SMART criteria for performance excellence

The foundation for the SMART/QuickSMART is the Baldrige Excellence Framework’s Criteria for Performance Excellence that is summarized below


A critical look at the criteria
Core values and concepts
The criteria framework
The criteria

A critical look at the criteria

woman in suit selecting reversed words Strategic Management Assessment Review ToolOrganizations of all types are facing increasing marketplace challenges. The criteria provide an assessment framework for performance excellence. They will help measure performance on a wide range of key performance indicators such as customers, products and services, operations and financial.

Companies that embrace the criteria for performance excellence and incorporate them into their organizational practices can expect to achieve performance superior to their competitors.

Performance excellence goals

The performance excellence criteria and programs using the criteria are designed to help companies enhance competitiveness by focusing on:

  • Delivery of ever-improving value to customers, contributing to marketplace success
  • Improvement of overall organizational effectiveness and capabilities
  • Organizational and personal learning.

Core values and concepts

The criteria for performance excellence are built upon a set of core values and concepts. These values and concepts are the foundation for integrating key requirements within a results-orientated framework. These values and concepts are embedded behaviors found in high-performing companies. The following descriptions are adapted from the Baldrige Excellence Framework 2017-2018. As used in the core values summary the term stakeholders include shareholders or stockholders.

Systems perspective

A systems perspective means managing all the components of your organization as a unified whole to achieve your mission, ongoing success and performance excellence.

Visionary leadership

An organization’s senior leaders should serve as role models while setting the mission, vision and values for the organization. They must create a customer focus, demonstrate organizational values and ethics, set high expectations for the workforce and balance the needs of all stakeholders. Senior leaders create the strategies, systems and methods to accomplish all of these.

Customer-focused excellence

Customers are the ultimate judge of your performance and the quality of your products and services. Customer-focused excellence requires commitment to the entire customer experience and going beyond meeting basic customer requirements to deliver those unique features and characteristics that are most important to the customer and differentiates your organization from your competitors.

Valuing people

An organization’s success depends on an engaged workforce that benefits from meaningful work, clear organizational direction, the opportunity to learn, and accountability for performance. The workforce must be provided a safe, trusting, and cooperative environment. Valuing people goes beyond the workforce. This includes anyone who has a stake in the organization to include not only the workforce, but also customers, community members, shareholders, and other people and groups affected by the organization’s actions.

Organizational learning and agility

Success in today’s environment requires continual organizational learning and agility.

Agility is the capacity for rapid change and for flexibility in operations. Disruptive events occur more frequency in today’s world; critical to success is the ability to make transformational change and manage risk.

Organizational learning includes both the continuous improvement of existing approaches and significant change or innovation leading to new goals, approaches, products and markets. Learning must be embedded in the way the organization operates.

Focus on success

Ensuring your organization’s success now and in the future requires an understanding of the short- and longer-term factors that affect your organization and its marketplace. Ensuring this ongoing success requires managing uncertainty, as well as balancing some stakeholders’ short-term demands with the organization’s and stakeholders’ needs to invest in long-term success. The pursuit of sustained growth and performance leadership requires a strong future orientation and a willingness to make long-term commitments to key stakeholders-your customers, workforce, suppliers, partners, stakeholders, the public and the community. It also requires the agility to modify plans when circumstances warrant.

Managing for innovation

Innovation is making meaningful change to improve an organization’s products, services and processes and create new value for the organization’s stakeholders. Innovation should lead the organization to new dimensions of performance. Innovation is important for all aspects of an organization’s work systems, operations, and processes. Integrate innovation into daily work and support it within the performance management system.

Management by fact

Management by fact requires organizations to measure and analyze their performance, both inside the organization and in the competitive environment. Measurements should derive from organizational needs and strategy, and they should provide critical data and information about key processes, outputs, results, outcomes, and competitor and industry performance.

Societal responsibility

The organization, following and emulating the examples of the senior leaders, should meet all local, state, and federal laws and regulatory requirements and should treat these and related requirements as opportunities to excel beyond minimal compliance. Considering societal well-being and benefit means leading and supporting — within the limits of your resources — the environmental, social, and economic systems in your organization’s sphere of influence.

Ethics and transparency

Your organization should stress ethical behavior in all stakeholder transactions and interactions. Your organization’s governance body should require highly ethical conduct and monitor all conduct accordingly. Your senior leaders should be role models of ethical behavior and make their expectations of the workforce very clear.

Transparency is characterized by consistently candid and open communication on the part of leadership and management and by the sharing of clear and accurate information.

Ethical behavior and transparency build trust in the organization and its leaders and engender a belief in the organization’s fairness and integrity that is valued by all key stakeholders.

Delivering value and results

By delivering and balancing value for key stakeholders, your organization builds loyalty, contributes to growing the economy, and contributes to society. To meet the sometimes conflicting and changing aims that balancing value requires your organizational strategy should explicitly include key stakeholder requirements.

Your organization’s performance measurements need to focus on key results. Results should be used to deliver and balance value for your key stakeholders-your customers, workforce, stockholders, suppliers, and partners, the public, and the community. Results need to be a composite of measures that include not just financial results, but also results for products and processes; customer and workforce satisfaction and engagement; leadership, strategy, and societal performance.

The criteria for performance excellence framework

The performance system consists of the six categories in the center of the figure. These categories define your processes and the results you achieve.

Performance excellence requires strong Leadership and is demonstrated through outstanding Results. Those categories are highlighted in the figure.

The word “integration” at the center of the figure shows that all the elements of the system are interrelated.

The center horizontal arrowheads show the critical linkage between the leadership triad (categories 1, 2, and 3) and the results triad (categories 5, 6, and 7) and the central relationship between the Leadership and Results categories.

The center vertical arrowheads point to the Organizational Profile and the system foundation, which provide information on, and feedback to key processes and the organizational environment. The profile is a short description of your organization, the key influences on how it operates and the competitive environment.

graphic showing organizational profile and core values/concepts

The criteria for performance excellence

Each of the criteria’s seven categories are divided into two or more sections. The category descriptions are taken from the Baldrige Excellence Framework’s Criteria for Performance Excellence.

Category 1: Customers

The Customers category asks how your organization engages its customers for long-term marketplace success, including how your organization listens to the voice of the customer, serves and exceeds customers’ expectations, and builds customer relationships.

1.1 Voice of the customer: How do you obtain information from your customers?

1.2 Customer engagement: How do you engage customers by serving their needs and building relationships?

Category 2: Leadership

The Leadership category asks how senior leaders’ personal actions guide and sustain your organization. It also asks about your organization’s governance system and how your organization fulfills its legal, ethical, and societal responsibilities.

2.1 Senior leadership: How do your senior leaders lead the organization?

2.2 Governance and societal responsibilities: How do you govern your organization and fulfill your societal responsibilities?

Category 3: Strategic planning

The Strategy category asks how your organization develops strategic objectives and action plans, implements them, changes them if circumstances require, and measures progress.

3.1 Strategy development: How do you develop your strategy?

3.2 Strategy implementation: How do you implement your strategy?

Category 4: Measurement, Analysis and Knowledge Management

The Measurement, Analysis and Knowledge Management category asks how your organization selects, gathers, analyzes, manages, and improves its data, information, and knowledge assets; how it uses review findings to improve its performance; and how it learns.

4.1 Measurement, Analysis and Improvement of Organizational Performance: How do you measure, analyze, and then improve organizational performance?

4.2 Information and Knowledge Management: How do you manage your information and your organizational knowledge assets?

Category 5: Workforce

The Workforce category asks how your organization assesses workforce capability and capacity needs and builds a workforce environment conducive to high performance. The category also asks how your organization engages, manages, and develops your workforce to utilize its full potential in alignment with your organization’s overall needs.

5.1 Workforce Environment: How do you build an effective and supportive workforce environment?

5.2 Workforce Engagement: How do you engage your workforce to achieve a high-performance work environment?

Category 6: Operations

The Operations category asks how your organization designs, manages, improves, and innovates its products and work processes and improves operational effectiveness to deliver customer value and achieve ongoing organizational success.

6.1 Work Processes: How do you design, manage, and improve your key products and work processes?

6.2 Operational Effectiveness: How do you ensure effective management of your operations?

Category 7: Results

The Results category asks about your organization’s performance and improvement in all key areas — product and process results, customer results, workforce results, leadership and governance results, and financial and market results. The category asks about performance levels relative to those of competitors and other organizations with similar product offerings.

7.1 Product and Process Results: What are your product performance and process effectiveness results?

7.2 Customer Results: What are your customer-focused performance results?

7.3 Workforce Results: What are your workforce-focused performance results?

7.4 Leadership and Governance Results: What are your senior leadership and governance results?

7.5 Financial and Market Results: What are your results for financial viability?

To get started with SMART or QuickSMART or more information, contact a business development specialist at your local SBTDC office.

Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. 2017. 2017–2018 Baldrige Excellence Framework: A Systems Approach to Improving Your Organization’s Performance. Gaithersburg, MD: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology.