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 an interview of Miriam Kmetzo, executive vice president of Welding Technology Corporation.
What experiences led you to the role of Baldrige judge?
I have been involved with the national Baldrige Program since 1997. That was the first year I started as a Baldrige examiner. While the work was hard and at times very time consuming, it was very rewarding to be working alongside individuals who were just as equally or more passionate about helping organizations become better, while at the same time learning from each other along the way. Since that first year, I have tried to be an ambassador for the program by talking about the "criteria" to anyone interested, presenting at local ASQ meetings, and presenting at other quality forums. In 1998, I got involved with Michigan's state Baldrige-based program—first as an examiner, then leading the examiner training team, and currently serving as lead judge for the Michigan Performance Excellence Award.
You have a great deal of experience in the manufacturing sector. How do you see the Baldrige Excellence Framework as valuable to organizations in that sector?
I have always believed that the Baldrige Excellence Framework is an excellent roadmap for any organization, including those in the manufacturing sector. However, I wish that it was introduced much earlier in the "life cycle" of organizations. What I mean is that it may be challenging (though beneficial) for more mature organizations to rethink the way they do business, especially in today's global environment, using the framework, as opposed to an organization that is just starting with a clean slate. The framework should be introduced as early as possible in schools, universities, and graduate schools from which future leaders and entrepreneurs will come.
The importance of small business in any sector, but more so manufacturing, cannot be dismissed, and their success has a significant impact on the survival of local communities. Getting the leaders and owners of all future small businesses thinking "Baldrige" at the time of the business "incubation" would only do wonders to the success of the U.S. economy's future.
How do you apply Baldrige principles/concepts to your own work experience/employer?
Personally, I find it is simple—always keep in mind the definition of "performance excellence": to always deliver ever-improving value in whatever I do, always try to improve my overall effectiveness and capabilities, and never stop learning. It does not matter if what I do is related to home life, serving a church or local community, or being involved with the Baldrige Program—every "customer" deserves the best.
At work, I always try to be a good example—by preparing well-written reports (thanks to all those years of training and drilling on how to write Baldrige feedback-ready comments), being on time and on target for all projects (thanks to all those years of timelines for completion of Baldrige Independent Reviews, Consensus Reviews, and Site Visit Reports), providing recognition where recognition is due, and always sharing ideas and best practices with my co-workers.
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?
Since this is my first year as a judge, my hope is that I can "trust the process" similar to the way I trusted in the process serving as an examiner. Applicants can be assured that the judges, individually and as a team, will always put 100 percent of themselves to the task at hand, keeping the "customer" in the forefront.
What encouragement/advice would you give examiners who are evaluating award applicants (preparing for upcoming site visits) now?
What I would tell the examiners who are reviewing award applications is that they play the most important role in the entire process. They get to know the applicants inside and out— more than the judges ever will. Judges rely on the examiners' ability to score appropriately and provide relevant and actionable feedback to the applicants. Doing the best work from day one of the Independent Review stage is key because each examiner's work lays the foundation for that final feedback report. The judges use all of the examiners' work and judgement to select who they recommend for a site visit and for the award.