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The Official Baldrige Blog

A Baldrige Award-Winning City Highlights Challenges and Organizational Resilience

People gaithering in front of building getting ready to ride bicycles in the City of Fort Collins, Colorado.
Head shot of City of Fort Collins Manager Kelly DiMartino
Kelly DiMartino, City Manager, City of Fort Collins, CO, 2017 Baldrige Award Recipient

The City of Fort Collins (CO) received the Baldrige Award in 2017. With more than 2,400 employees and 2,000+ volunteers serving its residents, the City is a full-service municipal corporation operating under a home rule council–manager form of government.   

Among its nationally distinguished performance achievements, the City ranks in the top 10 percent of cities nationally for the following measures: best place to live, best place to work, quality of culture and recreation, availability of job opportunities, and visual attractiveness. It ranks in the top 1 percent in quality of drinking water and emergency preparedness. It recently earned another accolade related to quality of life—being named “Most Peaceful Place to Live in the U.S.” 

I recently asked City of Fort Collins Manager Kelly DiMartino a few questions in anticipation of her upcoming presentation on April 10 at the Baldrige Program’s 35th Quest for Excellence® Conference. Following are her responses.

Please briefly highlight what you’ll cover as you discuss future emerging challenges for the City of Fort Collins and other organizations in your sector at the Quest conference.

  • Affordability: Housing is the number-one thing we hear about from community members. We need more “capital-A” affordable housing, and we also need for all kinds of housing to be available and affordable to the whole community. Last year just 20% of homes sold in Fort Collins were classified as affordable for the area’s median-income households.
  • Demographic Shifts: Fort Collins has long been the largest city in the northern Colorado region and the center for employment, shopping, entertainment, etc. That has been shifting over the last decade-plus, and in recent years we’ve really seen the population shift toward more affordable communities throughout the region. We’re having to look at employment, transit/transportation, and our environmental efforts more regionally. In addition, our community foundation recently released a report that showed our population is aging faster than those of other parts of the state, which comes with unique impacts for our economy, workforce, and health care sector. 
  • Climate: Like everywhere else, we’re having to plan for and adapt to a changing world. We have aggressive climate goals, and we’re also making adjustments in our operations. We now have an urban wildfire plan and plans for extreme cold and extreme heat, and we’re actively working to ensure that we have sufficient water resources for the future. 

In light of the Baldrige Award’s added focus today on organizational resilience, would you share an example or two of practices that have had a significant impact in supporting your organization’s success for the long term?

When I think of resilience in our city, it is about our capacity to withstand and adapt to internal and external disruptions, uncertainties, and challenges while continuing to provide high-quality services to our community. 

How do we do this? One example would be our leadership system. It provides a framework for how we define our approach to leading. We mapped out our leadership system in 2013, and it has been through several iterations, most recently a significant makeover in 2022. Notably, 75% of our Executive Lead Team members were not involved in the initial development of this framework, and they have brought diverse perspectives on its structure and functionality. Our leadership system supports resiliency through an agreed-upon set of key components and processes that—when executed effectively—create conditions for organizational success and high-quality services to our community. 

Another example that aligns directly with our leadership system is that our key processes of strategic planning, budgeting, and performance measurement and review are systematic, evaluated for effectiveness, and improved on a regular basis. These key processes stood firm during COVID and enabled us to deliver a recovery plan to our organization and our community that has now become a “resiliency” plan. 

How would you recommend that senior leaders get started using the Baldrige Excellence Framework®/Criteria for Performance Excellence® to be prepared to address challenges and promote resilience? 

A few ways to get leaders started in using the Baldrige Excellence Framework/Criteria for Performance Excellence:

  • Talk with other community leaders who are involved in using the Baldrige Criteria. 
    Ask about their journeys, successes, and experiences. 
  • Connect with your local or regional Baldrige programs
    We have collaborated with the Rocky Mountain Performance Excellence program since the beginning of our journey in 2010. They provide a valuable roadmap for leaders just starting the journey, those in the middle, and seasoned organizations. Learning is lifelong, and there are always lessons to be learned!
  • Use Baldrige tools such as “Are We Making Progress as Leaders,” a short assessment that asks simple questions about organizational understanding. 
    Another tool that was instrumental for us in the early days was having conversations as leaders about question posed in the Organizational Profile—questions such as “Who are your customers, and what do they need/want/require you to do?” stimulate rich dialog! 

Would you please comment on impacts or updates since the City of Fort Collins earned the Baldrige Award in 2017? 

2017 seems like so long ago! As an organization, we continue to quote the Baldrige Criteria when we discuss various topics, such as organizational performance, process improvement, voice of the customer, and voice of the employee. Another example of ongoing Baldrige influence is that we consistently ask, “How do you know”? 

For instance, planning is underway for our next all-managers meeting, where we will bring more than 300 leaders together for professional development, and we will be focusing on performance analysis through metrics/measures. Our event’s title is “Are You High Performing? How Do You Know?” and we will highlight the Baldrige mantra to continuously measure what’s important, assess levels and trends, and compare our metrics to those of other high-performing organizations.

Join us at the Quest for Excellence® 2024!

The Quest for Excellence Conference April 7-10, 2024 - Register Today!

The Quest for Excellence® Conference

Sunday, April 7–Wednesday, April 10, 2024  |  #BaldrigeQuest

The conference will feature new and exciting opportunities to learn role-model best practices from nationally recognized thought leaders, Baldrige Award recipients, and representatives from other high-performing organizations. Conference highlights include sessions focusing on organizational resilience and future emerging challenges and take-home solutions to help your organization achieve breakthrough performance in areas such as leadership; strategy; customers; measurement, analysis, and knowledge management; workforce; and operations.

Register Today! 

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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