Quality awards

What are quality awards?

Quality awards are prizes awarded for some aspect of quality performance which has been demonstrated to an organisation which normally has no responsibility for the recipient's performance.

To whom are the awards presented?

Awards are offered to either individuals or organisations, depending on the type of award.

What do the awards measure?

All quality awards are made on the basis of an assessment of the applicant's performance against certain criteria. Some awards measure the result of quality activities (such as customer satisfaction), some assess the effort involved in ensuring consistency of output and others assess conformity of output to customer requirements. Most are awarded in some kind of competition among companies, but a few are not competitive - being assessments of an organisation's performance with no limit to the number of winners. As well as those describing themselves as quality awards, there are other similar awards for customer satisfaction and best practice.

Who gives such awards?

Awards are organised:

  • at international level
  • by national or local government
  • at regional level
  • by trade or professional bodies
  • by other companies - especially major manufacturers

Examples of international awards include:

  • The EFQM Excellence Award, established in 1992 and offered by the EFQM
  • Asia-Pacific Area Golden Quality Award
  • The Deming Prize, established 1951 (International from 1984) and offered by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers

Examples of national awards are:

  • The UK Excellence Award, established in 1994 and run by the British Quality Foundation
  • The Malcolm Baldrige Award, established in 1987 and offered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the USA
  • The Wales Quality Award, established in 1994 and offered by the Wales Quality Centre
  • The Irish Quality Award, offered by Excellence Ireland
  • Singapore's National Quality Award, established in 1994 and offered by the Singapore Productivity Board

Examples of regional awards are:

  • Northern Ireland Quality Award
  • North West of England Quality Award
  • California Quality Award, offered by the California Council for Quality and Service

Examples of trade or industry awards are:

  • Air Force Quality Award, offered by the US Air Force
  • Brewery Quality Performance Awards, offered by the German Agricultural Society
  • Processor Quality Award, offered by UK Sea Fish Industry

What quality awards are not

Quality awards are not indicators of previous or future performance. They are one-time presentations only. There is no surveillance such as that with ISO 9000 certification.

Is a quality award of any use?

For many awards the single most important reason for entering is the publicity that winning can bring. However, it is for the organisation to decide what it intends to gain from it. For some, the process of applying is therapeutic in its own right. The depth of scrutiny and preparation improves the organisation so much that winning is merely the icing on top. For some companies, it is the difference between retaining a major client or not. For others, it may be the widespread application of a quality tool or the first time that the senior management team has done something in a concerted and informed way.

If it is entering an award mainly for the publicity, an organisation should not be afraid to acknowledge this. In this way, it will go all out to achieve the results it wants. The same is true of financial benefits, improved employee moral, reduction in wastage, minimised environmental impact and so on. If that is what the organisation is really after then it should focus on it and make use of the award process to maximise the return.

What are the disadvantages of entering/winning an award?

The effort

Most awards call for a considerable amount of effort, which can be both expensive and a serious distraction of resources.

The conflict

Political infighting within a company can be increased when it is suggested that the company embarks on the award journey. If morale is already low, the process of applying is likely to stimulate more negativity rather than addressing the problem. Applying for an award has no credibility in itself, and is more likely to detract from the publicity value.


Some award winners, such as companies which have won The Malcolm Baldrige Award, report an unsuspected problem. The award is highly publicised and winners are expected to promote best practice based on their award performance. After a short time winners begin to report that they are inundated with requests for support and advice from would-be winners.

What type of award should an organisation apply for?

The award must be appropriate to the organisation. For example, a manufacturer's award intended for sub-component suppliers may be difficult to interpret, time wasting, and even harmful to the pension scheme supplier. Many awards are based on some kind of model of good quality practice. Unfortunately, the model may never have been validated - does it really bring bottom line benefits? It may well have been developed by an unrepresentative group of people. The award may have very little support from financial institutions, service companies, the construction industry, the media world and a host of other potential applicants.

When should an organisation apply for a Quality Award?

There must be genuine commercial reasons for applying. A personwill not be promoted for committing the company to something that takes several years to achieve, costs hundreds of thousands of pounds and does not improve the bottom line.

How should an organisation apply for a quality award?

An organisation should start by getting the details from the organisers, reading them thoroughly, and then preparing an application. The idea must be thoroughly discussed with the board of directors or management team and its commitment obtained. A lot of awards involve the preparation of a document for submission. If this is satisfactorily assessed then there will be some kind of visit to the organisation. It is during the visit that all kinds of things can be checked out by the examiner(s). For example, if the award says that all employees should have a good understanding of the aims of the organisation then asking half a dozen employees can easily test this out.

Major quality awards:

UK Excellence Award
British Quality Foundation, 32-34 Great Peter Street
London SW1P 2QX
Tel: + (0) 20 7654 5000 Fax: + (0)20 7654 5001

EFQM Excellence Award
5th Floor, 2 Avenue des Olympiades
B1140 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: + 32 2 775 3511 Fax: + 32 2 775 3535

Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award
National Institute for Science and Technology
Route 270 & Quince Orchard Road
Administration Building, Room A257, Gaithersburg
MD 208999 USA
Tel: + 1 301 975 2036 Fax: + 1 301 948 3716

Deming Prize
Union of Japanese Scientists & Engineers
5-10-11 Sendagaya, Shibuya-hu, Tokyo 151, Japan
Tel: + 81 3 539 1227 Fax: + 81 3225 1813

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