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Blogrige

The Official Baldrige Blog

Focus on the Board of Overseers: Brian Lassiter

Photo of Board of Overseer Brian Lassiter.
Credit: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock
Board of Overseers Blog Series

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.

Meet Baldrige Overseer Brian Lassiter

Photo of Brian Lassiter 2021 Baldrige Overseer.

 

 

Brian Lassiter
President and CEO
Minnesota Council For Quality

 

 

What experiences led you to the role of Baldrige overseer?

I’ve been involved with Baldrige for about 25 years, serving as an examiner in both the state and national programs; a judge for a couple Baldrige-based programs (American Health Care Association and formerly Army Communities of Excellence); and—as my day job—as the president of the Performance Excellence Network, the Baldrige-based regional program that serves Minnesota and North and South Dakota. I’m deeply involved with Communities of Excellence 2026, the nonprofit that’s working to improve community outcomes with an adapted, community-based Baldrige framework. Finally, I serve as the current chair of the Alliance for Performance Excellence, the nonprofit consortium of Baldrige-based local, state, regional, and sector programs and other members who are supportive of Baldrige. It is in this role that I bring the collective perspective of the Baldrige “feeder system” to the national program on the Board of Overseers.

How do you see the Baldrige Excellence Framework as valuable to organizations in your sector/industry?

My background is in financial services (banking and insurance), so I’m keenly interested in how the Baldrige framework helps businesses improve results, increase customer focus, and improve operations and other outcomes. But I’ve witnessed the power of this framework in every sector: I’ve seen small critical-access hospitals, large and complex health systems, and senior care facilities improve health outcomes; I’ve seen K-12 school districts and higher education institutions improve how they educate students; and I’ve seen nonprofit and governmental agencies improve the quality of our communities. The framework is as powerful as it is scalable. And, as I’ve heard other leaders say, it “helps make the invisible more visible” within organizations.

I’ve often said to senior leaders that you really don’t have a choice of “opting out” of Baldrige. Of course, you don’t have to go through a formal assessment or apply for an award, but the collection of processes that the framework represents—leadership, strategy, customers, measurement, workforce, and operations—is the system that any leader in any size or type of organization is trying to manage and improve anyway! Baldrige just helps you manage it better, identifying and prioritizing opportunities for improvement, optimizing and better aligning resources, and improving outcomes. Said a different way, if leaders aren’t paying attention to the processes under the seven Baldrige categories, they’re likely spending time on the wrong things!

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

In my “day job” at the Performance Excellence Network, we use the Baldrige framework ourselves. We have written an Organizational Profile, and we have several key processes documented and subjected to regular evaluation and improvement. As a small, two-person nonprofit, we’ve talked about documenting the full framework but haven’t finished that yet. We have embedded the Baldrige core values into our work; all of our programming (our assessments, learning events, and other resources) is Baldrige-based; our balanced scorecard reflects Baldrige category 7; and our operations line up with the framework. While we’re not as large or resource-enabled as big businesses, even a two-person nonprofit can (and should!) use the framework.

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?

I don’t think most people know that the Baldrige Program is the center of a much larger “Baldrige Enterprise,” which includes the Alliance for Performance Excellence (the Baldrige-based state, regional, sector programs I mentioned), the Baldrige Foundation, Communities of Excellence 2026, and ASQ. Together, these independent organizations partner to advance performance excellence throughout the nation (and world, really), conducting thousands of Baldrige-based assessments every year; hosting hundreds of learning events (such as workshops, webinars, and conferences); and maintaining a healthy network of leaders, organizations, and communities interested in—and committed to—performance excellence. So “Baldrige” is a pretty large and powerful collaboration across the country.

I’m also impressed that the Baldrige Program itself is committed to continuously looking for ways to improve; respond to customer and market needs; and adjust offerings and operations to create more value, more accessibility, and more relevance in today’s complex environment. The program has made some meaningful changes to its award and assessment processes over the last few years, and the Board of Overseers is considering other future changes that should continue to keep the Baldrige framework and the program’s offerings at the leading edge of what organizations and communities need.

During the remarkable challenges of these last two years, I’ve reflected frequently on just how relevant Baldrige is for today’s organizations—as much or perhaps more so than when it was first created in 1987. The use of the Baldrige framework—and the discovery of best practices from national and state-level winners—really does inspire improvement and innovation, helping “all boats rise” so to speak. Now, more than ever, we all need a system that facilitates systematic learning, organizational and personal resilience, improvement, and innovation to survive today and thrive tomorrow.

What encouragement/advice would you give organizations thinking about applying for the Baldrige Award or using another one of the Baldrige Program's products or services?

Just do it—spend a little time learning about the Baldrige framework (read up on it, attend a workshop, visit with other organizations already using it), but then jump in and start using it. Don’t wait: there’s never really a “good time” to start, and the benefit of using Baldrige is the diagnostic learning it facilitates. Once you start digging into the framework (or once you conduct an assessment on your enterprise), you’ll learn a ton about your organizational strengths and gaps, allowing you to focus your improvement efforts on those so-called “right things.” So start small, but just start!

The Baldrige framework and the continuum of Baldrige assessments are really developmental in nature: they meet the organization where it is, helping leaders to find what improvements are needed to incrementally get better. And once you improve those parts of your system, you can go deeper into the Framework and find others! Your state, regional, or sector program will help you get started.

Board of Overseers Blog Series: Previous Blogs

Gerry Agnes (Chair)
Raymond Floyd
John Jasinski
 


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About the author

Dawn Bailey

Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program and involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies...

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