Wisconsin Forward Award

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 Baldrige 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.

The Forward Award program provides a system for measuring and recognizing 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 Baldrige Award Criteria.

Organizations can choose from several application types that represent developmental steps to performance excellence.

Challenger (Expanded Organizational Profile)

This is the beginning level for organizations starting to adopt and implement continuous improvement practices and principles.  Applicants complete an organizational profile Since the organizational profile is part of all other applications, it is an ideal starting point.  Many organizations find their completed Challenger application is useful for orienting new employees or board members to the organizations.  Organizational profile questions can be found in the 2024 Baldrige Award Criteria.   Organizations receive an interactive personal feedback session virtually or at their location.   Challenger applications can be submitted at any time.

Wisconsin Fast Forward application

Organizations that are starting on their quality journey will find the abbreviated Fast Forward application process to be very beneficial as a first learning step. Using the questions outlined in the Baldrige Excellence Builder, the Fast Forward assessment defines a baseline for how the organization determine process effectiveness and measure what matters.  Organizations  participate in a virtual streamlined site visit as well as an interactive personal feedback session virtually or at their location. Organizations completing a Fast Forward application are recognized at the Commitment level.  Wisconsin Fast Forward applications can be submitted at any time.

Now 2 Options to apply for a Wisconsin Forward Award Award!

Option A – Streamlined Application based on 2024 Baldrige Award Criteria and Format

Organizations can opt to use the  2024 Baldrige Award Criteria & Format

  • For each of the 8 Criteria Question Sections there are 2 types of questions: one asks about key processes used, and the other results and/or outcomes achieved
  • Results and outcomes carry more weight and are the focus of the application review phase
  • Results will be evaluated based on:
    • the responsiveness to the question asked,
    • performance levels and trends,
    • comparisons to competitors and industry benchmarks (as appropriate), and relevance of the metrics provided.
  • Applicants are limited by character count and a maximum of 3 charts/tables/graphs depending on the question type.

Option B – Wisconsin Forward Award 50 page narrative application

Organizations respond in narrative format to the Criteria for Performance Excellence found in the Baldrige Framework. Examiner teams evaluate the responses, conduct a virtual site visits, may visit the applicant organization, and may request additional information about the organization and its results.  An independent panel of judges determine recognition levels in consultation with the examiner team leaders, and the Wisconsin Forward Award program.

Wisconsin Forward Award Recognition Levels

Proficiency 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 may receive, at their option, interactive personal feedback at their location. Organizations  participate in a virtual streamlined site visit as well as an interactive feedback session virtually or at their location.   Depending on maturity and scoring, organizations at this level receive Proficiency recognition.

Mastery  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. Organizations  participate in a virtual streamlined site visit as well as an interactive  feedback session virtually or at their location.  Depending on maturity and scoring, organizations at this level  receive Mastery recognition.

Excellence 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 virtual and on-location 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, and are eligible to apply to the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program.