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 Rulon Stacey, chair of the Baldrige Board of Overseers. Stacey is Managing Director at Navigant Consulting, Inc. Among other executive positions, fellowships, and board leaderships, he previously was chief executive officer of Poudre Valley Health System (now part of University of Colorado Health), which received the Baldrige Award in 2008.
What experiences led you to the role of Baldrige overseer?
I have been very active in Baldrige since 1996, when I was involved with SSM Health Care, the very first Baldrige Award recipient in health care.
In 2008, as CEO of Poudre Valley Health System, I received the call from the Secretary of Commerce that we had received the Baldrige Award. The first person I called was Sister Mary Jean Ryan (who served as president/CEO of SSM Health Care for 25 years and now is its board chair) and thanked her for getting me on the Baldrige path. I took knowledge of Baldrige with me to my next position in Fort Collins, CO, and shared it with the City of Fort Collins, which is a recent recipient of the Colorado Peak Award, the highest Baldrige-based award in the state’s award program. [Note: In 2016., the City of Fort Collins received recognition for its best practices in leadership from the national Baldrige Program.] It’s interesting to see the dominoes of how Baldrige excellence has spread. Today, employees in the City of Fort Collins are participating in the benefits of the Baldrige framework because Sister Mary Jean had the foresight to engage me in the program.
I remain honored for the chance to be on the Baldrige Board of Overseers. For me, the Baldrige Excellence Framework remains the best framework for performance and improvement on earth.
How do you see the Baldrige Excellence Framework as valuable to organizations in the health care sector?
There are many reasons why the Baldrige Excellence Framework is valuable in health care. We in health care are being forced by society to simultaneously improve cost and quality. For years, we hid under the misnomer that cost and quality were independent events. If you drove up one, that would have a disadvantageous effect on the other. Now society is saying it wants both to get better at once.
The only way to make that happen and have a sustainable process is through use of the Criteria within the Baldrige Excellence Framework. It’s the only way. And organizations that use it will be able to simultaneously improve quality and decrease costs every time.
The other reason the Baldrige framework is crucial today is that pressure is being put on health care organizations like never before, and health care organizations find themselves having to join forces. The merger/acquisition rate continues to increase every year. Last year, we saw the highest rate in history. Baldrige, better than any other process, can help any organization, health care included, take an organization that used to consist of two or three independent entities and help them come together as one organization. The way you do that is you establish a vision, mission, and values for the whole organization; you engage everybody in driving toward that mission, vision, and values; and you go through a process to make sure that your employees understand why that works, what they’re trying to accomplish, and how their goals align with the organization. And no other process will allow two merged entities to come together as quickly or more efficiently as the Baldrige Criteria (within the framework).
How do you apply Baldrige principles/concepts in your current work?
Right now, in management consulting, I am working with organizations to do both that cost and quality push. Our organization works hard to drive costs out and overlay the Baldrige framework, which allows organizations to sustain improvement going forward. So now we go into organizations that have to drive millions of dollars out and share the Baldrige Excellence Framework to help them ensure that those costs don’t creep back up. It’s making a world of difference to health care organizations.
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?
Baldrige remains the best performance excellence framework on earth. We, the overseers, are so engaged in it, and we work so diligently with the judges. I can say with complete confidence that people should know that the Baldrige framework remains the best way to achieve and sustain organizational performance excellence.
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?
One of the questions I get a lot is how much does it cost to apply for the Baldrige Award, but the fact that organizations ask that question means they don’t understand. So, my first encouragement would be to please understand what it is. With the Baldrige process, whatever you’re doing now, you will be able to do for less money. Your expenses will go down. That will be the cost. Executive leadership, especially, needs to understand that you will be better off as an organization. You will produce whatever it is you produce at a higher quality and a lower cost if you follow the Baldrige process.
If an organization takes the time for Baldrige, it will learn and drive down costs. I would encourage people, especially CEOs, to become anxiously engaged to learn about Baldrige.
Do you have any reflections that you would like to share on chairing the Board of Overseers?
I feel like when I see the caliber of people who are on the Board of Overseers, or who serve as Baldrige judges or examiners, and I see the volunteer time they put in, it is the most unique thing I’ve ever seen in my career. We all volunteer for stuff, but it’s usually for our personal benefit or professional society. I’m so impressed with the caliber of people and the time they put in to volunteer for Baldrige, and it’s for nothing they are ever going to get other than knowing that they helped American commerce. I just think that it's noble; I really do. And I think those people are noble, and I’ve enjoyed working with them.