It is a well accepted concept that quality management and continuous improvement can be applied to almost any process in any type of organization. The MBNQA was created to provide recognition in several categories and in several industry classifications for US based organizations who meet the MBNQA criteria and have excelled in implementing quality management systems.

Overview: What is the MBNQA?

The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Improvement Act of 1987, was signed into law on August 20, 1987. The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA) is an award established by the U.S. Congress to raise awareness of quality management and recognize U.S. companies who have implemented successful quality management systems. The award is presented by the President of the United States.

The program and award are named for Malcolm Baldrige, a one time ranch hand who attended Yale and became a successful businessman before joining the Ronald Reagan Cabinet. He served as United States Secretary of Commerce during the Reagan administration from 1981 until 1987. Baldrige unexpectedly died in a rodeo accident after the horse he was riding while cattle roping fell on him.

Up to 3 awards are given annually across each of the following six sector specific categories:

  1. Manufacturing
  2. Service
  3. Small Business
  4. Education
  5. Healthcare
  6. Nonprofit

An independent board of examiners judge applicants based on the following seven criteria:

  1. Leadership: How the management team leads their organization and the community.
  2. Strategy: How the company establishes and implements strategic decisions.
  3. Customers: How the company builds and maintains relationships with its customers.
  4. Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management: How efficiently the organization uses data to support processes and manage performance.
  5. Workforce: The degree to which the company empowers and involves its workforce.
  6. Operations: The design, management, and improvement of key processes.
  7. Results: Examines the organization’s performance and improvement in key business areas such as customer satisfaction, finances, human resources, supplier and partner performance, governance, and social responsibility.

The graphic below illustrates the above seven criteria.

Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award
MBNQA Criteria

The core values and concepts can be summarized as follows:

baldrige national quality award
MBNQA Core Values and Concepts

3 benefits of the MBNQA

The MBNQA is the benchmark for recognizing achievement in performance excellence. Here are some of the benefits of applying for and winning the MBNQA award.

1. Global recognition

While the MBNQA award is for U.S. based organizations, it is recognized globally as an exceptional achievement.

2. Specific and practical criteria to meet

While the criteria for the MBNQA are revised every two years, there is consistency to the criteria being judged. Since the purpose of the award is to drive competitiveness and performance excellence, the entire process is geared to being of practical use for the organization, not just theoretical.

3. Organizational improvements

Even if you don’t win the MBNQA, preparing and implementing the criteria will bring significant improvements and benefits to your organization.

Why is the MBNQA important to understand?

Your organization should understand the importance of not only applying for the Award but for implementing the criteria and core values in your organization.

Time and resource commitment needed

Preparation and documentation for the MBNQA evaluation requires time and resources. Your organization must be willing to make the investment since the process is very competitive.

Importance of senior leadership involvement

The seriousness the organization places on the preparation for the MBNQA will highly depend on the commitment of senior leadership and the signals and communication they send out.

Benefits which can occur

Some of the benefits reported by winners of the MBNQA are:

  • Revenue increases
  • Increase in market share
  • Greater employee involvement
  • Improved product and service quality
  • Reduction of waste
  • Improved customer satisfaction

An industry example of the MBNQA

Here is some data on the applications, site visits and awards for the MBNQA from its inception in 1987 until 2021. All applicants receive an extensive feedback report from the award’s private-sector board of examiners highlighting strengths and opportunities for improvement.

Organizations selected for evaluation are visited by a team of six to eight examiners to verify the information in the application, examine each organization’s records, conduct interviews, and clarify any issues or questions raised by earlier reviews. The Judges Panel reviews the site visit findings and recommends award recipients. Additionally, note that during the past eight years, applications in the manufacturing sector have dropped to zero while healthcare and non profit organizations now make up the majority of applications and awards.


MBNQA Information

3 best practices when thinking about the MBNQA

Applying and preparing for the MBNQA audit is intensive. Here are a few tips to help you get it right.

1. Assign a key person to facilitate the process

You should assign a senior person to facilitate preparation for the application and evaluation phases of the process. This person needs to have influence and credibility in the organization and be the point person for all activities.

2. Communicate the process

Employee engagement is critical to winning the award. Communicate frequently why and what you are doing.

3. Document everything

Sustaining your changes will require you to fully and accurately document everything you do.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the MBNQA

Is the MBNQA the same as ISO 9000?

No. The focus of the Baldrige Award is on enhanced competitiveness, delivery of ever-improving value to customers, and improvement of overall performance excellence. The focus of ISO 9000 registration is on conformity to practices specified in the organization’s own quality systems. Its central purpose is to enhance and facilitate trade and not necessarily do continuous improvement across the entire organization.

Who was Malcolm Baldrige?

Malcolm Baldrige was the Secretary of Commerce under President Ronald Reagan from 1981 until 1987. Prior to entering the Cabinet, Baldrige was chairman and chief executive officer of Scovill, Inc.. Baldrige worked during his boyhood as a ranch hand and earned several awards as a professional team roper on the rodeo circuit. Baldridge died as a result of a rodeo riding accident when his horse fell on top of him.

Who won the first MBNQA award?

Motorola, Inc. and Westinghouse Electric Corporation Commercial Nuclear Fuel Division both received awards in the Manufacturing category. Globe Metallurgical Inc., now known as Globe Specialty Metals, Inc., received the award in the Small Business category.

Quick review of the MBNQA

The MBNQA is a presidential award to raise awareness of quality management and performance excellence by formally recognizing U.S. companies who meet the criteria across seven sector specific industries.

The main purpose of the MBNQA is to:

  • Raise awareness about the importance of performance excellence.
  • Recognize companies who show performance excellence and share information with other organizations to help improve the competitiveness of U.S. industry.
  • Motivate U.S. companies and organizations to improve their quality standards and strive for excellence.
  • Help companies and organizations embody the competitive spirit and drive the U.S. economy forward.
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