Unlike other federal programs, the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program is overseen by an advisory committee whose members are appointed by a cabinet member of the Presidential administration; in our case, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. By charter, the Baldrige Board of Overseers is tasked with reviewing the work of the program and recommending improvements.
In this Board of Overseers blog series, we will be interviewing members of the Board of Overseers. In the interviews, they share their insights and perspectives on their experiences, on the Baldrige Program and its products and services, and on the Baldrige approach to organizational improvement.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Elevations Credit Union
Following is an interview of Gerry Agnes, who has served as president and chief executive officer of Elevations Credit Union in Boulder, Colorado, since 2008. In 2014, Elevations was named a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recipient. Gerry was named the 2015 CUES (Credit Union Executives Society) Outstanding Chief Executive, Mountain West Credit Union Association’s 2016 Credit Union Professional of the Year, and Boulder Chamber’s 2016 Business Person of the Year. In addition to the interview below, he was also recently interviewed by CUToday.info to discuss the Baldrige Award.
What experiences led you to the role of Baldrige overseer?
I began my community banking career in 1987 as a certified public accountant (CPA). I’ve had the opportunity to lead a mutual savings and loan, a publicly traded savings and loan, and two credit unions. At each organization, we strived to achieve greatness, and I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing leaders and learned much from them on their quests to lead organizations to excellence.
I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to help deploy the Baldrige Excellence Framework in two separate organizations since 2002, while enjoying tremendous success at Elevations Credit Union, which became a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recipient in 2014. These experiences have shaped my thoughts on how to explore making the Baldrige framework more accessible and actively deployed in domestic corporations.
How do you see the Baldrige Excellence Framework as valuable to organizations in your sector/industry?
The financial services sector has tremendous influence in America and globally. This sector helps stimulate economies and improve lives; yet, historically, the sector has also adversely impacted communities, local and globally. And it’s responsible for financial resources stewardship of others, who place enormous trust in such institutions. Thus, the sector requires excellence, and the Baldrige framework, if deployed optimally, can be extraordinarily valuable to the sector and the key stakeholders it serves.
How do you apply Baldrige principles/concepts to your current work experience?
The Baldrige framework, combined with the body of work by Jim Collins, is embedded into Elevations Credit Union both strategically and operationally. We have not deployed the Baldrige framework as a “program.” Rather, it’s simply the basis for how we do our work to improve the lives of our members, while also having a purposeful impact with our employees and making our community better. It’s simply the mechanism that helps us become better today than we were yesterday and better tomorrow than we are today.
The charter of the Board of Overseers says the overseers shall make suggestions for the improvement of Baldrige and act as an advisory committee for the program. As an overseer, what would you like the community/stakeholders to know about the Baldrige Program and its award and other products? What improvements/changes at the Baldrige Program are you most excited about?
While I’ve only attended one Board of Overseers’ meeting to date, I do feel strongly that I can help contribute to the future success of the Baldrige framework. Areas that I personally am inspired to help include assisting in raising revenue for the organization, both at the national level as well as at the state level; helping make the program more accessible and actively deployed in domestic corporations; upon Congressional authorization to add a seventh category to the Baldrige framework, helping Colorado develop a viable Communities of Excellence program; providing insights to automating some of the nonautomated processes of the Baldrige Program; among others.
What encouragement/advice would you give U.S. organizations thinking about applying for the Baldrige Award or using another one of the Baldrige Program’s products or services?
The Baldrige framework, if deployed optimally, can swiftly propel an organization to achieve greatness.
Be prepared for achieving profound results by transforming a company’s culture that will have long-lasting beneficial impact to its key stakeholders. The main ingredient requisite for a leader of an organization to enjoy such success is to create a safe environment where employees can have brutally honest conversations about salient matters (i.e., attempting to answer the nearly 300 questions in a Baldrige application) that impact its customers, employees, and community. If a leader can accomplish the aforementioned, greatness will certainly follow.
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.