Use a Baldridge Award Application to Improve Your Business

There are myriad business competitions, which companies enter for myriad reasons. Opportunistic CEOs slap together applications for every conceivable prize, hoping to show off their accomplishments or secure a PR payday. But no one undertakes Baldrige on a lark. The application for the award runs to 50 pages, with roughly 250 questions covering every aspect of performance, from strategic planning and knowledge management to work-force and customer focus to financial and market results.

Though few businesses apply for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, many thousands use the questions and the criteria on which they are based to evaluate their own processes. The experience of completing the application, even as an academic exercise, is akin to writing a textbook about your company or undergoing a business version of psychoanalysis. This course of self-evaluation and improvement requires that companies fling up their window shades, yank open every cupboard and closet, and see—really see—where their thinking is murky and their efforts inadequate or wholly lacking.

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