Performance Excellence Award Assessment

The Performance Excellence Award process includes the following steps:

1. Prepare

The process begins with the organization submitting a Letter of Intent (due March 1, June 1, or September 1). Two months later, the organization submits an application – either a narrative application or a Baldrige Express survey conducted with its workforce (either full staff or a sampling). The narrative application offers the opportunity for the organization to describe its environmental situation, its key work processes, and its results (usually written by a small number of leaders and practitioners). The process of writing the application causes self-discovery: reflecting on the Baldrige questions facilitates deep internal dialogue with organizational leaders, often leading to a better understanding of organizational strengths and process gaps.

PEN now offers three tiered options, providing organizations with a paced, gradual pathway that “meets the organization where it is,” helping leaders identify and prioritize just the right level of opportunities for improvement. And for organizations earlier on the journey to excellence, it offers faster, less intense ways to improve processes and outcomes.

Option 1 Option 2 Option 3
Depth of Evaluation (Baldrige Questions) Organizational Profile (2 general topics, approximately 35 questions); click here to download the Excellence Builder and flip to the Organizational Profile questions Organizational Profile plus

Basic and Overall Level questions (19 general Item topics, approximately 90 questions); click here to download the Excellence Builder and answer all questions in the Profile plus bold questions in each Category

Organizational Profile plus

Basic and Overall questions plus

Multiple Level questions (19 general topics, approximately 270 questions); click here to purchase/download a copy of the Business/Nonprofit, Healthcare, or Education Baldrige Criteria and answer all questions

Award Eligibility Commitment Commitment,

Advancement, or



Achievement, or


Application Length 7 pages 30 pages 55 pages
Focus Areas Organizational Alignment

Improvement Orientation

Level 1 plus

Systematic Processes

Fact-Based Evaluation & Improvement

Key Results/Outcomes

Levels 1-2 plus

Organizational Systems

Some Innovation

High Performance Results

Feedback Guidelines Summary of findings (“Highlights and Considerations”)

No scoring

Strengths and OFIs at Overall Level

Scoring ranges

Strengths and OFIs at Multiple Level

Scoring per Baldrige Item

PEN Team, Process
  • 2 Evaluators
  • No site visit (optional Improvement Planning session)
  • 90 day cycle time
  • 3-5 Evaluators
  • 1-2 day site visit
  • 120-150 day cycle time
  • 6-10 Evaluators
  • 3-4 day site visit
  • 150-180 day cycle time
Investment* $1000 member ($2K nonmember) Small/Medium: $3K ($6K nonmember)

Large: $5K ($10K nonmember)

Small: $8K ($12K nonmember)

Medium: $12K ($16K nonmember)

Large: $16K ($20K nonmember)

Deadlines (all levels) Cycle 1 (Spring/Summer): Letters of Intent due March 1; Applications due May 1

Cycle 2 (Summer/Fall): Letters of Intent due June 1; Applications due August 1

Cycle 3 (Fall/Winter): Letters of Intent due September 1; Applications due November 1

2. Independent Review

An independent review by a team of trained volunteer Evaluators to identify strengths and improvement opportunities through the perspective of the best practices in the Baldrige Criteria and through the filter of your Organizational Profile (which describes your operating environment, strategic challenges, and other key organizational factors). Teams are built by balancing many factors, including sector/industry knowledge, functional expertise, Baldrige experience, and leadership experience.

3. Consensus & Site Visit

The team then forms a consensus view of the organization’s strengths and improvement opportunities before conducting a site visit to verify perceived strengths and clarify possible improvement opportunities. Site visits are 1-4 days, depending on the assessment option chosen and the size, complexity, and maturity of the organization. Site visits also offer an opportunity for deep organizational learning for the organization, as the dialogue with a team of professionals oftentimes leads to organizational insights.

4. Improvement Planning

The output of our process is a comprehensive feedback report, which includes a list of key themes (similar to an executive summary), a description of strengths and improvement opportunities by Criteria Item, and scores. Our final step is an Improvement Planning Session. Scheduled about a month after the site visit, this 2-2.5 hour facilitated session is intended to 1) promote understanding of the feedback report, and 2) work with senior leaders to prioritize improvement opportunities that oftentimes serve as input to an organization’s planning process.

Performance Excellence Award Minnesota
Performance Excellence Award South Dakota
Performance Excellence Award North Dakota

MN/SD/ND Performance Excellence Award

Although the primary goal of our assessment is learning and improvement, we also recognize levels of performance excellence through the Performance Excellence Award. Established in 1991, the Award has been given to nearly 150 organizations that have successfully completed an assessment. We have four Award levels, intended to recognize organizations for where they are in their journey: Commitment, Advancement, Achievement, Excellence (the “role model” organization). Recognition is delivered at our annual spring conference.


The Network offers a “rolling schedule” for the assessment process, allowing your organization to pick a timeframe that works best for your planning and operational cycles.

A schedule is as follows:

Spring/Summer Summer/Fall Fall/Winter
Letter of Intent Due Mar 1 June 1 Sept 1
Application Due May 1 Aug 1 Nov 1
Site Visits Aug/Sept Nov/Dec Feb/Mar
Improvement Planning Sept/Oct Dec/Jan Mar/Apr

Ready to get started?  Contact us or complete a Letter of Intent.
Start (or accelerate) your journey to excellence today!

“PEN sessions keep us in the solution and on the path of excellence.”

-Mark Krupski, Director Olmsted County Property Records & Licensing

ready to learn more?

Want to learn more about PEN, our events, assessments, or membership in our network?
We’d love the chance to chat and answer any questions you might have.