It's always an honor to highlight our nation's heroes, especially during this holiday season when we should be thankful for so many blessings. Here's one story of how our nation's heroes in Texas are actively working to achieve and sustain high levels of performance using the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence as a business model.
I recently had the unique honor of a virtual conversation with Sergeant First Class Brenda Lopez, Organizational Excellence NCO, and Major Phil Kost, TXARNG Strategic Plans Branch Chief, of the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG). TXARNG serves a dual state and federal mission, responding to both domestic emergencies and supporting active duty Army abroad. And just recently Texas guardsmen were called to duty to help local communities cope with the severe winter storms in the region.
Tell me a little about the Army Communities of Excellence and the Texas Army National Guard. How do guardsmen use the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence?
The Baldrige-based Army Communities of Excellence (ACOE) program empowers Army organizations to achieve and sustain high levels of performance by using an integrated management approach based on the Baldrige Criteria. Although ACOE participation is voluntary, the program highly encourages Army organizations to participate and assess the overall health of their organizations, share best practices with other Army communities, and implement a continuous process improvement mindset.
The Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG) utilizes the Baldrige Criteria as a business model to determine the current state of the organization through detailed self-assessments. To aide in this endeavor, TXARNG has created a cross-functional working group to create and analyze both individual and organizational processes in order to allow the organization to meet, exceed, and sustain established performance measures. This cross-functional working group has senior representatives from each key department of TXARNG with the organizational knowledge that is needed to better understand where TXARNG has been and where it should be going in the future.
What has been the value of this process for the Texas Army National Guard?
Participation in the ACOE program has brought great value to TXARNG and the way we conduct business from a management perspective. Through self-assessments and feedback reports, we are able to identify and share our best practices, take action on opportunities for improvement, and increase the overall performance of our organization.
While there are other methodologies for process improvement, the Baldrige Criteria used in ACOE assist organizations, to include the TXARNG, align their strategic goals and objectives with organizational excellence through the established Criteria categories.
An example of a process improvement came from feedback that led to an after-action review to address fiscal accountability and support for a key community. Prior to fiscal year 2012, requests for ACOE funds were submitted through an Excel spreadsheet, which caused delays in processing and tracking. Using the feedback and a Kaizen Rapid Improvement event, the Organizational Excellence Team created a Web site with instructions, user-friendly funds request, and response functions, as well as contact information. This improved the process to fullfil ACOE funding requests made by internal organizations, providing better tracking for fiscal accountability purposes.
Other improvements derived through the ACOE process were the establishment of a new strategic planning process map to be used as a model for upcoming plans and new surveys to focus improvements in areas of importance to the workforce.
What have the different departments learned about Baldrige, the Criteria, and process mapping? Why is this learning important?
The TXARNG departments have learned that ACOE is more than just a competition; it is about providing a common vocabulary that facilitates an environment of excellence and continuous process improvement. They understand the importance of implementing a business model that will bring consistency to the organization's management style through systematic and effective processes that drive innovation and improve performance. Although different departments have different duties and responsibilities, they have learned that each individual process is aligned and integrated with one another in order to achieve the overarching mission of TXARNG.
Process mapping has helped our different departments identify how their workforce gets the job done, non-value steps or redundancy, and areas they can improve. They have also learned the importance of integrating our customers, partners, and workforce into organizational change processes that will have lasting impacts to our organization.