Guidance for Effective
To develop a well-written comment, follow the guidelines listed below.
1. Use a single, complete thought to clearly specify the strength (using specific examples from the
application) or OFI (using specific omissions or concerns identified from the application).
2. Address central requirements of the Criteria, and do not go beyond the requirements of the Criteria.
3. Structure each comment so that it contains a subject identified from the Criteria or the application; verb(s)
and requirements from the Criteria; examples from the application; and citations of figure numbers, as
4. Include the comments per Item that are most relevant and important to the applicant based on its Key
5. Draw linkages across Items or between an Item and the applicant’s Organizational Profile. For
example, the depth of customer knowledge gathered in Item 3.1 may play a significant role in the
Strategy Development in Item 2.1.
6. Do not contradict other comments found elsewhere in the scorebook. Contradictions may occur when a
writer does not clearly specify the strength or opportunity as noted above.
7. Be nonprescriptive. Refrain from using “could,” “should,” and “would.”
8. Be nonjudgmental. Refrain from using terms such as “good,” “bad,” or “inadequate.” State the observation
in a factual manner, for example, “Customer satisfaction rates have increased over the past three years.”
1. Use such words as “the applicant,” “the organization,” “the company,” “the school,” or “the health care
system” to refer to the applicant. The applicant’s name is used only in the final feedback reports sent by
the WFA office to applicants.
2. Use the applicant’s terminology when appropriate.
3. Use a polite, professional, and positive tone.
4. For independent and consensus comments, tell what is missing if something “is not clear.” However, do
not use “it is not clear” if a site visit is made. After the site visit, “it is not clear” is no longer appropriate.
5. Highlight an applicant’s substantive strength or OFI, not the writing style or graphics. For example, avoid
phrases such as “should be addressed in Item 3.2,” “x axis is not clear,” or “is poorly described,” because
these are criticisms of the writing, not the applicant’s performance system.
6. Regardless of where the applicant places the information in the application, identify strengths or OFIs
according to where the Item falls in the Criteria.
7. Use vocabulary and phraseology from the Criteria and the Scoring Guidelines.
8. Avoid jargon and acronyms unless they are used by the applicant.
9. Provide a figure number when reference is made to information from a figure.
Guidance for Effective Comment Writing -- Page 1 of 9
FOR PROCESS ITEMS FOR RESULTS ITEMS
Effective Process comments address the following questions: Effective Results comments address the following questions:
Approach (A) Performance Levels (Le)
“Approach” refers to the methods used to accomplish a process. -Are key results missing? What levels are provided? Is the
-What approach or collection of approaches is discussed? measurement scale meaningful?
-What Areas of the Criteria Item does the approach address
(e.g., 1.1a[1-3], 1.1b)? Trends (T)
Are trends provided? Are they positive, negative, or flat? What is
-Is the approach systematic (with repeatable steps, inputs,
the rate of change (slope of the trend)?
outputs, key steps, and time frames)?
-Is there evidence that the approach is effective?
-Is this approach (or collection of approaches) a key
-Are comparisons provided? Are the comparisons to an industry
organizational process? Is the approach important to the
sector average, key competitors, or best-in-class organizations?
applicant’s overall performance? (If yes, clearly state why it is
How does the applicant compare against other organizations?
important and cite the key factors used to support your
-Are any of the multiple requirements of the Item that are not Linkages (Li)
addressed (gaps) important to the applicant? -To what extent do results link to key factors and Process Items
(e.g., important customer/patient/student, product and service,
Deployment (D) market, process, and action plan performance requirements)?
To what extent is the approach deployed (shared or spread) -Are results segmented to help the applicant improve (e.g., by
throughout the organization (early stages, well deployed but customer/student segment, employee type, process/education
with some variation among areas/work units, well deployed program or service)?
with no gaps, fully deployed)?
Has the approach been evaluated and improved? If yes, is the
evaluation and improvement conducted in a fact-based,
systematic manner (e.g., regular, recurring, data driven)?
-Is there evidence of organizational learning (i.e., evidence that
the learning from this approach is shared with other
organizational units/other work processes)?
-Is there evidence of innovation and refinement from
organizational analysis and sharing (e.g., evidence the learning
is actually used to drive innovation and refinement)?
How well is the approach aligned with the applicant’s
organizational needs identified in the other Criteria Items and
the Organizational Profile?
How well is the approach integrated with these needs?
(Examples of needs are strategic challenges, objectives, and
related action plans; organizational mission, vision, and goals;
key processes and measures; key customer/market segments and
requirements; and employee groups and requirements.)
NOTE: See pages 51–52 in the business Criteria booklet, pages
53–54 in the education Criteria booklets, or pages 55–56 in the
health care Criteria booklet for more information about
Guidance for Effective Comment Writing -- Page 2 of 9
Traits of an Effective Comment
Represents a single, complete thought
There is a main idea
The message is clear
Contains enough information yet leaves out things that are not important
Addresses central requirements of the Criteria
Clearly specifies strength using specific example(s) from the application (strength)
Identifies omission or opportunity for improvement identified from the application (OFI)
May use language from the Criteria booklet
Is relevant and important to the applicant
Will help applicant “get to the next level”
Consistent with applicant’s Key Factors
“So what” conveys insight into the applicant’s opportunity for improvement (Process Items)
Is non-judgmental and non-prescriptive
States observations in a factual matter
Positive, professional tone
Conveys the essential thing(s) an applicant could do after receiving the feedback
Offers context and/or a systems-oriented perspective
Reflects appropriate approach, deployment, learning, and/or integration dimensions (Process Items)
Describes levels, trends, comparisons, linkages, or gaps (Results Items)
Draws connections across Items or between an Item and the Organizational Profile
Follows comment writing conventions
Includes figure number when referencing a figure
Refers to the applicant as “applicant,” “organization,” “company,” “school,” “hospital,” as
appropriate to the sector or applicant’s usage
Uses active voice, not passive voice
Capitalizes Baldrige terms (such as Criteria, Category, Item)
Capitalizes other terms consistent with the applicant’s usage
Guidance for Effective Comment Writing -- Page 3 of 9
Examples of Improving Written Comments for Process
Items (Categories 1-6)
Original Comment What is the problem? Improved Comment
+ a/c The Leadership Team, along with other Judgmental: “excellent,” + a/c The senior leaders communicate
management committees throughout the “great strides” expectations throughout the
organization, meets regularly and uses Conveys more than one organization and review
numerous excellent communication concept in the comment organizational performance using
methods to describe their activities, e.g., Includes “so what” that adds a balanced scorecard.
balanced scorecards, to all team members. little value
Moreover, the Leadership Team Goes beyond what is asked
communicates information about their by the Criteria
organizational planning via the same
vehicles. By communicating so readily
with all employees, the organization has
made great strides towards inclusion and
-a Although the Leadership Team attempts to Judgmental: “unsuccessful” - a It is not clear how members of the
create and maintain a focus on student Prescriptive: “should Leadership Team, other than the
learning; to communicate the develop techniques” principal, set, deploy, and
organization’s mission, vision, and core Lacks a positive tone communicate organizational values,
values; and to reinforce ethical behavior, directions, and expectations.
it has been unsuccessful in
communicating its message throughout
the organization. The applicant should
develop techniques that would enable this
information to be cascaded throughout the
+b The applicant’s Governance Board plays Judgmental: “important” +b The applicant’s Governance
an important role in ensuring independent Vague: does not identify Board addresses independence in
audits. In addition, the Leadership Team any specific information internal and external audits by
ensures ethical behavior by all employees with regard to audits and the establishing and implementing a
through the distribution of the Code of Governance Board schedule of regular audits. These
Conduct. Not a single thought—the include quarterly and annual
second sentence addresses external audits by the ABC
1.2b, not 1.1b Accounting Firm. Internal audits
are conducted biannually by an
internal audit team.
Guidance for Effective Comment Writing -- Page 4 of 9
Examples of Improving Written Comments for Process Items
Original Comment What is the problem? Improved Comment
Item 2.1 Wordy: 3 sentences long; +b Through the Strategic Planning
+ b The methods to develop short-term can be written more Process (Figure 2.1-1), the
organizational strategic objectives appear concisely applicant uses a systematic
to be systematic, including the expressed Judgmental: “works hard to approach to ensure that its
needs of all key stakeholders. The ensure” strategic objectives balance the
applicant works hard to ensure that the Doesn’t reference needs of all key stakeholders
necessary stakeholders participate in the appropriate figures from (Figure 2.1-3). This approach
process, and it incorporates their input application involves all key stakeholders in
into the planning process. After the focus groups at step 1 of the
information is gathered, the applicant Strategic Planning process and
attempts to align the stakeholders’ needs then involves at least one
with the applicant’s own strategic representative of each group at
priorities. steps 2-6.
- a The applicant’s strategy development Multiple concepts expressed - a Although the applicant uses a
process, which is used for developing in one comment systematic strategy development
short-term plans and objectives, is Three sentences long process (Strategic Planning
illustrated in Figure 2.1-1. However, the “So what” is judgmental Process, Figure 2.1-1) to develop
application is lacking a description of how short-term plans and objectives,
the company completes its longer-term there does not appear to be a
planning. Without such a plan, the longer-term planning process.
applicant’s ability to ensure that its Thus, it is not clear how the
decisions are aligned with its strategic applicant’s planning process
directions or its ability to track progress includes long-term considerations
relative to its strategic objectives and action such as market changes, customer
plans is compromised. requirements, and the competitive
environment, or how it develops
longer-term strategic plans and
Guidance for Effective Comment Writing -- Page 5 of 9
Example of Improving Written Comment for Results
(Category 7 Items)
Original Comment What is the problem? Improved Comment
Omits reference to figure + a Results for student success at transfer
+ a The applicant has demonstrated
showing results institutions (Figure 7.5-1) demonstrate
great success with regard to how
well its students have performed at Omits specific improvements from 58% in 1995 to
numbers/data and time 85% in 2002 and indicate that the
period applicant’s programs are aligned with
Judgmental/value laden: the requirement of its receiving
Omits reference to figure + a Over the last three years, the applicant
+ a The applicant has expanded the
showing results has increased the percentage of
number of external board members.
Omits specific data, e.g., external board members from 25% to
percentage of increase, 60% (Figure 7.6-1), and it has
time period appointed an external director as the
head of its audit committee. These
results are related to the applicant’s
strategy of achieving greater
independence in governance and
Guidance for Effective Comment Writing -- Page 6 of 9
WRITING EFFECTIVE COMMENTS FOR RESULTS ITEMS
To assist you in your analysis and in the writing of
comments for Items in Category 7.
Well-written Category 7 comments frequently address the following questions:
Is the trend direction positive or negative?
What is the desirable direction?
Are explanations provided for significant positive or negative changes?
What is the rate of change?
How does the result link to the Key Business Factors in the Organizational Profile/or other
Categories (e.g., strategic challenges, supplier and partner relationships)? Are data presented in
Category 7 for measures that are referred to in other Categories of the application?
Are all important results presented? Are data focused on the critical organizational performance
results (e.g., customer requirements, compliance with regulatory requirements)? Are there any
gaps in the data?
Is the amount of data provided sufficient (e.g., number of cycles of data for trend data,
percentage of stakeholder population)?
Are the data appropriately segmented?
Do the data represent both short- and long-term priorities?
How does the organization measure effectiveness, and are results for these measures presented?
Are comparative data presented, what do they show, and are they appropriate for this applicant?
What are the standard measures in this field? Is there any significance to a lack of these
measures in the application?
Are the data normalized (presented in a way that takes into account the various size/population
Other Keys to Writing Effective Results Item Comments:
Start with a subject from the application or the Criteria.
Include the time frame you are writing about—such as “in 2003” or “from 1997 to 2003.”
Include the actual numbers observed in the levels or trends.
Include a figure reference.
Guidance for Effective Comment Writing -- Page 7 of 9
“So what” Examples
The senior leaders use various communication methods (e.g. weekly meetings, newsletters, intranet)
to inform the entire organization regarding its strategic objectives, core values, organizational
mission, and performance expectations. This process enables the applicant to maintain a focus on
student learning and development and also on creating and balancing value for students and other
As part of the strategic planning process, the applicant reviews its competitive and industry
information sources and the content and use of its key performance indicators. This approach keeps
information aligned and current with the applicant’s business directions.
The organization demonstrates improved cycle time for product delivery, a key customer
requirement as described in the Organizational Profile. This performance suggests effective
linkages between customer requirements and satisfaction, the organization’s improvement action
plans and results achieved.
Opportunity for Improvement Comments
Although the applicant uses a wide variety of methods to listen and learn about the requirements of
students and stakeholders, it is not clear how the information from these many sources is
systematically brought together so that the applicant gets a holistic view of requirements and their
relative importance to drive improvement.
It is unclear whether or how the employee demographic information provided in the Organizational
Profile regarding gender, race and non-faculty staff reflects the hiring and stakeholder communities
in which the applicant’ operates. Without this information, it may be difficult for the applicant to
recognize the diversity of ideas, cultures and thinking available to it as it continues to refine its
It is unclear how the applicant uses indirect indicators of satisfaction in determining overall
employee satisfaction. Indirect indicators might include retention, absenteeism, grievances, and
safety. Enriching its satisfaction data using these indirect methods may help the applicant address its
strategic challenge of maintaining a high quality workforce.
Segmentation groups discussed in the Organizational Profile are not reflected in the results of Item
7.3. This makes the importance of the results unclear. Without appropriate segmentation of results,
the applicant may not be able to target specific high-value markets.
Most results do not show comparative data. This may make it difficult for the applicant to determine
the relevance of its results and may hinder its quest to become the best primary care center in the
Guidance for Effective Comment Writing -- Page 8 of 9
MORE SAMPLES OF COMMENT “ENRICHMENT”
Original OFI comment:
The applicant’s design process does not consider cycle time.
Revised OFI comment:
The applicant’s design process does not appear to address design cycle time. Success in the
globally competitive market demands ever-shorter cycles to design /introduce new products.
Failure to address and improve cycle time may delay introduction of new products and services and
make it more difficult for the organizational to compete effectively.
Original OFI comment
It is not clear how the organization determines customer satisfaction. This could result in not
maintaining a leadership position.
Revised OFI comment
Although some customer satisfaction data are provided in Item 7.1, it is not evident that the
organization has a sound, systematic approach in place to determine customer satisfaction relative
to competitors. This could make it difficult for the organization to consistently identify ways to
differentiate and strengthen its products and services. In particular, it could cause the organization
to overlook key opportunities for improvement in price, service and quality which are identified as
key customer requirements.
Guidance for Effective Comment Writing -- Page 9 of 9