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 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.
Senior Vice President (Retired)
What experiences led you to the role of Baldrige overseer?
In 1987, my mentor Gene McBrayer, then president of Exxon Chemical, was a member of the original Board of Overseers. At the time, I was his manufacturing and quality advisor, so we talked about Baldrige often and reviewed developing documents together. I attended some of the earliest Baldrige events with him.
I actually feel as if I have been involved with Baldrige since the beginning and that joining the Board of Overseers today is something of a homecoming. I was never able to apply for the Baldrige Award myself because in the early years, there was a restriction that prevented Exxon from participating since our domestic manufacturing company transferred ownership of more than half of our products to a separate international sales company rather than directly to customers. Later, I had international responsibilities and was ineligible for that reason. However, I have led eight, consecutive, world-scale organizations that have been publicly recognized as the best of their kind through Industry Week “America’s Best” designation twice, the Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence, The UK Queen’s Award, and the JUSE (Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers) Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) Prize, among others. One of my books also received the Shingo Award for Professional Publication. So I know first-hand the importance of third-party recognition as an incentive for an organization to do its best, as well as the inspirational impact that an award-winning organization can have as a role model and mentor for others. I am extremely pleased to be participating personally with Baldrige.
How do you see the Baldrige Excellence Framework as valuable to organizations in your sector/industry?
The Baldrige framework is an excellent compilation of good practices leading to operational excellence. I have often opined that I wish I had enjoyed a resource like this when I was a young manager searching for information to improve my management practice and organization. For organizations commencing their journeys to the benefits of disciplined and sustained high performance, there is no other teaching document like it.
The existence of focused versions of the framework (business/nonprofit, education, and health care) for application in different operational situations helps users in every profession to be sure these practices can be adapted to their own situations. The important issue is to recognize that the framework is a starting place and not a finish line. Leaders need to continuously mature their own practices of excellence until they have exactly the right combinations and balances that are best for their own organizations.
How do you apply Baldrige principles/concepts to your current work experience/employer?
Although I am officially retired, I continue to advise private equity funds when they have deals in the process manufacturing space. Businesses that are offered for sale are generally considered by their current owners to be distressed or underperforming. My role in the purchase is to identify the nature of the underperformance and the prospects for a rapid and successful turnaround in performance. My role after the purchase is to guide the turnaround. Operational excellence concepts such as the Baldrige framework form the basis for these judgements and actions. The framework is a great reference manual to ensure that these reviews are comprehensive and to describe the rationale for my opinions and recommended actions.
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 mission of the Baldrige Award that merits Presidential participation is to enhance the international competitive position of U.S. organizations by recognizing excellence in a way that promotes excellence and provides incentives and role models for excellence. The Board of Overseers and Judges Panel are in discussions around how to re-engage with large, internationally competitive businesses in the Baldrige Award process and how the Baldrige assessment considers excellence in all of its forms. I am anxious to help and hope that even more organizations will apply for Baldrige recognition.
Baldrige is the only award for excellence that can confer Presidential recognition. There literally is nothing else like it. And the Baldrige framework is a wonderful teaching document and ready reference manual for the practice of excellence. Again, there is literally nothing else like it. Baldrige is a unique initiative within the United States and has great importance to the nation as well as potentially an enormous positive impact on any organization that participates with Baldrige. I plan to contact my colleagues throughout industry with very strong encouragement that they engage. I hope many others do that as well.
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.