Market globalization, higher requirements for improved quality, and tough, faster-pace, price-sensitive competition have led to two parallel and visible quality thrust: the Baldrige Award in the U.S. and, internationally, the ISO 9000 standards. The relationship between the Baldrige Award and ISO 9000 registration is widely confused. Two common misper-ceptions stand out: (1) that they both cover the same requirements and (2) that they both address improvement, relying on high quality results, and thus, are both forms of recognition. Many have concluded that the Baldrige Award and ISO 9000 are equivalent and that companies should choose one or the other. These conclusions are incorrect. The Baldrige Award and ISO 9000 registration differ fundamentally in focus, purpose, and content.
The focus of the Baldrige Award is on enhanced competitiveness. The Award Criteria reflect two key competitiveness thrusts: (1) delivery of ever-improving value to customers and (2) improvement of overall operational performance. The Award's central purpose is educational-to encourage sharing knowledge and experience of competitiveness and to drive this learning, creating an evolving fund of knowledge. By contrast, the focus of ISO 9000 registration is on conformity to practices specified in the registrant's own quality systems. Its central purpose is to enhance and facilitate trade.
The Baldrige Award addresses competitiveness factors either not addressed in ISO 9000 registration or addressed differently. These factors include a customer and market focus, results orientation, continuous improvement, competitive comparisons, a tie to business strategy, cycle time and responsiveness, integration via analysis, public responsibility, human resource development, and information sharing. Overall, ISO 9000 registration covers less than 10% of the scope of the Baldrige Award Criteria and does not fully address any of the 28 Criteria items. As a result, the national drive to improve competitiveness could be diminished. Companies required to or electing to seek ISO 9000 registration are encouraged to integrate their conformity efforts with the Baldrige Award competitiveness improvement framework.