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The Official Baldrige Blog

Inspiring Executives--On the Plant Floor and in Other Safe Spaces


"Some of the best ideas for improving health care come from outside our field," writes Dr. Peter Pronovost in his blog, "What Health Care Can Learn From Corn Milling."

"A recent experience reminded me of the value of seeking ideas and inspiration from elsewhere. . . . I was among 15 executives from various fields who toured Cargill through a fellowship run by the [Baldrige Performance Excellence Program]. On a visit to Cargill Corn Milling, among the largest of the gigantic company’s 75 business units, I heard a story with unexpected parallels to health care."

The fellowship for which he is referring is the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program, now in its third year and receiving rave reviews. Through visits to Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recipients and in-depth meetings with other senior leaders, the Fellows embark on a one-year, nationally ranked leadership development experience that is designed to provide a safe, peer-learning environment to inspire them and help them hone their leadership skills. Through the category 1 leadership lens of the Criteria for Performance Excellence, the Fellows look at their own organizational challenges to determine what innovations can be brought home.

In his blog, Dr. Pronovost describes the story of how Cargill Corn Milling reorganized its nine plants by what they provided to customers in order to eliminate inefficient self-competition that didn't meet customers' needs.

"As I listened to the presentation, my pulse quickened. I leaned forward anxiously feeling as if I took a double espresso to pull an all-night study session. The parallels between corn milling and health care were haunting," Dr. Pronovost writes. "Change 'plant' to 'hospital' and you have the same situation as the Cargill officials described. Hospitals that are part of the same corporate or nonprofit system compete with one another in such fields as neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, cancer care and cardiac care."

In "Company Churns out Burritos, French Toast — and Inspiration for Health Care," Dr. Pronovost writes of more lessons learned as a Baldrige Fellow while touring the plant at Cargill Kitchen Solutions, talking to employees and reflecting on their customer focus, their humility, and the intense accountability on results--all lessons that can be applied to other industries.

In the first three years of the program, Baldrige Fellows have also had the pleasure--and discovered new insights--from touring the Ritz-Carlton (where they went on a back-of-the-house tour showcasing The Ritz Mystique), Premier, Sharp Healthcare, and Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, among other Baldrige Award recipients. They've also met with Sister Mary Jean Ryan, former chair and CEO, SSM Health Care; Steven Sessions, director, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Supplier Quality; Rulon Stacey, president and CEO, University of Colorado Health; Paul Worstell, past president, PRO-TEC Coating Company; E. David Spong, retired president, Boeing Aerospace Support for Integrated Defense; Horst Schulze, president and CEO, Capella Hotel Group; Rose Almon-Martin, vice president of performance excellence, MEDRAD; and Steve Begnan, vice president, human resources, Nestle-Purina, Inc., among many other Baldrige Award-winning senior executives.

The best way to wrap up this blog? Perhaps it's to show you the learnings noted from some of the other Baldrige Fellows themselves.

Note: Applications are now being accepted for the next cohort of Baldrige Executive Fellows. Please visit the Web site for more information.


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, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 25 years of experience, 18 years at the Baldrige Program. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.

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