Over the past three weeks, hundreds of business, nonprofit, health care, and education experts from around the country have attended the annual Baldrige Examiner Preparation classes at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Among the participants in the highly rated training were the first two recipients of Curt Reimann Scholarships: Suzanne Collins and Dr. Jennifer Mackey-LaBrecque.
Collins is currently a doctoral student of business administration at Walden University in Minnesota. Mackey-LaBrecque is a pharmacy clinical coordinator at Beverly Hospital in Massachusetts. Both conveyed their appreciation for the training—and for the man for whom their scholarships are named: Dr. Curt W. Reimann.
Of her experience at Baldrige examiner training, Collins noted that “everyone was friendly and welcoming” to her. “A particularly valuable portion of [my Baldrige training experience] was the afternoon of Day 1, when I had one-on-one time with a seasoned examiner, [discussing] methodology and techniques or tips to home in on key factors of the [case study] organization, and subsequently proceeding to analyze other parts of the study for strengths and opportunities for improvement,” she said.
Mackey-LaBrecque described her Baldrige training experience as being “of great value to both my current professional position and aspirations to continue my leadership journey. ...it added to the foundational Baldrige framework principles that I [learned] during my Master of Health Administration coursework at the University of Cincinnati in 2016 [and] helped refine my understanding of how the [Baldrige] criteria are applied in practice. I am truly looking forward to applying the Baldrige principles to my workplace.”
During two Baldrige training weeks held at NIST this month, Reimann met individually with Collins and Mackey-LaBrecque during class breaks and enjoyed lunchtime conversations with each scholarship recipient. Afterward, he said he would like to stay in touch with them throughout their careers.
Reflecting on those interactions, Collins said a highlight of her Baldrige training experience “was having the distinct honor and privilege of spending time and getting acquainted with Dr. Curt Reimann.” She also said she found him “to be a sharp, inquisitive, and thoughtful gentleman who ... is an inspiration to many (including myself) who have had the good fortune of meeting him.”
Similarly, Mackey-LaBrecque shared that Reimann “was a huge part of my [Baldrige training] experience.” She explained that he met her at the door of the NIST building at the start of each training day, escorted her to her training room, and accompanied her to lunch on the first day. “It was an honor to listen to his recounting of the history of the Baldrige Award and his performance excellence experiences both locally and abroad,” she added. “His questions to me provided the opportunity to reflect upon both my performance excellence experiences to date, and how I plan to utilize the [Baldrige] framework in my workplace.”
The one-on-one discussion with Reimann, noted Mackey-LaBrecque, provided her with a valuable new perspective on health care quality and performance excellence. “He epitomizes humility, leadership, and mentorship,” she concluded. “I am so grateful for the time that he spent with me.”
As the first director of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP), Reimann established the inaugural Board of Examiners more than 30 years ago as a cross-sector corps of volunteers to evaluate U.S. businesses applying for the prestigious Baldrige Award against rigorous quality criteria. Reimann also started the tradition of providing the volunteers with annual training on the Criteria for Performance Excellence. (The Criteria for Performance Excellence are updated regularly to reflect Baldrige-based learning and published as part of the Baldrige Excellence Framework booklets).
The Curt W. Reimann Scholarship program is managed by the nonprofit Foundation for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Lori Kirkland, a longtime Baldrige examiner, played a key role in launching the scholarship fund this year. Her work included gathering input from other long-time examiners and seeking donations to support scholarship recipients’ travel costs. (The Baldrige Program contributed by waiving the usual course fees for non-examiner participants.)
A driver in creating the new scholarship program, Kirkland explained, has been the desire shared by many longtime stakeholders of the Baldrige Program to honor Reimann’s visionary achievements as a NIST leader, particularly to “recognize the Board of Examiners as the innovation it is.” This board was “Curt’s passion as first director of the program,” she said. “It was his idea—and it has worked.” She pointed out that when Reimann launched the first Board of Examiners, it was “the first time for the concept of drawing a large board of volunteers from both the public and private sectors, training them in relation to a national standard, and then sending them out [to evaluate applicant organizations’ use of the standard].”
Kirkland stressed that the scholarship program is a way both to honor Reimann and to “perpetuate his legacy with the younger generation.” Kirkland first met Reimann in 1991 at the third annual Quest for Excellence® Conference, where she spoke as an employee of IBM Rochester, then a new Baldrige Award recipient. She talked to Reimann after her presentation, and they developed a friendship over the years. “Whenever I’ve listened to him, he’s been so passionate about the Baldrige Program,” she said recently, noting that Reimann has had a “multiplier effect” in terms of his influence on others.
“Now, after 31 years, I continue to be amazed by the extraordinary energy and creativity of the thousands of examiners who have served.” —Curt W. Reimann
For his part, Reimann recently called the new examiner training scholarship program “my most gratifying professional experience … because it reflects my beliefs about the central importance of the Board of Examiners to the United States and its investment in extending this value to U.S. education.”
“I want to thank Lori Kirkland, scholarship donors, all examiners, and my excellent NIST colleagues for their sustained dedicated efforts over three decades,” he added.
Asked to share his perspective on the history of the Board of Examiners and the annual training, Reimann stated,
“The Board of Examiner design posed a critical decision for the 1987 launch of the Baldrige Award. The Board’s basic roles were evaluation of applications, identification of quality-leading organizations and their successful practices, and feedback to all applicants, to enable sharing of practices. Our overall approach—built around new, systems-based, non-prescriptive criteria—required rigorous training. For comprehensive sharing and learning, however, we needed to reach across the United States and to involve all economic sectors—manufacturing, services, health care, education, government, etc. This required creating a diverse board, sensitive to cross-sector learning and sharing channels.
“The Board has been a dynamic engine enabling us to navigate through two major transitions:
Learn more about the Dr. Curt Reimann Scholarship and what you can do to help future scholarship recipients.
The Baldrige Excellence Framework has empowered organizations to accomplish their missions, improve results, and become more competitive. It includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence, core values and concepts, and guidelines for evaluating your processes and results.