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.
What experiences led you to the role of Baldrige judge?
My first exposure to Baldrige was in 2001 while with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in Baltimore. My administrative assistant suggested I attend a local chapter meeting of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). Dr. Tom Tuttle, Director of the Maryland Center for Quality and Productivity at the University of Maryland, was the featured speaker and was speaking about the Baldrige Criteria and the state awards program. Somewhat “inspired” and more out of curiosity, I became an examiner for the Baldrige-based Maryland Performance Excellence Award Program. I really enjoyed the experience and decided to apply to become a national examiner the following year, serving for several years beyond that. I also became an examiner for the VA’s Baldrige-based Carey Performance Excellence Awards and for Virginia’s Baldrige-based U.S. Senate Productivity and Quality Award. Three years ago, I received a call out of the blue from then Baldrige Director Dr. Harry Hertz asking me to serve as a national judge. I was flattered and immediately flashed back to 2002, my first year going through national examiner training and having Joe Muzikowski as my facilitator. He talked to us about the judging process and the role of judges; I never imagined in a million years that I would be asked to serve in that role myself. Joe, over the years, has remained a mentor and role model, particularly since he too served as a judge.
You have a great deal of experience in the health care sector. How do you see the Baldrige Excellence Framework as valuable to organizations in that sector?
Since completing my clinical training and residency, I’ve had the good fortune to have worked for multiple companies and in a variety of settings, which has provided the opportunity to see health care from different views. Regardless of the setting, the common thread has been the inconsistency in how processes are either misaligned or missing altogether in trying to achieve strategic and operational goals. In many instances, there has even been a lack of organizational structure, and so the Baldrige model and Criteria make a lot of sense to me, in terms of leadership, strategic planning, communication, consideration of stakeholder needs, process improvements, data management, and ultimately results. It’s all very intuitive.
How do you apply Baldrige principles/concepts to your own work experience/employer?
Over the years, I’ve been able to apply the Baldrige framework to a wide variety of projects, both small and large, within the organizations where I’ve served. I’ve also been able to help other organizations that have reached out to me for help in learning and applying Baldrige.
I am a strong believer that the Baldrige Criteria effectively help build the right structure, within which processes will continuously drive improvements to achieve and exceed desired results. In my current job as a medical director within a rapidly growing managed care organization, I have started to apply the Baldrige principles around our strategic planning process. Baldrige can be applied to organizations at different levels of maturity, looking for continuous process and performance improvement.
As a judge, what are your hopes for the judging process? Or, in other words, as a judge, what would you like to tell applicants and potential applicants about the rigor of the process?
An important aspect about the Judges’ Panel is the diversity among judges in terms of sector experience as well as Baldrige experience. Using the Baldrige Criteria, we all have a consistent understanding that can be used to understand what applicant organizations do and what they’re trying to accomplish. Our primary goal is to help organizations get better.
The judging process is very transparent in terms of the steps we follow and how we come to conclusions. Although the Judges Panel is very collegial, discussions can be intense at times when we have differing opinions; however, we put biases aside and follow our own internal processes with an open mind. Just like the Baldrige Criteria, which are revised every two years, the judging process has continued to evolve as we adopt new best practices based on experience almost yearly. Neither process (Criteria or judging) is stagnant, which I believe is the “secret sauce,” aside from the hard work of our examiners, in helping organizations be successful.
What encouragement/advice would you give examiners who are evaluating award applicants (preparing for upcoming site visits) now?
Site visit is a wonderful opportunity to visit Baldrige applicant organizations and really learn what performance excellence looks like. We have to make sure that Baldrige applicants and award recipients have defined missions, visions, and values, and that their leadership is totally wed to and willing to do what needs to be done to make sure that every stakeholder is getting value and benefit in their served communities. As examiners, you can feel a sense of pride that what you are doing is for the betterment of the organization, the communities served, and the nation.
Being a Baldrige examiner/judge is a lot of hard work, but I think it helps us as individuals to continue to improve ourselves and use new skill sets in our own organizations. Hopefully this will in some way make it all worthwhile during those long hours of applicant reviews and feedback preparation, particularly when the thought may cross your mind, “Why am I doing this?!” (Lol)
The key theme should be . . . “You are getting better, while you help others get better.”
See other blogs from the 2015 Judges’ Panel: Dr. Ken Davis, Michael L. Dockery, Dr. Greg Gibson, Miriam Kmetzo, Dr. Mike Sather, Ken Schiller, Dr. John C. Timmerman, Roger M. Triplett, and Fonda L. Vera. Dr. Ken Davis, Michael Dockery, Dr. Greg Gibson, Miriam N. Kmetzo, Dr. Mike R. Sather, Ken Schiller, Dr. Sunil K. Sinha, Roger M. Triplett, and Fonda Vera.