Award Process, Feedback and Recognition Levels

To apply for Forward Award recognition, organizations must complete two steps.

Organizations submit an Intent-to-Apply Form and related materials. The information provided enables the Forward Award administrators to verify organizational eligibility. The information also provides a basis for assigning Examiners. Applicants receive confirmation of their eligibility in writing.

Application Report Package
Organizations submit an Application Report Package that includes two key components — an Organizational Profile (not to exceed five pages) and responses to the Forward Award Criteria (not to exceed 50 pages). In responding to the Criteria, each applicant provides information and data on the organization’s quality improvement and performance management processes and related business results.

Each application is rigorously evaluated by the Board of Examiners. Examiners review each application relative to the Forward Award Criteria and identify strengths of the organization and areas for improvement. The review is composed of three distinct processes.

Independent Review
The Application Report Package is reviewed independently by a team of at least four members of the Board of Examiners.

Consensus Review
The Application Report Package is reviewed jointly by a team of at least three members of the Board of Examiners. To the extent possible, consensus review is conducted by the same Examiner team that provides independent review. This review results in a consensus score that determines the level of recognition for which an applicant is eligible. The level of recognition identified through the consensus process determines whether a site visit is required, is optional, or will not be provided. The consensus review is also the time during which feedback reports to applicants are drafted.

Site Visits
The site visit occurs prior to final score determination and serves to clarify and verify the information received in the Application Report Package. A site visit is required for all organization with a consensus score at high Mastery or at the Governor’s Forward Award of Excellence level. Site visits are also available at the applicant’s request for repeat applicants (who have submitted two or more applications in a three-year period) previously recognized at the Mastery level or above. Discretionary site visits may also be made to collect more data, more accurately decide recognition level or define strengths and opportunities for improvement for an applicant.

Scoring of applicant responses to the Criteria and development of feedback reports are based on several evaluation dimensions:

• Approach: Refers to how the applicant appropriately and effectively addresses the Item requirements—the methods used—as well as the degree to which the approach is systematic.
• Deployment: Refers to the extent to which the applicant’s approach is consistently applied to all areas within the organization, all customer segments, etc.
• Learning: Refers to the applicant’s systematic cycles of evaluation and improvement, encouraging refinement of approach and breakthrough change.
• Integration: Refers to how the applicant’s approach is aligned with organizational needs, your measures are complementary across processes and work units, and your plans, processes, and other actions are harmonized across process and work units to support organization-wide goals.
• Results: Refers to outputs and outcomes in achieving the purposes given in Category 7, including your current level of performance, the rate and breadth of your performance improvements, your performance relative to relevant comparisons or benchmarks, and linkages to your critical organizational needs.

The examination process and the scoring system make up a two-part assessment system. The Criteria Items represent what is to be evaluated. The scoring system represents how the evaluations are made.

Our Key Deliverable:  The Feedback Report

Forward Award applicants at all application levels receive a written feedback report at the conclusion of the Forward Award process. The feedback report identifies strengths and opportunities for improvement relative to the Award Criteria. By identifying gaps in systems and improvement strategies, the feedback report can assist applicant organizations to improve in a more focused way, such as in the strategic and business planning process.

Every applicant organization can request a post feedback meeting with Examiner representatives to clarify items in the feedback report. Both organizational teams and Examiner representatives find these sessions satisfying and worthwhile.

Wisconsin Forward Award Recognition

The Forward Award program provides a system for measuring and recognizing four levels of progress and growth toward performance excellence. There are no limits to the number of organizations that may receive recognition at any level. To achieve the highest level of recognition — the Forward Award of Excellence — an organization must be able to show outstanding achievement in quality performance relative to the Forward Award Criteria.

The four recognition levels represent developmental steps to performance excellence.


This is the beginning level for organizations starting to adopt and implement continuous improvement practices and principles. Organizations that are starting on their quality journey will find Forward Award program participation and education to be very beneficial as a first learning step. Applicants at this initial level may have used a self-assessment to define a baseline for how the organization measures up on the Award scoring scale. Recipients at this level receive Commitment recognition.


This is an intermediate level for organizations that are starting to effectively use continuous improvement principles and practices. Recognition at this level is provided to organizations that demonstrate, through their commitment and implementation of quality and performance management, progress in constructing sound and noteworthy processes. These organizations show a solid approach to applying the Criteria of the Forward Award process at the system-level, and to implementing plans and procedures. Their accomplishments are confirmed by evidence of developing and improving performance trends. Recipients at this level receive Proficiency recognition.


This is an advanced level for organizations that show through their skillful practice of performance management principles, significant progress in expanding their capabilities through improved processes of all kinds. Their achievements are demonstrated by results, are clearly linked to quality and performance management systems, and are directly attributable to a systemic, well-deployed approach. Recipients may receive, at their option, interactive personal feedback at their location and Mastery recognition.


The highest level of achievement, the Forward Award for Excellence, is presented to organizations that demonstrate excellence through their quality practices and achievements. Recognition at this level is provided to organizations that are outstanding examples of quality enterprises in Wisconsin, and which can serve as role models for others. Their management excellence with superior results is clearly evident. They continue to learn and build upon outstanding business results and excellent performance management systems. Organizations achieving this level receive a site visit to verify and clarify information assessed during the application review. At the site visit, applicants may be asked to provide additional information/data. The site visit does not imply receipt of the Forward Award of Excellence. Organizations confirmed as achieving at this level receive the Forward Award for Excellence.