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ISO 9001 vs. Baldrige National Quality Award (BNQA)

If you are a company in the United States of America you will probably have heard of the Baldrige National Quality Award; however, international companies outside of the USA may not know about this award or how it relates to ISO 9001. It is easy to be confused by these different sets of requirements for quality management, and you may wonder which one you should go for. In this article I will compare these two sets of requirements to help you understand which might be better for your company.

The background

In many ways it is difficult to compare the ISO 9001 requirements with the Baldrige National Quality Award (BNQA) requirements. The Baldrige National Quality Award (formally known as the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award or MBNQA) is based on the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, which can be found here The Baldrige program is a presidential award in the United States of America for performance excellence, and provides a framework to improve performance in an organization toward efficiency and innovation. It was first named for Malcolm Baldrige, United States Secretary of Commerce from 1981 to 1987, when died in a rodeo accident.

While both ISO 9001 and BNQA are requirements for implementing a quality system in an organization, they have different applications and focuses. ISO 9001 is a world recognized standard, while the BNQA is more limited to the United States. Along with this, ISO 9001 is intended to be audited and reviewed by an external certification body, while the BNQA can be self assessed without ever applying for the award. While these differences may seem minor, there is a big difference between these two requirements.

What is behind the ISO 9001 requirements?

There are seven quality management system principles behind the ISO 9001 requirements for a quality management system. These are: customer focus, leadership importance of Top management, engagement of people, the process approach, improvement, evidence-based decision making, and relationship management. This has been reviewed in more depth in Seven Quality Management Principles behind ISO9001 requirements, but it is important to note how critical the process approach is to the ISO 9001 requirements.

The ISO 9001 standard also includes a graphic of how the requirements of the standard relate to each other, which looks something like this:

Continual improvement of QMS

While this does not list out the quality management principles, it does show the flow of information from customer to company, and how the elements of the standard are related in the central flow – much like the plan-do-check-act cycle for improvement that is commonly used in quality management. For more information on how the ISO 9001 standard incorporates the improvement cycle, see Plan-Do-Check-Act in the ISO9001 Standard.

What is behind the BNQA requirements?

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program criteria also have some principles on which they are based. These principles are: leadership, strategic planning, customer focus, workforce focus, operations focus, results and measurement, analysis, and knowledge management. One difference to note from the ISO 9001 principles is the absence of the process approach and improvement as declared principles (although improvement is a stated reason for using the BNQA framework). The biggest addition is the section on results, a way of focusing the quality system on meeting stated goals and visions.

Another big difference that is not readily presented is the focus on performance excellence. The BNQA criteria spotlight the need for benchmarking processes against “world-class” companies in order to improve. While this is not discouraged in ISO 9001, it is not a main focal point of the requirements.

The BNQA graphic of how the requirement sections relate looks like this:

Organizational profile

It can be seen easily that this set of requirements is not set up to easily follow the plan-do-check-act cycle for improvement, as the ISO 9001 standard is.

Different focuses for different results

When comparing the ISO 9001 standard with the BNQA criteria, it is important to understand what your company wants from the effort it will take to implement the quality system. Do you want the world-wide acceptance of a certified ISO 9001 quality management system, or are you more focused on the performance excellence and innovation that is driven by the Baldrige National Quality Award criteria?

Some companies have even used ISO 9001 as the foundation for their quality management system and then used the Baldrige criteria as a way to go even further – past improvement, toward benchmarking their processes so as to achieve “world-class” performance excellence. Remember, how you implement a system for quality management must suit your company practices and cultures, and utilizing the BNQA criteria may help you to better excel in your QMS.

Click here to download a white paper that describes all the ISO 9001 clauses to get a better impression of what the requirements are.

Advisera Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar
Mark Hammar is a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality and has been a Quality Professional since 1994. Mark has experience in auditing, improving processes, and writing procedures for Quality, Environmental, and Occupational Health & Safety Management Systems, and is certified as a Lead Auditor for ISO 9001, AS9100, and ISO 14001.