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Baldrige in the Manufacturing Sector:
Unleashing the Power of Performance Excellence
Craig A. Anderson
June 2007


Which do you want first, the good news or bad news? The good news is that 84
organizations submitted applications for the 2007 Baldrige National Quality
Award. Eighty-four organizations have embraced the values and principles of
Baldrige Performance Excellence to the extent that they are willing to open
themselves up to a rigorous assessment process that will poke into every area of
their operations. Interestingly, 42 of these 84 applicants are health care
organizations; this bodes well for the future of health care in the United States.

Now, for the bad news: there were a grand total of TWO manufacturing
organizations that applied for this year's Award. Now, certainly, there are many
manufacturing organizations that are using the Baldrige system in some way;
based on data maintained by the Baldrige Program Office it is estimated that
hundreds of organizations employ some part of the Baldrige Performance
Excellence system for every one that formally submits a national application. And,
of course, manufacturers are submitting applications to many of the outstanding
state-level Baldrige award programs. But, again, the bottom line is two national
applications.

But this is not the worst news. The worst news is that this lack of interest in
Baldrige means that many manufacturing organizations are simply missing out on
a proven, disciplined method of achieving and sustaining superior performance,
which ultimately hurts all of us.

Yes, perhaps the word QUALITY in the name is obsolete; quality is only the
admission ticket to the competitive marketplace today. But look beyond the name.
Baldrige is NOT about "quality" in the sense that you may think about it. Baldrige is
an integrated, strategic MANAGEMENT SYSTEM that will guide you to extract
every ounce of value from your internal and external resources.

Here are three ways that Baldrige Performance Excellence can add immediate
value to any manufacturing organization.

Make Better Decisions
You make key decisions every day. Baldrige can help you make better decisions.
How? By challenging weak data and assumptions, and by driving you to a
profound rethinking of how your organizational systems can be better integrated
with suppliers, customers, and key stakeholders for the mutual benefit of all. The
Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence
(http://www.baldrige.nist.gov/Business_Criteria.htm) have been designed and
field-tested to ensure their fitness for use in a variety of environments. For
manufacturing organizations, the Criteria get to the heart of strategy: Who are our
key customers, suppliers, partners, and other stakeholders? How do we capture
and respond to their requirements? How do we ensure optimal design and
deployment of strategy across components and geographies? How do we ensure
that our current and future workforce has the capabilities we need to succeed in
the marketplace? Embrace Baldrige as a core element of your performance
management approach and your strategies and actions will merge together to give
you an innate capacity to make and implement decisions better and faster than
your competitors.

Engage Your Workforce
Your employees are all knowledge workers. What percentage of their full capability
are you using? How are you developing your workforce of the future? How well do
your organizational competencies and work systems align with the abilities of your
employees? Where are your gaps? What is the true level of engagement among
your employees at all levels? Baldrige people eat these questions for lunch. Old
school "Baldrige is obsolete" managers do not even know how to ask these
questions. You have two choices: (1) continue to underperform as you engage your
"toolheads" in ever more creative ways to "motivate" and "empower" your
employees or (2) turbocharge your workforce through a seamless, integrated
approach to management that embeds the engaged employee at the heart of your
work systems. You do not need "toolheads" to "motivate" employees in a
manufacturing organization that deploys Baldrige.

Innovate Together
Everybody wants to be "innovative", but few organizations have internalized the
systems necessary to bring this about. Baldrige can play a key role here, as the
Criteria are designed to smoke out vulnerabilities in your capacity to think and act
innovatively. As the late, great W. E. Deming stated, the system must include the
future. How is the future integrated into your system? The Criteria challenge
managers to specifically address innovation and sustainability in all key areas of
the organization. The breadth of the Baldrige system means there is no place to
hide: any gaps in your capacity for innovation will be caught and identified as
opportunities for improvement.