Inscribed on the Baldrige Award medallion are the words “The Quest for Excellence.” Besides being the name of the Baldrige national conference that highlights winning organizations, those words have real meaning.
Organizations that use the Baldrige Excellence Framework and its Criteria—whether for self-assessment or to apply for an award at state/local or national levels—are on true quests.
Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines a quest as an "act of seeking," in this case excellence. ("Quest" is also "a chivalrous enterprise in medieval romance usually involving an adventurous journey," but that is a different blog.) Oxford Dictionary defines quest as "a search for something." I also found this definition in an academic resource: "an exciting search involving an adventurous journey."
I asked the 2020 Baldrige Award recipients what caused them to embark on their own quests for excellence, and how such quests helped them in the year 2020.
Pete Reicks, Chief Strategy and Performance Officer, of Elevations Credit Union, the first two-time recipient of the Baldrige Award in the nonprofit category, offered these thoughts about his organization’s quest for excellence.
Why did your organization get engaged in the Baldrige Excellence Framework (i.e., Baldrige Criteria)? In other words, what was the hook?
Elevations Credit Union has always been an organization full of passionate, talented people aligned with our core purpose: Together we create solutions for a better life. However, in 2008, we found dedication to hard work and honorable intent were not sufficient as our organization grew in complexity and scale at a tremendous pace. The Baldrige Framework and Criteria questions presented a non-prescriptive, disciplined approach to safely challenge our existing way of doing business and best serve our members.
Why did you stay involved?
Simply put, the results. We have and continue to accelerate our organizational learning by answering the Criteria questions through the lens of the six integrated process categories and then demonstrating corresponding results within the context of meaningful benchmarks. The Framework enables us to continually affirm and celebrate the strengths that make us special, while also creating an environment where we can safely confront the brutal facts necessary to uncover the most impactful opportunities for improvement. The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and our regional Rocky Mountain Performance Excellence (RMPEx) program have also been instrumental in helping affirm our strengths and illuminate blind spots through external applications and examination processes. Ultimately, this has allowed us to continuously enhance our processes, products, and services to benefit our members.
How did the Baldrige Framework help during the pandemic in 2020?
Undergoing numerous cycles of learning on our Baldrige journey certainly placed us in a much better position to serve our members and ensure our organization’s resiliency during the pandemic. In times of great change and stress like this one, we have been able to lean on systematic processes deployed within integrated systems. By measuring and analyzing our data regularly during this time, we can identify which deployed approaches need attention and then act on those in an agile manner. A recent example was the amazing agility of our branch staff to shift from servicing walk-in branch traffic—temporarily halted due to the pandemic—to assisting our mortgage team process record-high refinance volumes.
What quest is your organization on?
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