies
will come and go, but your core values are enduring.
As with all aspects of the Baldrige system, your core values are developed through
self-assessment. Begin a probing, authentic dialogue with your key people around
the role of core values in your organization. Are core values important to your
organization? What are your core values? Where are the gaps with the Baldrige
Core Values? How consistent is the embrace of core values across your
organization? Do you and your team walk the talk? Do you manage by fact and not
by opinion? Does an appreciation for systems thinking extend deep into your
These are tough questions without easy answers. But then, pursuing performance
excellence without a commitment to core values is a path to nowhere. And without
a foundation of core values, you may be the next organization that is cloned out of
existence. Whether this happens literally or figuratively is not even the point; your
future will have already been determined.