How does a state government begin the process of strategic planning across many diverse agencies and workforce representatives?
For the state of Arkansas, it began with the Efficiency Project, which was conducted by the Arkansas Policy Foundation of 21 state agencies and has already resulted in the identification of 184 cost-saving initiatives. The Baldrige Organizational Profile has been one of the tools used.
Strategic planning became a state focus when Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that one of his top three goals for year one was to "drive the implementation of state efficiencies and streamline state operations." Governor Hutchinson created the Office of Transformation in December 2016 to support these goals.
To guide strategic planning across state agencies, the Baldrige Organizational Profile tool and process were recommended by Randy Zook, President/CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.
“State government is like any other organization. It serves customers and delivers services through processes,” said Zook. “Those processes can most effectively be improved through the Baldrige framework.” The State Chamber partners with the Arkansas Institute for Performance Excellence (AIPE) to promote Baldrige-based training and the Governor’s Quality Award to the state of Arkansas.
Sue Weatter, Executive Director of AIPE, said the Baldrige Excellence Framework and its Organizational Profile was already being used as a resource to guide organizations at both the state and national levels; the Baldrige framework includes an entire category for strategic planning and overall strategy. Weatter said AIPE, a member of the Baldrige-based Alliance for Performance Excellence, made itself readily available to state agencies to guide them through the Baldrige process.
“Our program was originally created with discretionary funding from the [Arkansas] Governor’s office,” said Weatter. “We continue to have a strong partnership. It seemed like an opportunity for our program to give back to the state.”
After meeting with Amy Fecher, Chief Transformation Officer of the Governor’s Office of Transformation, Weatter and Bill Craddock, a state and national Baldrige examiner, as well as the lead trainer for the Governor’s Quality Award Program, said it was decided that each state agency would create an agency profile that answered the questions in the Baldrige Organizational Profile as its first step. The agency profile would also use a few additional questions aligned with the overall goals of the Governor’s strategic plan.
The Organizational Profile is a free Baldrige resource intended to give organizations critical insight into the key internal and external factors that shape their operating environment. These factors, such as an organization’s vision, values, mission, core competencies, competitive environment, and strategic challenges and advantages, impact the way the organization is run and the decisions made. As such, the Organizational Profile helps an organization better understand the context in which it operates; the key requirements for current and future business success; and the needs, opportunities, and constraints placed on its management systems.
“Any gaps in responses to the questions asked in the Organizational Profile could be used as a goal for the agency’s strategic plan,” said Weatter. Similarly, in the strategic planning category of the Baldrige framework, any gaps in how an organization answers a question may become an area to prioritize for improvement when conducting strategic planning or simply considering strategy.
She added, “The questions in the Organizational Profile can provide a consistent baseline in discovering gaps across different agencies within state government. Each agency functions separately with different missions, visions, core competencies, etc., but they all share the same goal of serving the people in their state with the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars and resources under the direction of the Governor. It was a sign of transparency on the part of Arkansas state government to be willing to assess themselves using the same process used by so many businesses and organizations in Arkansas.”
Over two days, the AIPE provided the same training on writing an Organizational Profile to state agencies that is provided to organizational applicants for a Governor’s Quality Award. Attendee representatives, who comprised agency heads or their designees, answered the questions used for writing an Organizational Profile. Craddock, who also serves as a senior examiner for the national Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, led the training sessions, which included state and national Baldrige resources. In addition, Craddock made himself available to answer questions by email following the training if agencies had questions about Baldrige terminology or on other topics. Each agency was asked to use their answers to the Organizational Profile questions to identify efficiencies within their agencies.
Said Craddock, “The participants were predominantly senior leaders from the various state agencies. Their active participation through follow-up questions conveyed both understanding and insight. It was exciting to see them extend the learning connections from the training to the development of their agency strategic plans.”
"The strategic planning process has been very successful for Arkansas in large part to using the Baldrige Criteria," added Fecher. "This process has helped agencies that have never done strategic planning get the baseline needed to develop their plans. I have enjoyed reading through all of the plans and continue to learn new things throughout this process."