Despite its rather torturous and obscure name, which comes from a Commerce secretary who served under President Ronald Reagan, this is no obscure or bureaucratic award. To earn it, organizations must demonstrate high levels of continuous improvement and achievement in seven areas: leadership, strategic planning, customer focus, measurement, analysis and knowledge management, workforce focus, process management and results.
The judges (called examiners) of each organization's application must undergo hours of training; and the judging process even includes an on-site visit (for each applicant that makes it that far) so the examiners can verify the organization "walks the talk" of its application.
The entire point of the program -- and some organizations use it without even submitting an award application -- is to continuously improve and deliver better results to the organization's stakeholders: owners, investors, customers, employees and relevant communities. Many states have similar award programs that often feed into the national program.
Following the Baldrige process for improvement -- let alone doing it well enough to earn an award -- is not for the faint-hearted or under-resourced; it's a huge commitment of time, manpower and often money. But what I like about the Baldrige program is that it includes categories for small business, educational entities and healthcare providers. In fact, this year's recipients also include three small businesses, one education and one healthcare winner.
I'm familiar with the award and process from my days as editor of Quality Progress, the membership magazine of the American Society for Quality (ASQ), which serves as the administrator of the Baldrige program (processing applications, facilitating the judging, etc.). That's why I'm excited that a petfood manufacturer has earned the Baldrige. I've read the applications and stories behind previous winners, as well as heard about following the process in their own words* -- so I know what a tremendous achievement it is to earn the award.
Congratulations to Nestle! We hope to bring you further information about their award and how they earned it soon in Petfood Industry.
* If you ever have the opportunity to attend the annual Baldrige award conference, called the Quest for Excellence, I highly recommend it in terms of hearing companies share -- quite openly -- how they make their businesses better. The 2011 conference is scheduled for April 4-6 in Washington, DC, USA.