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Harry Hertz

Quality Insider

Not All Results Are Created Equal

That’s why the wording of the Baldrige Criteria is intentional

Published: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 - 17:34

The words used in the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence have been selected by design, i.e., in general there is a deliberate intent behind the words used and the order in which they are presented. Although that intent is clear to the Criteria’s authors, it’s not always obvious to users, for good reason: They can’t get inside the minds of those who created the Criteria.

With that realization in mind, I thought it might be good to write periodically about some of those language nuances. This is the first blog in that series, and it deals with language nuances in the Results category.

The most important category, from the perspective of criticality to organizational sustainability, is the Results category which carries 45 percent of the total points in the Baldrige scoring system. With limited exceptions, all the questions in that category begin with, “What are your current levels and trends in key measures or indicators of (some aspect of organizational performance)?” This is intentional to make clear that quantitative and numerical results are expected. Furthermore, not only is the current performance level expected, but also how that performance has changed over time to indicate improvements or challenges to good performance. It’s a guide to decision making for the future.

However, there are a few results questions that don’t ask for levels and trends but frame a more general request for “results.” These questions are in item 7.1 c—Supply-Chain Management Results, and all of item 7.4—Leadership and Governance Results. This choice of language is intentional because not all results in these areas are amenable to quantitative measures or trending. For example, in item 7.4, many of the results may be qualitative. It’s not enough to say “fines for violating law or regulation have gone down”; you also want to know what caused the fines and how the problem was solved.

As another example, results of intelligent risk-taking might not be trendable (number of risks over time) because a significant risk that led to new product or that was aborted at the right time is by itself an important result. That said, this doesn’t mean that numerical information should be avoided. According to the scoring guidelines, if a result is numeric and trendable, that result should be reported. The lack of requirement for levels and trends should not be considered a directive to not include them when appropriate.

I hope this helps clarify the intentionality of the language difference in some Results questions. If there other Criteria language questions you would like to see addressed, please let me know.

First published Dec. 17, 2013, at Blogrige.

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About The Author

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Harry Hertz

Harry Hertz retired in June 2013 from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), where he had served as director of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program since 1995. For more than 15 years he was the primary architect of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, responsible for expansion of the Baldrige Program and Award to healthcare, education, and nonprofits, including government. Hertz serves on the advisory group for VHA’s Center for Applied Healthcare Studies, and on the adjunct faculty of American University. He has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, and a Ph.D. from M.I.T.