Managers of companies that have captured quality awards say there is a price to winning.
Once they become known for quality, they are inundated by calls from other companies searching for help in their own quality drives.
And award-winning companies are put under a microscope. Those of the "if you're so smart, why aren't you rich" persuasion criticize loudly when financial performance falters. Wall Street publications have written, only half-jokingly, about the "Baldrige Curse," noting that many winners of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, given by Congress, have suffered troubling setbacks.
Florida Power & Light, the only American company to win the prestigious Deming prize handed out by the Japanese, was criticized by Florida's utility regulators for spending $800,000 to compete for the prize. And a new company president has dismantled much of the company's quality program.
At Preston Trucking Co., Vice President for Quality Martin Landy became worried when he started spending 50 percent of his time on speeches and assistance for other companies.
"People who ask for tours have no concept about what it takes to pull that off, the time and effort; how it detracts from our focus," he said. "At some point, we could spend all our time
telling our story."
As a result of the overwhelming demand, Preston, which has won several quality and productivity awards, has decided to pull back. The free "quality college" seminars it offered several times a year may be cut back, or the company may start charging for them, Mr. Landy said.
"We are going to stick to our knitting."