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The Official Baldrige Blog

Of Jurors, Students, and Patients


I wasn't going to write about my recent experience, but further reflection compels me to share some thoughts. I recently fulfilled part of my civic responsibility by serving on a circuit court jury. My first conclusion was that our court system is static. Let me explain. Every time legal counsel approached the judge, the judge flicked a switch to engulf the courtroom in noisy static, so that the conversation at the bench could not be heard by others in the courtroom. By the tenth or fifteenth time this happened, I burst into a smile that must have confused anybody observing my behavior. I had suddenly concluded that our legal system was part justice and fully static.

At the end of our first day of jury deliberation, we had a hung jury on the last count against the defendants. The judge instructed us to continue deliberating, but would not let us stay, as we wished to do. Court was recessed for the day, requiring us to return for another day. I could recount some other experiences related to my juror's perspective of the trial process, but let me move on to my subsequent reflection.

I have always considered education and health care to be somewhat unique industries. Both of these endeavors are characterized by highly trained, highly knowledgeable, and highly independent knowledge workers: teachers and physicians. Furthermore they are characterized by having "unpaid workers" (students and patients) who are key contributors to the success or failure of the services delivered (education and health care).  And yet those same people are also important customers who must be satisfied, and will hopefully be loyal, to the institution.

My revelation after serving on the jury was that our court system is similar to our education and health care systems. The judges have the same characteristics as the teachers and physicians, And the jurors are very similar to the students and patients. Yet I doubt we ever consider these similarities.

I am certain there is some cross-sector learning that would be valuable. How do you engage these "customers" in all three sectors so that they are satisfied with the service and eager to engage as workforce members in their own self-interest, as well as the common interest of improving the overall product? How do you solicit their honest and thoughtful input into process improvement and then act on it? How do you get joint ownership for brand image among the key knowledge workers and the unpaid workers? How do you encourage and foster partnering between the independent knowledge workers and the paid administrative professionals, critical to system success?

I would like to be part of the above discussions. Maybe we could encourage use of the Baldrige Excellence Framework and Excellence Builder as an approach for better communication and cooperation. And maybe there are more "industries" that share these characteristics and should be engaged in the dialog.

Certainly, all of us as taxpayers could benefit from the outcomes.  

About the author

Harry Hertz “The Baldrige Cheermudgeon”

I am Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon, and Director Emeritus of the Baldrige Program. I joined the Program in 1992 after a decade in management in the analytical chemistry and chemical sciences laboratories at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the home of the Baldrige Program. I started my career at NIST (NBS) as a bench analytical chemist.

My favorite aspects of the Baldrige Program are: (1) the opportunity to interact with leading thinkers from all sectors of the U.S. economy who serve as volunteers in the Baldrige Program, who participate in the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program, and who represent Award applicants at the forefront of the continuous journey to performance excellence, and (2) the intellectual challenge of synthesizing ideas from leading thinkers and from personal research into Insights on the Road to Performance Excellence and other blogs that tackle challenges at the “leading edge of validated leadership and performance practice,” and contribute to the continuous revision of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework.

Outside of work I spend my time with family (including three beautiful granddaughters), exercising, baking bread, traveling, educating tomorrow’s leaders, and participating on various boards and board committees.

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