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The Official Baldrige Blog

To Be a Baldrige Examiner: “Surrounded by Thought Leaders from Across the Nation”

Baldrige Examiner Josh Cartwright desk showing two computer monitors and a Baldrige Excellence Framework booklet sitting on the keyboard.
Photo of Baldrige Examiner Josh Cartwright.
Joshua Cartwright

Baldrige Examiner, 2019

2019 has been a memorable year for Joshua Cartwright. The health care informatics analyst graduated from a master’s program; moved his family of five to Albuquerque, New Mexico; and assumed a new leadership position (at Presbyterian Healthcare Services). “Equally important,” he said recently, “I served my first year as a national Baldrige examiner.”

In the following interview, Cartwright shares highlights of his experience as a new Baldrige examiner. The photo above, he notes, “represents the balance” that he found as he fulfilled his roles for his family, his employer organization, and the volunteer Board of Examiners for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA).

How did you first become interested in being a Baldrige examiner?

I was aware of the Baldrige Award throughout my career working in the health care quality sector. While attending Brown University (2017–2019) for an executive master’s degree in health care leadership, I developed a desire to give back and wanted to understand how top-performing organizations throughout the nation benchmark organizational performance excellence. 

All roads led to the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, and late in 2018 I applied to become a new examiner for the following year. Luckily, I was invited to join the Board of Examiners for the 2019 Baldrige Award process.

What were your impressions and highlights of your first training (the Examiner Preparation Course)?

Let me set the stage for you: Imagine being surrounded by some of the most engaged, knowledgeable, giving, and humble thought leaders from across the nation. That is exactly what it was like for me from day one of my examiner training on-site at the Baldrige Program’s NIST facility. 

The initial coursework and concepts were challenging, and I wanted to get my review just right. What I learned immediately was that the process of keeping my review grounded in the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence [part of the Baldrige Excellence Framework] is what unified us as Baldrige examiners and allows the program to provide a Baldrige Award applicant with a world-class feedback report.

Would you please share a memorable learning experience you had as an examiner on a Consensus Review team (the second phase of the annual Baldrige Award process)? 

My most memorable experience during Consensus Review was appreciating how the standardized process allowed for all team members’ Independent Reviews to be considered in creating the best feedback for the applicant. My examiner team’s leaders were extremely experienced and wonderful facilitators who utilized time management and project tools that required everyone to be engaged and heard. 

The consensus process fostered a sense of equality among team members, and it allowed for a truly collaborative “teach all, learn all” environment. I quickly realized that this experience was creating something far greater than our individual reviews. As a cohesive group, we were thoughtfully and methodically working to provide the best feedback to our applicant based on the Baldrige framework.

Similarly, would you please share a memorable learning experience on a site visit (the third and final phase of the award process)?

As a first-year Baldrige examiner in 2019, I was so humbled to just be a part of the training and then assigned to a examiner team for the Independent Review and Consensus Review phases of the annual Baldrige Award process. 

Then, it happened that an examiner with more experience was not able to move forward with the site visit team, and my consensus team leaders advocated for me to join the team for the site visit. I still cannot thank them enough for that; I cherished the learning each day on site with the applicant as well as the process of developing the feedback report with my team. 

I also found that the comradery and level of commitment of my team members at the site visit was contagious. Our team leaders (the team leader formed a strong partnership with the backup team leader) were the perfect balance of experience and patience, which allowed for an applicant-centric process. The master, senior, and returning examiners on the team all brought complementary perspectives from their different sector expertise. Our NIST monitor (a Baldrige staff member) was also an extremely important resource on site for our team, and the level of professionalism, support, and organization was incredible.

I will never forget my first year as a Baldrige examiner for the opportunities and people I have met and the knowledge I take forward each and every day. 

Where is your favorite place to “Baldrige” (evaluate the performance of an organization using the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence)?

My favorite place to “Baldrige” is my dining room table. I enjoy spreading out with all of my notes from the onsite training, the Baldrige Excellence Framework booklet and related resources, my laptop (with the examiner training videos playing on a loop), and, most important, the application. This is not a quick process, and I found having all of these items at my fingertips extremely helpful.

How have you applied learning from your service as a Baldrige examiner to your work with organizations in health care and other sectors?

I immediately applied my learning as a Baldrige examiner to my work and my approach with my organization (Presbyterian Health). For me, the Baldrige process for assessing an organization’s processes and results is the gold standard for how to approach and review the quality of programs and overall performance. 

Additionally, I have applied my Baldrige examiner learning to professional committees in which I’m involved and in my personal life with my family. 

The Baldrige framework is applicable to many kinds of organizations and entities, and that is what makes it so useful.

How do your family and friends view your service as a Baldrige examiner?

My family and friends are aware of my commitment to the Baldrige organization as it does require a serious time commitment. This is such a humbling opportunity, and it allows me to grow and model service for my children. 

One acronym utilized during Baldrige training as a formula for structuring feedback comments is N-E-R-D:

  • Nugget (main point),
  • Example(s),
  • Relevance (why the feedback is important to the organization), and
  • Done!

My children are now used to me applying this rule when I’m reviewing their homework responses. Seriously, having the support of my family, friends, and employer has played an essential role in my ability to be highly engaged and committed to the applicant organization that I evaluated this year as a Baldrige examiner.

Become A Baldrige Examiner. People in a business setting having a discussion. Credit:

Become a Baldrige Examiner

If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind professional development and networking opportunity, and the chance to make a meaningful contribution to organizational improvement and U.S. competitiveness, apply to serve as a volunteer on the Baldrige Board of Examiners.

Application Now Open

The 2020 Board of Examiner Application is now open and will close on January 6, 2020 (6 p.m. Eastern).

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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