How did a car dealership in New Mexico earn America’s most prestigious award for business excellence? The last time we interviewed Lee Butler of Don Chalmers Ford (DCF), he described the company’s methods for ensuring ethical behavior, among other exceptional practices that helped the small business earn the Baldrige Award in 2016. DCF continues today to demonstrate the commitment of its founder, Don Chalmer, to “customers, quality, and community.”
Beyond its business of selling cars, the national role model helps organizations in other states and other sectors improve and excel, too. To that end, at the Baldrige Program’s annual Quest for Excellence® conference in April, Butler will lead the session “Driving Forward with Systematic Leadership.” In a recent exchange (captured below), Butler described his upcoming presentation and his perspective on the Baldrige framework.
Please briefly describe what attendees will learn at your conference session.
We will focus on sharing our journey to performance excellence. This will include sharing our systematic approach to leadership while building a truck in the process to make it more fun. Attendees will learn the importance of persistence and [DCF’s] slow and steady approach.
What are some examples of how you’ve seen organizations (or your own Baldrige Award-winning organization) benefit from this concept?
We have benefited due to the systems perspective of our business and the processes that support those systems. We lost our owner Don Chalmers to cancer on Easter of 2014; in 2016, we won the Baldrige Award. This [demonstrates] the value of being systems-focused as an organization so that when someone like Don is no longer with us, the vision, values, and systems are in place so that the dealership is sustainable through mature systems [that are] not people-dependent.
What are your top tips for introducing or sustaining use of the Baldrige Excellence Framework (including the Criteria for Performance Excellence) to promote an organization’s success?
What is your “elevator pitch” about the Baldrige framework and/or assessment approach? In other words, what do you say to a group of senior leaders who are unfamiliar with the Baldrige framework if you have just a few minutes to tell them something about it?
I say, “I’m sure you would NOT want to improve employee satisfaction, customers satisfaction, and your bottom line. I’m guessing you are accomplishing all of your goals, and all employees are meeting theirs.”
“But if they are not, wouldn’t you want to have the approach to get better? Have I got a gift for you: the Baldrige Excellence Framework. We use it, and we have obtained benchmarks levels of customer and employee satisfaction.”
Similarly, what do you say to business students about the Baldrige framework?
If you have learned a lot of great theories on how to manage a business, and if you would like a real tool to help make your career soar and make you more marketable on your resume, become a Baldrige examiner. This will provide you master’s degree-level experience that will teach you more than any business book can.
When did you first hear about the Baldrige framework?
In 1993 while [I was working] at Honeywell, the corporation decided to use the Baldrige Criteria to help its operating units become more effective. We wrote our first Baldrige Award application that year and then applied at the state level through Quality New Mexico [a state-level, Baldrige-based award program. I’ve never looked back.
Are there ways you’ve applied in your personal life what you’ve learned from using the Baldrige framework in your work?
This learning makes you think differently and realize how many opportunities there are to develop approaches to improve stakeholder satisfaction and engagement. When I interact with companies and businesses in my life beyond DCF, I have to be careful—for example, when I get bad service as a customer—not to say, “Haven’t you read the Baldrige Criteria?”
Also, I did try to develop a family mission statement once and failed miserably.
As a Baldrige Award recipient committed to sharing best practices with others, your organization gets inquiries from others striving for improvement. Would you please tell us about some of those?
We have had people from Chicago, New Zealand, Texas, and Arizona visit us to hear our story. We also received a call from a water utility in Virginia who is using the Baldrige framework, and we are assisting them on their journey through our consulting branch.
BALTIMORE | April 8–11, 2018
Join us for the 30th Anniversary Quest for Excellence Conference showcasing the best practices of the 2017 Baldrige Award recipients!
Sunday, April 8
Join us Sunday evening for the Award Ceremony and Dinner honoring the 2017 recipients.