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The Official Baldrige Blog

Focus on the 2020 Baldrige Judges: Meet Gary Wilson

Baldrige Judges Panel Gary Wilson with a background panel of people having a discussion.

2020 Judges Panel Blog Series

Each year we interview the newest 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 performance in all seven Criteria categories of the Baldrige Excellence Framework. 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.

Meet Baldrige Judge Gary Wilson

Photo of Gary Wilson 2020 Baldrige Judges Panel.

Gary Wilson
Assistant Commissioner, Quality Improvement and Strategic Solutions Division
Tennessee Department of Human Services



What experiences led you to the role of Baldrige judge?

The state of Tennessee has a rich history of involvement with Baldrige process. When I began my employment with the Tennessee Department of Human Services, Commissioner Danielle Barnes and Deputy Commissioner (D/C) Tony Mathews gave me the honor of leading our department through the state-level Baldrige evaluation process (through the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence, TNCPE).

I was also encouraged to become an examiner for the TNCPE award process. Through this experience, I met some great leaders such as TNCPE Director Tamera Fields and Elaine Boyd, a TNCPE judge, who shared their experiences with me. I frequently contacted Elaine for advice and a better understanding of the Baldrige process. I also frequently contacted Tamera, and she encouraged me to go further in the process. Through her belief in me and the support of Commissioner Barnes and D/C Mathews, I am proud to be a Baldrige judge now at the national level. 

How do you see the Baldrige Excellence Framework (which includes the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence) as valuable to organizations in your sector?

As several Tennessee state government departments have voluntarily submitted applications to receive Baldrige-based evaluations (and feedback to improve their performance) through TNCPE, there is a positive impact for taxpayers, who experience improved delivery of services, communication, and outcomes. The delivery of service is also improved as these state government organizations strategically reconsider their approaches, deployment, learning, and integration of their key work systems and processes.    

How do you apply Baldrige principles/concepts in your current work experience/employer?

The Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) has been a participant in TNCPE’s Baldrige Criteria-based evaluation process. The core values and concepts—including the systems perspective—of the Baldrige Criteria have assisted our department in formalizing processes and practices that were already in place and required some improvements. Commissioner Barnes introduced a “One DHS” department culture goal upon her appointment, and by matching the systems perspective of Baldrige with this goal, DHS can manage all the components of the department as a unified whole to achieve our mission, vision, and values.  

As a Baldrige judge, what are your hopes for this year’s judging process? For instance, is there anything you’d like to help applicants and potential Baldrige Award applicants understand about the process?

Whether you are a new or an experienced participant in the Baldrige process, I encourage all applicants to take advantage of the numerous resources and offerings from the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program to advance your organization’s learning. By doing so, applicants will remain up-to-date on the Baldrige Criteria (revised every two years) and know better how to improve the key work systems and key work processes within their organizations.

What encouragement/advice would you give Baldrige examiner for their work in evaluating organizations as part of the Baldrige Award process?

The work of the Baldrige examiner is vitally important in the award process. The information provided to the Judges Panel by the examiners enables us to ensure a fair evaluation of the applicant against the scoring criteria and ensure that quality feedback is provided to the applicant. Although this year’s site visits are being held virtually due to COVID-19, examiners are still serving as the eyes and ears for the judges through their document reviews and virtual interactions with the applicant organizations.

Judges Panel Blog Series: Previous Blogs

Allison Carter (Panel Chair)
Glenn Crotty
Christopher Laxton
Kevin McManus
Brigitta Mueller
Bruce Requa
Patricia Skriba
JoAnn Sternke
Meridith Wentz

2019-2020 Baldrige Excellence Framework Business/Nonprofit cover artwork

Baldrige Excellence Framework

The Baldrige Excellence Framework has empowered organizations to accomplish their missions, improve results, and become more competitive. It includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence, core values and concepts, and guidelines for evaluating your processes and results.

Purchase your copy today!

Available versions: Business/Nonprofit, Education, and Health Care

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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