Is Your Organization Average or Excellent?

good, better, best

Average or Excellent?

The Baldrige Excellence Framework including the Scoring Guidelines asks organizations to assess their results against relevant comparisons. Why are comparisons important? If you think your organization is a pretty good – or even a great – one, then I challenge you with a famous question coined by Baldrige Program Director Emeritus Harry Hertz, “How do you know?”

If I told you the score of your famous sports team, what would your immediate question be? How did the other team do??? That’s the gist of relevant comparisons; they provide the context for your organization’s performance relative to benchmarks and to your competition.

In the 2017 – 2018 Baldrige Excellence Framework, notes in Item 4.1 shed additional light on this concept. “Comparative data and information are obtained by benchmarking and by seeking competitive comparisons. Benchmarking is identifying processes and results that represent best practices and performance for similar activities, inside or outside of the industry. Competitive comparisons relate your performance to that of competitors and other organizations providing similar products or services.”

Sister Mary Jean Ryan, the former CEO of SSM Health Care, the first health care recipient of the Baldrige Award, often describes her biggest “ah-ha” moment in the four years of submitting Baldrige applications as follows: “The examiners acknowledged that our mission statement (“Through our exceptional health care services, we reveal the presence of God.”) was indeed great – exceptional, even. But they asked us two questions: ‘What do you mean by “exceptional”?’ And, ‘If you want to be exceptional, why are you content to compare yourselves to average?’ Those two questions stopped us in our tracks.”

Brian Lassiter, President, Performance Excellence Network. recently posted another Pensight, “Nobody Raves About Average: 52 Insights on the Road to Excellence.” You can access them here.

What comparisons do you use in your organization? Those that are easy to obtain? Those that make your organization look “good” by comparison? Or do you intentionally seek out those that challenge your organization to higher levels of performance? Do you want to be a little bit better than average, or are you striving for excellence?

Get more insights about the pursuit of excellence from our latest book, Leading the Malcolm Baldrige Way: How World-Class Leaders Align Their Organizations to Achieve Exceptional Results (available at or

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