The Power of Benchmarking and Goal Setting

Has your organization hit a “slump” of so-so performance?  Not really a downturn but nothing to celebrate?  How can you lift your organization up into a zone of high performance? The overarching principles of the Baldrige Excellence Framework may be just what you need.
Dr. Harry Hertz, Director Emeritus of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, once distilled the Baldrige Excellence Framework into three simple questions:
  • Is your organization doing as well as it could?
  • How do you know?
  • What and how should your organization improve or change?
The second question begs for relevant comparisons. Without them, it’s easy for senior leaders and, therefore, the rest of the organization, to become complacent with the current performance.  But how do you determine what is relevant for your organization?  In some cases, it may be your direct competitors, but that data may be difficult to obtain.  What about similar processes in dissimilar industries?  Call centers needn’t be in your own industry to be relevant to assessing your own call center’s performance.  Sometimes, even your own experience as a consumer can provide valuable insights into good – and abysmal – customer service and service recovery.
High Performance Benchmarks
Many benchmarks may be found in the application summaries of Baldrige Award Recipients posted on the NIST website.
Benchmarks for the long-term care industry can be found on the website of their Baldrige-based Quality Award program.  And a wealth of comparative data is presented during the Baldrige conferences, such as the one coming up in October.  (See the information below.)
What is different about benchmarking versus goal setting?  In the former, the performance standard has already been achieved.  It answers the doubters about whether that high level of performance is even possible.  However, ambitious goal setting can be equally motivational.
Aggressive Goal Setting
I’ve been reading Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman.  In 1889, two rival newspaper publishers challenged their top-notch female reporters to beat the record of Julius Verne’s fictitious hero, Phileas Fogg, to circumnavigate the world in eighty days. That may not sound like such an achievement with today’s air travel, but this challenge took place in the days when the only options were trains, ferries, and steamships.  And the timetables for arrivals and departures were even less reliable than today.
Despite numerous obstacles, both women beat the fictional record of Phileas Fogg.  However, Nellie Bly arrived at her destination before Elizabeth Bisland and claimed the winner’s title.  In fact, prior to this book, I had never realized that Nellie Bly had a competitor for the honor.  There is a special place in people’s memories for those who come in first.
Overcoming Inertia
What’s the needle on your organizational dashboard that you’re most in need of moving?  Would either of these approaches motivate your workforce to higher levels of performance?  It’s time for you to put those three simple questions encompassing the Baldrige Excellence Framework to work for you.

Get Inspired and learn from role-model organizations and exceptional leaders!

Baldrige Fall Conference (with pre-conference workshops on October 16) will be held on October 17, live in Milwaukee and streamed worldwide!

Keynotes have been announced: 4-time NYT Bestseller Dan
Heath; Horst Schulze, founding President/COO of Ritz-Carlton Hotels; and Dr. Bryan K. Williams, Keynote Speaker, Consultant, and Bestselling Author.

What Do You Know about the Baldrige Communities of Excellence 2026?

It’s a fascinating program that applies a customized Baldrige Excellence Framework to entire communities!  There are currently 25 communities in various stages along this journey, and the program is looking for a few more to join them in the October 2023 Cohort.
For more information, check out:
And you can learn more about Communities of Excellence 2026 on October 16 at the above conference!
Train with the Institute for Performance Excellence and unlock your true leadership potential with the Institute for Performance Excellence’s 
Leadership training and certificates. Elevate your skills through cutting-edge curriculum designed to cultivate effective communication, strategic vision, and team empowerment. Join us today to embark on a journey towards growing your leadership skills.

The Institute for Performance Excellence offers 400+ training and certification opportunities to help support individuals, organizations, and communities around the world by providing quality educational programs. These programs are highly customizable, and you are encouraged to contact Josh Racette, Vice President of National Programs & Development, at to learn more. To view additional information about all educational opportunities offered by the Institute for Performance Excellence, please visit

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