It should be noted that contemporary quality management evaluation systems regard self-assessment of companies as one of the most important tools for a systematic improvement of organizational performance. Enterprises apply this technique to ensure that they remain productive. Importantly, the evaluation of instruments and frameworks have been refined due to the introduction of certain quality standards (Evans & Lindsay, 2016).
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Overall, company self-assessment has broad enough tasks. It involves such goals as identification of opportunities for improvement and analysis of such factors as leadership engagement, strategic planning, client and workforce content, and other factors. Evaluation of these criteria allows an understanding of how effectively a company achieves its goals (Brown, 2013). Therefore, it is necessary to review both strengths and weaknesses of operation and bring them to the attention of all employees.
One of the complex tools and methodologies used for improving operations quality is the system developed by Malcolm Baldrige. It is a comprehensive framework, which drives organizations towards excellence. The purpose of this paper is to interpret the Baldrige standard and propose guidelines for achieving operations quality through an analysis of current viewpoints regarding this approach.
The standard or Baldrige criteria have been developed to improve quality management systems in American companies and increase their competitive abilities (National Institute of Standards and Technology, 2017). Baldridge Award was introduced several decades ago, and it was given to those companies that met all the criteria to the fullest degree (Brown, 2013). This standard reveals the requirements for quality improvements in management and promotes the dissemination of information on the most successful strategies.
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (2016), the Baldrige standard covers such criteria categories as “leadership, strategy, customers, measurement, analysis, and knowledge management, workforce, operations, and results” (para. 2). These criteria emphasize the importance of such factors as company management and human resources, business results, and knowledge management.
Researchers believe that with the emergence of this methodology, a new approach to total quality management has been introduced to evaluate the effectiveness of activities of organizations (Evans & Lindsay, 2016). Companies relying on the principles put forward by the Baldrige standard can be characterized by such attributes as attractiveness for shareholders and reliability for partners, high social responsibility, increased competitiveness, and customer satisfaction orientation.
Insights into Categories
In general, the proposed criteria allow companies to increase the value of their product or service; however, the items of the framework have formulated in such a way as not to give companies clear instructions on how to operate but to direct them in a comprehensive manner (Brown, 2013). Therefore, it is assumed that each organization can improve the criteria of the standard based on its parameters and needs. Moreover, each enterprise can develop an individual approach to the implementation of these directions.
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According to experts in the industry, the main aspect of the Baldrige standard is the company profile (Foma, 2012). It is a broad and comprehensive category; nonetheless, all the companies, which have received the Baldridge award (therefore, they meet all the criteria of the standard to the fullest degree) have a strong organizational profile (O’Reilly, Dziurman, Sprague, & Witt, 2013).
This aspect covers the scope of the organization and its practice, its business environment, and the way the company interacts with its key stakeholders. The organizational profile also implies an understanding of the competitive environment and strategic development goals (Evans & Lindsay, 2016). Experts in the field advise focusing on this criterion of the standard when initiating company self-assessment since it allows identifying the potential inconsistencies in the business process. Moreover, the company profile reflects the direction in which the company wishes to develop.
Also, the Baldrige standard can be regarded as a philosophy. It can be used to improve management systems through the development of the seven categories mentioned above. As it comes from the framework description, the first category is leadership. The criterion assumes that company management targets the development of corporate social responsibility through the implementation of regulatory requirements. The second category is strategic planning.
This analysis of this criterion should be used to ensure that organizations develop a plan to achieve corporate goals through the development and implementation of a comprehensive strategy (Evans & Lindsay, 2016). The third category is consumer orientation. This aspect also encompasses the market in which a company operates. To meet this criterion, it is necessary to study consumer behavior constantly and track changes in their needs. Such practice will provide the organization with an opportunity to increase customer loyalty and retain them.
The fourth category is the measurement, analysis, and knowledge management (National Institute of Standards and Technology, 2016). A company that aspires to quality in operations should collect data and manage this information correctly to measure the activities of the organization (Evans & Lindsay, 2016). Because the business environment of an organization is almost always unstable, companies need to set tasks correctly for managing their business processes efficiently.
The fifth criterion is an orientation toward human resources. In dynamically developing organizations that strive for quality in management, personnel development system should be aimed at staff education and motivation (Kendall & Bodinson, 2016). Also, creating a favorable climate in the company should be viewed as a condition for employee satisfaction.
The sixth criterion that organizations should follow to achieve quality in operations is an orientation toward processes (operations). In a successful company, business processes should be aimed at creating and delivering value to customers and stakeholders by reducing and eliminating redundant operations and achieving efficiency (Kendall & Bodinson, 2016). The seventh factor is the results. This criterion assumes that to improve performance in the future, a company needs to reflect on its previous results regarding the six factors discussed above. Therefore, enterprises should reflect on their accumulated knowledge to ensure that they can proceed further.
Criticism and Recent Alterations
It is important to note that the Baldridge prize, as well as the provisions of this framework, have been criticized rather often. Even though over the past 10 years, the criteria have been analyzed and improved to incorporate the insights of established management practices, many researchers believe that this approach is not completely universal. Moreover, experts in the field have emphasized that the attention in this framework was focused on the quality of products or services (Schulingkamp & Latham, 2015).
In this regard, the concept has been revised to focus on improving organizational activities and operations (National Institute of Standards and Technology, 2016). Consequently, the criteria have been refined to stress the importance of the philosophical aspects of quality management.
Also, the Baldrige criteria cannot always be applied successfully to professional service firms that collaborate with diverse clients. Educational institutions as suppliers of labor resources also cannot be guided by the principles propagated by this concept (Asif, Raouf, & Searcy, 2013). It is because their activities are not oriented at production. Nevertheless, despite the criticism of this methodological system, many companies have successfully applied the framework to achieve quality in management (Ballard, 2013).
Notably, this model is quite flexible; therefore, it will be subjected to change in the future to reflect the realities and requirements of a rapidly changing world to the fullest degree. At present, any company can utilize this framework to conduct self-assessment or analyze its categories to comprehend which aspects of management should be refined.
Reflecting Academic Research
It is important to highlight that the Baldrige model continues to improve. The development of the leading criteria for this approach helps companies to concentrate their strategies on customers, partners, investors, and other key stakeholders (“Courtney Thomas named Baldrige Fellow,” 2017). Also, the assessment of operations based on the Baldrige’s categories helps organizations to introduce new methods of operation and seek new approaches to management (National Institute of Standards and Technology, 2015).
Due to the latest reformation of the model, it began to reflect the growing importance of such a factor as the social component of the business. Due to this understanding, companies can create value for the consumer and harmonize their managerial processes. Based on the criteria proposed by the Baldrige approach, companies can focus on organizational learning and the importance of clients in improving their business.
Analysis and Discussion of the Topic
Based on the insights obtained from the information synthesis, it can be suggested that companies need to compare their current performance with the outcomes of previous periods to determine whether progress has been made. The key to continuous improvement as advocated by the Baldrige criteria is the systematic observation of organizational development (Griffith, 2015). Despite the opinions of critics that the criteria make the greatest emphasis on quality results, it can be argued that a company cannot improve its operations if it does not conduct a systematic assessment of its performance indicators (Griffith, 2015).
To determine the correct direction of development, management can compare the progress made with the operations of leading companies through benchmarking (by the seven criteria). Therefore, for a company to achieve quality in operations, it should rely on the Baldrige criteria for assessing the state of structures and conduct a self-assessment using this framework as a theoretical platform. Depending on the company’s profile, the organization will be able to adjust its objectives and strategies for achieving quality in operations.
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Based on the analysis of the collected evidence, it can be assumed that companies should be guided by the criteria developed by Malcolm Baldrige to improve the specific aspects of their operation. The first and most significant facet on which companies should concentrate is the formulation of a vision of quality and company profile (Nelson, 2016). After all stakeholders and employees have a clear understanding of the vision, leadership can start developing the initiatives to achieve a new level of quality.
For all activities to be fully implemented, leadership supervision is essential. Thus, the second important condition is the participation of senior management in all internal and external processes. Senior management engagement is a factor, which will allow organizing activities to improve quality at all levels (Foma, 2012). According to the Baldrige criteria, top management should monitor all processes within the organization.
Moreover, all the companies that have received the Baldrige Award showed that achieving quality in operations was not only the task of the organization, but this goal was also intertwined with all the processes taking place in the company. Therefore, the third factor, which is essential for making improvements in operations, is the quality factor that should permeate and unite all corporate processes.
Based on the analysis, it can be stated that organizations striving for quality in operations should conduct a continuous evaluation of their effectiveness. To ensure that all employees support internal changes, leadership can use the experience of leading companies in the industry and adopt similar practices, which have proved effective (Ahmad, Svalestuen, Andersen, & Torp, 2016). For instance, some of the organizations, which have received The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award have introduced new wage incentive plans. This strategy allowed them to set new targets for the refined level of quality (Latham, 2013).
At the staff level, this method has made it possible to improve the recruitment strategy, allow employees to upgrade their skills, and develop a new approach to the distribution of liabilities to achieve a new level of quality in all processes.
However, these results would not be reached if the new level of quality was not a part of the company’s vision that was supported by all the employees (Latham, 2013). Because the top management understood the importance of this aspect, the quality of the workforce was improved barrier-free. Therefore, apart from improving performance indicators (such as production cycle, quality assurance, and so on), companies should work on the development of the labor force.
Current Viewpoints and Observations
It should be noted that there are different strategies for meeting the quality criteria of the Baldrige standard. Experts in the industry have stressed that this framework should not be regarded as a guide to action since these criteria are rather generalized. Thus, each company should adopt this system to its conditions (Shields & Jennings, 2013). Nevertheless, universal postulates that will guide the company to achieve quality can be developed based on the Baldrige categories.
One of the main mistakes that should be avoided by all enterprises is the creation of a bureaucratic network, which will adversely affect the climate and morale of the workforce (Foma, 2012). Therefore, one of the main aspects is to avert quantitative changes when implementing activities to improve operations quality. To meet the Baldrige criteria, management should comprehend the nature of qualitative improvements (Shields & Jennings, 2013). Based on the synthesis of information and the conducted analysis, the following guidelines for improving operations have been developed:
- The criteria of Baldrige should not be perceived as a universal program for change but as a direction in which it is necessary to proceed (organizations can also utilize the experience of leading companies) (Krueger & Wrolstad, 2013).
- When assessing company performance, managers should not rely on short-term results since they are not indicative of long-term quality improvements.
- The process of achieving quality in operations should focus on the needs of consumers, the strategic objectives of the company, and the vision promoted by management.
- Structural elements of an organization should not interfere with alterations. For instance, factors such as remuneration of employees or their specialization should not become barriers to qualitative transformations (Draghici, Popescu, & Gogan, 2014).
- The organizational culture of the company and its employees are the most important assets of the company. Consequently, corporate culture should also be a dynamic system, and it should reflect changes that occur in internal processes.
- Employees should be allowed to receive additional training when necessary.
- For the company’s employees to improve their performance, the management should expand the scope of workers’ practice and give them more opportunities to meet these liabilities.
- Companies should conduct benchmarking to ensure their goals can be achieved (Schlafke, Silvi, & Moller, 2013).
- The focus of the company should be made on the quality of operations and not on the quality of products or services.
- Participation of senior management in meeting quality criteria is an indispensable condition for success since leadership should serve as an example of the way company vision is implemented (Nelson, 2016).
- According to the Baldrige standard, the company’s workforce is one of the indicators of quality; therefore, management should value the efforts of employees aimed at local changes. It can be achieved through two-way feedback.
- Companies should avoid concentrating on large amounts of data as they can lead to excessive bureaucratization in operations (Schulingkamp & Latham, 2015).
- In general, quality improvements should be the principle, which guides all participants in the process (who function at different levels of the organization).
- The company is a unity of interrelated processes that make up a single organism. Therefore, each of the elements of the system should comprehend its importance in achieving quality.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Thus, it can be concluded that the Baldrige standard can serve as a foundation for the company’s self-assessment. This framework has seven basic criteria that companies can apply to their operations to improve their quality. The degree to which a company meets the criteria reflects the effectiveness of the enterprise. Nevertheless, this framework should not be considered a tool for achieving quality but as a platform based on which any organization will be able to build its development program.
Based on the conducted analysis, it can be recommended for companies to introduce the Baldrige philosophy through the creation of interpersonal relationships and the strengthening of employees’ competence. Senior management is the embodiment of the company vision; therefore, their task is to promote openness to change and create an environment in which employees can progress along with process improvements.
The establishment of two-way communication is the key to a correct delegation of authority and continuity in refining performance. Moreover, interaction with employees will help maintain an inspiring atmosphere and establish constructive communication. Thus, the main goal of applying the Baldrige criteria is to create a new culture of relationships in the company. Due to the formation of sustainable values and a productive organizational culture based on common vision and responsibility, the company will be able to achieve high quality in operations.
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