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The Wisconsin Forward Award Program

Wisconsin Forward Award: Recognizing the State of Excellence

The Wisconsin Forward Award program was created in 1997 to promote significant achievements in continuous improvement and performance excellence—business practices that ensure the economic vitality of Wisconsin organizations and the communities they serve.

Organizations participating in the WFA program are committed to the achievement of high standards of excellence. Whether they are just beginning their journey by using one of WFA’s self-assessment tools, or exemplify mature, productive quality management systems as outlined by the WFA Criteria, these organizations are distinguishing themselves as leaders in their field, enabling themselves to be as successful and innovative as possible–and keeping Wisconsin in a State of Excellence.

Regardless of the performance measure and size of organization, the research is clear—the long-term impact of effective performance management continuous learning programs can be linked with positive financial performance, customer satisfaction and improved employee involvement.

The Wisconsin Center for Performance Excellence supports economic development by helping organizations maximize efficiency, profitability, quality and sustainability.

How WFA Began

Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy G. Thompson and the Council for Workforce Investment created the Wisconsin Forward Award Program with the issuance of the Governor’s Executive Order No. 385 in 1997. At that time, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development was assigned temporary responsibility for program management and development. In 1999, a new private non-profit organization was created to assume responsibility for the Wisconsin Forward Award program.

In 2009, the Wisconsin Forward Award program became a division of the Wisconsin Center for Performance Excellence, which is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors that includes leaders in business, manufacturing, education, health care, government, and other organizations throughout Wisconsin.

Today, Wisconsin Forward Award is administered by the Wisconsin Center for Performance Excellence, a non-stock, not-for-profit corporation. WFA, Inc. is a charitable organization, granted exemption under Federal IRS regulations, described in section 501(c)(3). We are registered as a charitable organization in Wisconsin through the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing.  The Center is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors that includes leaders in business, manufacturing, education, health care, government, and other organizations throughout Wisconsin.

To fulfill its mission to promote and recognize adoption of high performance management principles and practices, WFA focuses on three interrelated activities: education, assessment and recognition. Education is advanced primarily through public learning events, training, and conference offerings throughout the year in various locations in Wisconsin. Organizational assessment, including the Organizational Profile application, the Wisconsin Fast Forward, Baldrige Express and our centerpiece annual award program is offered for all types of Wisconsin organizations.

Wisconsin Forward Award is modeled upon the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. The centerpiece of the WFA program is the annual application and evaluation of applicant organizations using the WFA/Baldrige Criteria. In doing so, Wisconsin joins over 34 other states which use these Criteria for recognition and awards. Every WFA applicant is eligible to receive prestigious public recognition for their efforts and achievements at our annual recognition event, invitations to make presentations, and requests to participate in forums designed to showcase best practices.

Used by organizations across the nation and around the world, the Baldrige Criteria provide consistent and rigorous standards, a proven measurement system, and improvement benchmarks for organizations serious about improving performance and competing in the global economy. A growing number of Malcolm Baldrige Award winners have first received recognition and feedback through their states’ quality award programs.