Who are the folks who judge applications for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award? In an ongoing blog series, we have been interviewing members of the 2015 Judges’ Panel of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. In the interviews, they share their insights and perspectives on the award process, on their experiences, and on the Baldrige framework and approach to organizational improvement.
Following is the interview of Dr. John C. Timmerman, new to the panel this year. He is Chief Scientist in Customer Experience and Innovation at Gallup. He previously was Corporate Vice President of Quality and Operations at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, a two-time recipient of the Baldrige Award.
What experiences led you to the role of Baldrige judge?
I first became involved with the Baldrige program as an applicant [The Ritz-Carlton]. And it was the single-most impactful developmental experience in my career because it gave me a broader framework for evaluating and facilitating performance improvement. Then I became an examiner to further deepen my understanding of the [Baldrige Excellence] Framework and also to make a contribution back to the United States, to help other organizations in the United States improve performance. I’m privileged to be a judge to help other U.S. businesses become competitive. It’s a great service both to the [Baldrige] program as well as to my country.
You have a great deal of experience in the business sector, particularly in service businesses. How do you see the Baldrige Excellence Framework as valuable to organizations in that sector?
Baldrige is incredibly important for organizations that have a high degree of variation in their performance, and they have additional yields to drive performance results. There’s no other sector, in my opinion, that has a higher variation than … service industries that deal not just with technology but also with human technology—workforces and direct customers. [This variation] would be similar for service industries [such as] retail, health care, technology services, and so forth. And [in regard to] the changing appetite of consumers for higher and faster cycle times of innovation, the [Baldrige] performance excellence framework is the best way to identify those potential gaps or breakthroughs [in a business’s performance].
How do you apply Baldrige principles/concepts to your current work experience with Gallup?
I use the framework in evaluating an organization with the most holistic set of criteria. And in particular, it complements the advisory work I do for clients as a scientist at Gallup. [The Baldrige framework] allows me to frame up the business opportunity in the broadest terms. Any time the systemic problem is well defined, the solutions readily make themselves evident.
It’s holistic. It’s not just looking at human resources or marketing activities; it’s looking first at the context of the organization and its competitive environment, and then systematically evaluating all the critical components of the business model, to include leadership, customer, strategy, workforce, operations, organizational knowledge, and how these criteria drive bottom-line results.
Specifically, I have used the Baldrige framework to help Gallup clients understand the mechanics of operationalizing their brand promise. The nonprescriptive approach of the Baldrige framework is perfectly complemented by Gallup’s more defined benchmark data and repository of validated best practices.
As a judge, what are your hopes for the judging process?
First and foremost, I hope to qualify the high-performing organizations and recognize their performance excellence, to validate those applicants so they can provide best practices to help other U.S. businesses become more competitive. Second, while doing that, I hope to help develop, mentor, and support a team of world-class U.S. citizens [Baldrige examiners].
If you think about it, the program selects just 300–500 examiners [each year]. These individuals are the very best of the best—out of a U.S. population of over 300 million, they’re less than one in a million. So my other aspiration is that they receive the same excellent development experience that I did when I started with the program [as an examiner] over a decade ago.
What encouragement or advice would you give Baldrige examiners who are reviewing award applications now?
1. First, plan your time to maintain timelines so you can provide a high-quality evaluation of the applicant you have been entrusted to review.
2. Gain a deep understanding of the applicant’ s Organizational Profile before stepping into the Baldrige Criteria because this context is the lens for the evaluation of the applicant in relation to the Criteria.
3. Feel proud that you’re representing one out of a million U.S. citizens to help make the U.S. economy stronger through your time and contribution.