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The Official Baldrige Blog

CEOs’ Top 4 Challenges and Baldrige Are a Perfect Match

The Conference Board’s CEO Challenge 2015—Creating Opportunity Out of Adversity: Building Innovative, People-Driven Organizations asked CEOs, presidents, and chairs of businesses across the globe to identify their most critical challenges. (Harry Hertz discussed this study—and four other studies on topic areas getting attention from senior executives—in this column.) The top four challenges involved human capital, innovation, customer relationships, and operational excellence. If these are your challenges, too, here’s how the Baldrige core values and the Criteria for Performance Excellence (both found within the Baldrige Excellence Framework) can help you deal with them.

Challenge 1: Human Capital

CEOs’ human capital challenges:

  • Improving performance management
  • Providing employee training and development
  • Enhancing the effectiveness of senior management
  • Raising employee engagement

The Criteria for Performance Excellence address

  • Making sure you have an effective and efficient performance management system (item 5.2)
  • Providing a learning and development system that develops leaders and meets employees’ and the organization’s needs (item 5.2)
  • Making sure you communicate and motivate the workforce and foster a culture that promotes open communication, high performance, and an engaged workforce (items 1.1 and 5.2)

As the core value of valuing people (people are more than  “capital”) says, “An organization’s success depends on an engaged workforce that benefits from meaningful work, clear organizational direction, the opportunity to learn, and accountability for performance.”

Challenge 2: Innovation

CEO’s challenges around innovation:

  • Creating a culture of innovation
  • Engaging in strategic alliances
  • Finding and engaging talent for innovation
  • Applying new technologies

The Criteria address

  • Creating an environment for innovation and intelligent risk taking (item 1.1)
  • Stimulating innovation and incorporating it into strategy, including aligning workforce needs with strategy (item 2.1)
  • The need to manage for innovation—and make sure day-to-day work processes meet requirements around new technology (item 6.1)

Managing for innovation is another Baldrige core value: “Innovation requires a supportive environment, a process for identifying strategic opportunities, and the pursuit of intelligent risks.”

Challenge 3: Customer Relationships

CEO’s challenges in this area:

  • Engaging personally with key customers
  • Enhancing the quality of products and services
  • Developing a customer-centric culture
  • Bringing products and services to market more quickly

The Criteria address

  • Making sure you, as a leader, listen to and communicate frankly with your key customers (item 1.1)
  • Listening to, interacting with, and observing customers (item 3.1)
  • Adapting product and service offerings to exceed customers’ expectations (item 3.1)
  • Creating a workforce culture that delivers a consistently positive customer experience and fosters customer engagement (item 1.1)
  • Identifying and adapting offerings for new markets (item 3.2)
  • Incorporating cycle time, productivity, and efficiency and effectiveness into work processes (item 6.2)

Customer-focused excellence (a Baldrige core value ) is "a strategic concept. It is directed toward customer acquisition, retention, and loyalty; stronger brand recognition; market share gain; and growth.”

Challenge 4: Operational Excellence

The challenges:

  • Raising employee engagement to drive productivity
  • Seeking better alignment between strategy, objectives, and organizational capabilities
  • Improving organizational ability/flexibility
  • Redesigning business processes

The Baldrige Criteria address

  • Identifying, responding to, and assessing the drivers of workforce engagement (item 5.1)
  • Taking a systems perspective (a core value)—aligning all functions with your organization’s mission and vision and managing those functions as a unified whole
  • The need for organizational agility and operational flexibility in planning (items 2.1 and 2.2)
  • Determining process requirements, designing effective and efficient processes, and improving those processes regularly (item 6.1)

And it's the systems perspective (another core value) that ties it all together: "Successfully managing overall organizational performance requires realization of your organization as a system with interdependent operations." Your organization probably has additional challenges specific to your environment. Whatever they are, the likelihood is high that the Baldrige systems perspective will help you address them.

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When is the "perfect" book coming out with these types of pearls for CEOs, leadership teams, etc? Perusing popular bookstores, the section on leadership is sorely missing Baldrige-based best sellers!

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