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The Official Baldrige Blog

Focus on the 2015 Judges’ Panel: Judge Ken Schiller

Did you ever wonder who are the folks who judge applications for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award? What in their background brought them to this high honor, and what advice they may have for Baldrige Award applicants, potential applicants, and examiners? For an ongoing series of blogs on this site, we are interviewing all members of the Judges’ Panel of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award to share their individual insights and perspectives on the award process, their experiences, and the Baldrige framework and approach to organizational improvement in general. The primary role of the Judges’ Panel is to ensure the integrity of the Baldrige Award selection process. Based on a review of results of examiners’ scoring of written applications (the Independent and Consensus Review processes), judges vote on which applicants merit Site Visit Review (the third and final examination stage) to verify and clarify their excellent performance in all seven categories of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. The judges also review reports from site visit to recommend to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce which organizations to name as U.S. role models—Baldrige Award recipients. No judge participates in any discussion of an organization for which he/she has a real or perceived conflict of interest. Judges serve for a period of three years. Ken Schiller Second-Year Judge; Co-Owner, K&N Management (PDF), a small business that received the Baldrige Award in 2010.

 What experiences led you to the role of Baldrige judge?

Being a small business [Baldrige Award] recipient in 2010 and then doing my best to be an ambassador for the Baldrige Program.

You have a great deal of experience in the business sector, particularly in the service business industry. How do you see the Baldrige Excellence Framework as valuable to organizations in that sector/industry?

The Baldrige framework is the most valuable performance excellence model for any organization in any industry. Our customers benefit from consistency in our products and services. We measure what is important to our customers and the company, identify trends, and use measures to continuously improve. This delights our customers and creates loyalty that allows us to outperform our competitors. Our team members are proud to work for an award-winning organization that focuses on excellence, quality, integrity, and relationships.

How do you apply Baldrige principles/concepts to your current work experience, particularly in the organization you lead?

K&N Management uses the Baldrige framework to align the actions of the company toward one common goal: to delight each guest that walks into our restaurant. Strategic planning continues to fuel our improvement efforts year after year.

As a judge, what are your hopes for the judging process? In other words, as a judge what would you like to tell applicants and potential Baldrige Award applicants about the rigor of the process?

It is not rocket science, but it is very rigorous and requires a high level of discipline. You can’t just dabble in it; you have to go “all in.” A burning desire for continuous improvement is the key driver for success.

What encouragement/advice would you give Baldrige examiners who are reviewing award applications now?

What you are doing matters and will benefit our country by improving American organizations as well as stretching you to grow personally and professionally.

About the author

Christine Schaefer

Christine Schaefer is a longtime staff member of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP). Her work has focused on producing BPEP publications and communications. She also has been highly involved in the Baldrige Award process, Baldrige examiner training, and other offerings of the program.

She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Virginia, where she was an Echols Scholar and a double major, receiving highest distinction for her thesis in the interdisciplinary Political & Social Thought Program. She also has a master's degree from Georgetown University, where her studies and thesis focused on social and public policy issues. 

When not working, she sits in traffic in one of the most congested regions of the country, receives consolation from her rescued beagles, writes poetry, practices hot yoga, and tries to cultivate a foundation for three kids to direct their own lifelong learning (and to PLEASE STOP YELLING at each other—after all, we'll never end wars if we can't even make peace at home!).

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