GAITHERSBURG, MD-The Panel of Judges for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation's highest recognition for organizational performance excellence, has selected 11 organizations for the final review stage for the 2011 award. Starting next month, teams of business, education, health care and nonprofit experts will make site visits to one organization in the small business category, one in education, six in health care and three in nonprofit.

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program received 69 applications in 2011 (two manufacturers, three service companies, two small businesses, eight educational organizations, 40 health care organizations and 14 nonprofits/governmental organizations). The applicants were evaluated rigorously by an independent board of 553 examiners in seven areas: leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; operations focus; and results. Examiners will provide 300 to 1,000 hours of review to each applicant receiving a site visit, and all applicants will receive a detailed report on the organization's strengths and opportunities for improvement.

The 2011 Baldrige Award recipients are expected to be announced in late November 2011. Named after Malcolm Baldrige, the 26th Secretary of Commerce, the Baldrige Award was established by Congress in 1987. The award-managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in collaboration with the private sector-promotes excellence in organizational performance, recognizes the achievements and results of U.S. organizations, and publicizes successful performance strategies. The award is not given for specific products or services. Since 1988, 86 organizations have received Baldrige Awards.

Thousands of organizations use the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence to guide their enterprises, improve performance and get sustainable results. This proven improvement and innovation framework offers organizations an integrated approach to key management areas. For more information on the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and the Baldrige Award,