Like 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 an ongoing 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.
Following is an interview of Pat Greco, Ph.D., Superintendent of Schools, School District of Menomonee Falls, Wisc., who was recently honored as the 2018 Superintendent of the Year by the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators.
What experiences led you to the role of Baldrige overseer?
I have been a superintendent of schools for nearly 15 years and a leader in education for over 30. I have studied organizational improvement my entire career and have been dedicated to understanding Organizational Change and Systems Theory. Deming’s Fourteen Points and Theory of Profound Knowledge have been central to my understanding of how to improve systems over time. The Baldrige Excellence Framework was a natural connection to Deming’s work.
We have fully deployed the Plan Do Study Act [PDSA] process in the way we work in the School District of Menomonee Falls [SDMF], which has been named a national case study and Spotlight Organization by the Carnegie Foundation based on our ability to apply improvement science to organizational performance and improve student learning results. Beginning at age 4, our students use the PDSA process to set individual learning goals, provide feedback to their teachers on 10–15-day learning cycles, assess the strategies that support their learning, and deploy the process to make adjustments to their learning plans. We think and behave focused on the process of improvement.
How do you see the Baldrige Excellence Framework as valuable to organizations in the education sector?
The Baldrige Excellence Framework provides key guidance to organizational quality and performance results. The questions serve as a tool for leaders throughout the organization to self-reflect and review the work of the organization in a comprehensive way. There are no shortcuts to improving the culture and performance of complex systems. This framework provides a common language and a clear sense of direction.
How do you apply Baldrige principles/concepts to your current work experience?
Every member of our [SDMF] team is skilled in systems and change theory. We use PDSA and DMAIC [define, measure, analyze, improve, control] as our core processes and the tools of Lean Six Sigma to tackle our most challenging problems. The Baldrige principles align with our nine core values for a quality system. We have shifted from an underperforming system to one that is nationally recognized within six years. We have earned the Top Work Place Award for our organizational culture and Silver Award from U.S. News and World Report for most rigorous high schools, and we now perform in the top 10% of Wisconsin school districts. The way we think has shifted the way we behave. The core principles of quality guide our path.
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?
I am encouraged that the board is focused on continuous improvement. Applying the principles of improvement to the work of the board will be exciting and reflective.
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?
We know more about how children learn than we have ever known. Yet, America’s school systems struggle to sustain organizational excellence. The focus on systems and change theory is key to applying what is known about learning to complex organizations responsible for producing strong student learning results and to be strong stewards of community assets.
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.