Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Baldrige Program is Safe for Now

It has been reported that the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (NCFRR) has suggested the elimination of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program as a cost-cutting move to reduce the US national debt. An illustrative example from NCFRR states that the Baldrige Award Program - along with support of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership costs the US taxpayer approximately $120 Million. Compare this figure to the $16 Billion spent on ear marks or the $20 Billion wasted to purchase military hardware that the US military does not even want.

The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Program was established in 1987 as a means to recognize performance excellence of public and private U.S. organizations, thereby promoting U.S. competitiveness. A network of state, regional, and local Baldrige-based award programs provide potential award applicants and examiners, promotes the use of the Criteria, and disseminates information regarding the Award process. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, manages the Baldrige National Quality Program; and the American Society for Quality (ASQ) assists in administering the Award Program Many enterprises around the globe now follow the Baldrige Criteria.

I am a 29 year Quality veteran, an ISO 9001 Lead Auditor, and a Baldrige Examiner for the State of Minnesota. I consider myself socially liberal but fiscally conservative, generally favoring a smaller central government. Without getting into a deep philosophical discussion of my personal political views, I believe a critical role of the U.S. Government is to protect the Republic, uphold the Constitution and Bill of Rights, support human rights and protect civil liberties. Consider the federal Depts of Transportation and Commerce: just as a modern, efficient transportation system is critical to the flow of goods and services for economic growth and national security, the Baldrige Criteria are critical to assure the long-term viability of organizations, thereby protecting the competitiveness of the country in an increasingly global economy.

How ironic then, that the NCFRR has identified the Baldrige National Quality Program as wasteful, when it is the Baldrige Criteria that offer a long-term solution to waste reduction and performance improvement. Rather than cutting costs by freezing wages, eliminating jobs and reducing services, we need government to focus on eliminating waste and non value-added activities to improve its productivity, cost effectiveness and operational excellence. It's all about leadership, strategic planning, taxpayer and constituent focus, measurement and analysis, employee engagement, process management, and results. Sound familiar?

Quality is not an expense, it is an investment.