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The Official Baldrige Blog

Baldrige Award Judges’ Panel: Interview with New Member Mary Kay Fyda-Mar

head shot of Mary Kay Fyda-Mar

Mary Kay Fyda-Mar; photo used with permission.

Next Wednesday, the Judges’ Panel of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award will meet to decide which 2017 Baldrige Award applicants will receive site visits as part of the process for identifying national role models. Of the 12 judges on the panel, four were appointed this year

Following is an interview of new judge Mary Kay Fyda-Mar, who is retired from The Boeing Company and resides in California.


What experiences led you to the role of Baldrige judge?

I first became familiar with the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program from a Baldrige Award applicant’s perspective as director of business excellence for Boeing Air Force Systems in 2005. At that time, the Defense side of Boeing was on a Baldrige journey, and two of our divisions (Airlift & Tankers and Aerospace Support) had been Baldrige Award recipients.

My responsibilities included using the Baldrige framework to improve our performance, and I led the team that wrote our Air Force Systems application for the [Baldrige-based] California Awards for Performance Excellence (CAPE). I became an examiner for CAPE in 2006 and for the national Baldrige program in 2007. In later years, I served as a judge and ethics advisor for CAPE. Each of these experiences contributed to my appreciation of the power of the Baldrige program, so I am delighted to now serve as a judge for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.  

How do you see the Baldrige Excellence Framework (including the Criteria for Performance Excellence) as valuable to organizations in the manufacturing sector?

The Baldrige framework is valuable to organizations in any sector, because it provides a systems view of the elements that are crucial to any organization’s success. While I applaud the large number of applicants in recent years from health care and other sectors, it is unfortunate that the manufacturing sector is not embracing the Baldrige framework as much as it could.

This framework has evolved over the years to reflect the leading edge of validated management practice, including increased emphasis on intelligent risk taking, innovation, employee engagement, and cybersecurity. I believe that these changes make the Baldrige framework an effective tool to address manufacturing-sector challenges such as transformative technologies and workforce skills gaps.

How do you apply Baldrige principles or concepts these days?

As a retiree, I no longer work in the manufacturing sector. However, I find Baldrige concepts to be very useful as I serve on the boards of various nonprofit organizations. For example, I used the Organizational Profile structure in developing a description of a local arts organization for use in fundraising.

In addition, I incorporated elements from category 2 of the Baldrige Criteria to facilitate strategic planning sessions for a local nonprofit theater company. As I mentioned above, I believe the framework is a useful tool to achieve success in any organization, large or small.

As a judge, what are your hopes for the judging process or what would you like to tell applicants and potential Baldrige Award applicants about the rigor of the process?

I would tell applicants that the judging process consists of well-defined steps designed to ensure fair, consistent, criteria-based evaluations, as well as relevant, actionable feedback reports. I would add that the judges on the panel sincerely want to help you, our customers, improve your organizations and achieve success.

What encouragement/advice would you give Baldrige examiners for their work in evaluating organizations as part of the Baldrige Award process?

Being an examiner is a very rewarding experience! You learn principles and concepts that are applicable to your organization, as well as honing analytical thinking, writing, and leadership skills that further your personal development. You gain valuable insight into the practices of outstanding organizations on a journey to excellence, and you work with some of the brightest, most dedicated people: other Baldrige examiners. You can be proud that your volunteer service contributes to the quality and competitiveness of American businesses and organizations.

One piece of advice I would give is to trust the team process. At times, the multiple steps of Independent Review and Consensus Review—with several cycles of feedback and revision—may seem tedious. However, the varied viewpoints and experiences of your examiner team do contribute to richer, more actionable feedback for the applicant, our ultimate customer.   

About the author

Christine Schaefer

Christine Schaefer is a longtime staff member of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP). Her work has focused on producing BPEP publications and communications. She also has been highly involved in the Baldrige Award process, Baldrige examiner training, and other offerings of the program.

She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Virginia, where she was an Echols Scholar and a double major, receiving highest distinction for her thesis in the interdisciplinary Political & Social Thought Program. She also has a master's degree from Georgetown University, where her studies and thesis focused on social and public policy issues. 

When not working, she sits in traffic in one of the most congested regions of the country, receives consolation from her rescued beagles, writes poetry, practices hot yoga, and tries to cultivate a foundation for three kids to direct their own lifelong learning (and to PLEASE STOP YELLING at each other—after all, we'll never end wars if we can't even make peace at home!).

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Congratulations Mary Kay and So well deserved. The Baldrige Program is blessed to have you in this capacity.

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