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The Official Baldrige Blog

AARP: A Most Excellent Quest Continues

Jo Ann Jenkins, AARP CEO, high-fives a group of volunteers at AARP and the AARP Foundation’s fifth annual “Celebration of Service D.C. Meal Pack Challenge” on Sept. 11, 2019.

Jo Ann Jenkins, AARP CEO, high-fives a group of volunteers at AARP and the AARP Foundation’s fifth annual “Celebration of Service D.C. Meal Pack Challenge” on Sept. 11, 2019. Some 5,000 volunteers gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to pack 1 million meals in a single day to help food-insecure residents of D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Credit: AARP
Photo of Baldrige Crystal and Medallion.
Crystal Manufactured by Pelucida Glass LLC

Inscribed on the Baldrige Award medallion are the words “The Quest for Excellence.” Besides being the name of the Baldrige national conference that highlights winning organizations, those words have real meaning.

Organizations that use the Baldrige Excellence Framework and its Criteria—whether for self-assessment or to apply for an award at state/local or national levels—are on true quests.

Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines a quest as an "act of seeking," in this case excellence. ("Quest" is also "a chivalrous enterprise in medieval romance usually involving an adventurous journey," but that is a different blog.) Oxford Dictionary defines quest as "a search for something." I also found this definition in an academic resource: "an exciting search involving an adventurous journey."

I asked the 2019 and 2020 Baldrige Award recipients what caused them to embark on their own quests for excellence, and how such quests helped them in the year 2020.

Scott Frisch, EVP, Chief Operating Officer, and CFO, AARP, a 2020 Baldrige Award recipient, offered these thoughts about the organization’s quest for excellence:

Why did your organization get engaged in the Baldrige Excellence Framework (i.e., Baldrige Criteria)? In other words, what was the hook?

Jo Ann Jenkins, our CEO, had the opportunity to go through the Baldrige Executive Fellows program in 2012 and has also encouraged several of our executive team members, myself included, to participate in the program. Through this, we have found the Baldrige Excellence Framework invaluable in guiding the transformation of AARP to better meet the needs of our members and people 50+ today and in the future. Even though we were a very successful organization, it was clear that changing technologies, demographics, and the way people are aging today meant that what made us successful in the past wouldn’t necessarily make us successful in the future.

Using the Baldrige Framework, we have transformed our organization to help empower people to fulfill their real possibilities over the course of an ever-longer lifetime, while living healthier, more financially secure, and more fulfilling lives.

Why did you stay involved?

The Baldrige Excellence Framework has enabled us to build a more innovative, forward-looking organization powered by people who are dedicated to creating a new narrative around aging and to drive the social changes necessary to create a better life for older people in this country. By using it as a guide, the Baldrige Framework has enabled us to achieve our goals.

How did the Baldrige Framework help during the pandemic in 2020?

If there is one thing we’ve learned from the upheaval created by the pandemic, it’s that people need AARP more than ever. And as a social mission organization, we’ve stepped up to meet that need. As part of our significant response to COVID-19, we built and launched AARP Community Connections, an online platform that helps people organize and find mutual aid groups, as well as access support from trained volunteers. In its first five months, it has helped more than 470,000 users and created nearly 800 mutual aid groups in communities nationwide, both in English and Spanish.

What quest is your organization on?

Join us for our first-ever virtual conference! 

The Quest for Excellence Conference April 3-6, 2022 - Register Today!

Quest for Excellence® Conference

Monday, April 12–Thursday, April 15, 2021

The three-day virtual showcase will feature the 2019 and 2020 Award recipients, former recipients, pre-conference workshops, senior leader plenary sessions with live Q&A, more than 70+ on-demand concurrent sessions, conference keynote, and more!

Register Today! 

About the author

Dawn Bailey

Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program and involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 25 years of experience, 18 years at the Baldrige Program. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.

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