In recent years, companies have been focused on improving organizational performance and the loyalty of customers to improve sustainability in increasingly complex markets. The Baldrige Performance Excellence framework, generally referred to as the Baldrige criteria, was created to guide professionals in achieving these goals including defining a set of excellence criteria and offering an award program to recognize high-performing organizations. The principles of excellence focus on understanding and working for the stakeholders, improving performance and quality management, and strategically driving continuous improvement. The framework can be used for organizational self-assessments; however, many organizations find it challenging to interpret and apply the criteria without prior knowledge of the framework and guiding principles. This is particularly true for small businesses, which are less formal, have less exposure to key terminology and concepts, and have limited resources. Although there is some research that focuses on successful application of the Baldrige criteria, this research is still exploratory and there is a need for empirical studies in this area. This research investigates the factors that affected the successful implementation of the Baldrige criteria by conducting an action research study to guide a small business in conducting the Baldrige Self-Assessment. This research consisted of a series of three surveys and online working sessions to both complete the Baldrige Self-Assessment, interpret the results, and evaluate the experiences of participants regarding the relative success of the self-assessment process as well as the factors that affected this process. The results of this study provide insights into strategies for ensuring successful application of this self-assessment process in small businesses. The findings show that unfamiliarity with key terminology and complexity of the questions were significant barriers to success. Further, the participants indicated that working as a team to complete the assessment facilitated the process due to real-time discussion of points of confusion. These results support the assertion that a version of the Baldrige Criteria specifically designed for small businesses is needed. Improving the accessibility of this framework will improve the chances of successful implementation bringing the potential benefits to more organizations.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Keathley, Heather


Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering (B.S.I.E.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Industrial Engineering and Management Systems



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date