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The Official Baldrige Blog

Leadership Practices of 2021 Baldrige Award Recipient Mid-America Transplant

Mid-America Transplant employees preparing to send out a donor organ.
Credit: Mid-America Transplant

Three-Part Leadership Blog Series

In this three-part blog series on the 2021 Baldrige Award recipients’ leadership presentations at the 33rd Quest for Excellence® Conference (April 3–6, 2022), senior leaders of the three new national role models share best practices and stories of how they achieved excellence.

Making a Difference in Communities across the Country

Mid-America Transplant (MT) is a private, nonprofit organ procurement organization (OPO) and an eye and tissue bank serving 84 counties in three states (Missouri, Illinois, and Arkansas), with a combined population of 4.7 million. 

A slide that explains Mid-America Transplant is 1 of 57 organ procurement organizations and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that employs 200 people, generates an annual gross revenue of $80 million, provides education and awareness, and facilitates the donation process.
Mid-America Transplant's We Are Mid-America Transplant slide from its Quest for Excellence senior leadership plenary presentation.
Credit: Mid-America Transplant

Exemplifying its mission “we save lives through excellence in organ and tissue donation,” MT works with 124 partner hospitals, ranging from urgent care facilities to major trauma centers. Through this 15+-year partnership, MT procures donated organs and tissues and then provides them to transplant centers and tissue processors, both in its designated service area and across the country. 

With an annual gross revenue of approximately $80 million and a workforce of about 200 employees, MT operates from its headquarters in St. Louis, MO.

A slide that explains Mid-America Transplant serves 4.7 million people, 124 hospital partners, and 3 customer groups in 84 counties throughout Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas.
Mid-America Transplant's We Serve slide from its Quest for Excellence senior leadership plenary presentation.
Credit: Mid-America Transplant

Defining the Vision, Mission, and Core Values

Diane Brockmeier, President and CEO, Mid-America Transplant, 2021 Baldrige Award Recipient
Diane Brockmeier, Mid-America Transplant, 2021 and 2015 Baldrige Award Recipient.
Credit: Mid-America Transplant

“Our primary goals are to provide professional and public education and awareness for organ donation across the country,” said MT's president and CEO Diane Brockmeier at the 33rd Quest® for Excellence Conference, following the April 3 Baldrige Award Ceremony where MT was honored with its second Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award for excellence.

To succeed in those efforts and facilitate the donation process, MT’s work is guided by three founding principles:

  1. The vision that organs and tissues will always be available to those in need
  2. The mission to save lives through excellence in organ and tissue donation
  3. The administration of six core values that drive its commitment to donor families, medical partners, transplant patients, and the community as a whole: Excellence, Innovation, Stewardship, Collaboration, Integrity, and Compassion
A slide that highlights Mid-America Transplant's vision, mission, and core values.
Mid-America Transplant's Vision, Mission, and Core Values slide from its Quest for Excellence senior leadership plenary presentation.
Credit: Mid-America Transplant

Innovating to Save Lives through Excellence

In 2003, MT adopted the Baldrige Excellence Framework with the goal of saving more lives. Between 2003 and 2020, these guidelines helped MT improve its processes and outcomes to increase the number of lifesaving organs transplanted by 167% and increase the impact of tissue donation by 385% 

“Every day, these [Baldrige Excellence Framework] guidelines remind us to raise the bar for our work on behalf of the donor families and transplant patients we serve. The Baldrige approach has truly changed the way we work, empowering our team to align resources; think and act strategically; and engage colleagues, partners, and stakeholders in our lifesaving mission.” —Diane Brockmeier, president and CEO of Mid-America Transplant

In 2015, this journey led MT to became the first OPO in the world to win the Baldrige Award (nonprofit sector). And in 2021, MT proceeded to win their second Baldrige Award (in the same category).

A slide that shows Mid-America Transplant has earned a 132% increase in organs transplanted and 349% increase in tissue donors from 2003 to 2021.
Mid-America Transplant's Our Quality Journey slide from its Quest for Excellence senior leadership plenary presentation.
Credit: Mid-America Transplant

Overcoming Challenges and Securing Opportunities

MT faces a unique situation in its work. More than 30,000 deaths occur in hospitals today, all of which get called into MT’s communications center. In taking all of those calls, MT identified that only in less than 1% of the cases is the individual actually eligible to become an organ donor. Meanwhile, more than 100K people across the nation are waiting for an organ or tissue transplant (including more than 1,200 in the St. Louis community alone, where MT is based).

This is a serious challenge for MT’s staff members, who work tirelessly to ensure that each organ donation opportunity happens. They also aim to expand MT's influence across the industry, while leveraging its core competencies of relationship management excellence and visionary leadership.

Brockmeier detailed the following additional challenges that MT has successfully managed:

  • Strengthening the talent management strategy: One way MT has strengthened its strategy is by honoring and supporting its staff members’ unique benefits needs. For example, as part of MT’s customized benefit offerings, employees can use part of the generous retirement funding to pay off student loans and debt. This has led to an increase in benefit satisfaction rates, going from 87% in 2017 to 95% in 2020.
  • Taking action on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI): MT prioritizes this through its governing board's philosophy, leadership and staff training, and an employee-driven DEI Committee.
  • Standardizing work across the enterprise: MT’s learning and development process informs staff members of what they need to know in order to do their work, as well as what else they might need to learn in order to keep moving forward. Brockmeier also emphasized the use of data to benchmark for high performance and build a culture of continuous improvement; it is critical to use external comparisons (i.e., not only comparing how the organization is doing year after year, but also how it is doing compared to others inside and even outside its industry).
  • Validating the data on organ authorization rates: MT's work at DMV offices has supported this mission by making it easy for motorists to register as donors while renewing drivers’ licenses or automobile registrations. As a result, MT's organ authorization rates have continued to increase over the years—inspiring more families and individual donors to say “Yes!” to organ and tissue donation and make those transplants possible.
A slide titled Using Data to Improve that shows Mid-America Transplant's organ authorization rates rising from 50% in 2020 to 58% in 2021 and 62% in 2022.
Mid-America Transplant's Using Data to Improve slide from its Quest for Excellence category 4 presentation.
Credit: Mid-America Transplant
  • Constantly reviewing and improving communications processes: For example, MT’s “Mindful Minutes” practice asks employees about obstacles in their work, to promote knowledge sharing and feedback. And by using third-party surveys, the organization measures progress toward its goal of transparent communications, which is essential to generate new ideas and achieve high performance.
  • Exercising leadership across the organization: MT’s leadership system starts at the top to create an engaged workforce and instill trust throughout the culture, both internally and externally. This enables MT to monitor performance, operationalize its strategy, and create an environment for success. The organization's key leadership learnings always go back to the mission—ensuring that the entire staff understands why MT exists and how each individual makes a difference. 

Leveraging Key Success Factors

MT’s performance measurement system is foundational to its success, Brockmeier explained. It encompasses key factors, such as integrating work processes, evaluating organizational performance, supporting continuous improvement and innovation, and enabling the successful adoption of change.

“Before adopting the framework, we would have good years and not so good years and didn’t know why. As we fine-tuned our processes, we asked things like: How do we measure success? What does effective leadership look like? and What are we doing to benefit society? Anything you do that can be measured is repeatable, drives results, and makes you a stronger organization with improved outcomes.” —Diane Brockmeier, Mid-America Transplant

A slide that shows Mid-America Transplant's performance measurement system based on four sequential stages: define, collect, transfer, and utilize.
Mid-America Transplant's Performance Measurement System slide from its Quest for Excellence category 4 presentation.
Credit: Mid-America Transplant

MT's performance measurement system is built on an empowering model:

  • Define: strategic thinking process, comparative data process, and change management/improvement and innovation process.
  • Collect: voice of the process, comparative data process, voice of the customer, voice of the stakeholder, and environmental scanning.
  • Transfer: meetings, status reports, website, scorecards/dashboards, and cascading scorecards accessible by all staff members through MT’s online Tableau Cloud.
  • Utilize: operational management process, performance evaluation process, learning & development system, and change management/improvement and innovation process.

MT has leveraged this model and its strategic thinking process, while including all of its stakeholders, to become the very best organization it can be. And over time, it has identified the team elements that are most important to its online success—such as a mission-driven workforce, visionary leadership, good financial stewardship, relationship management, and a culture of performance improvement inside the entire organization.  

MT also realized that equally important are the key factors that bring challenges to the organization, several of which were described earlier. MT has brought those factors into its strategic thinking process and identified ways to mitigate them, as it continues working toward its 2025 goal to be recognized as the leading OPO and impact 250K lives in its service area.

View more processes and results of Mid-America Transplant.

Three-Part Leadership Blog Series

Previous Blog
How a National Role Model Keeps Getting Better at Serving At-Risk Students (Education)

Upcoming Blog
Absolute Focus on Customers, Values, and Baldrige Inspires MidwayUSA to Gains (Service)

2021-2022 Baldrige Excellence Framework Business/Nonprofit feature image

Baldrige Excellence Framework®

The Baldrige Excellence Framework has empowered organizations to accomplish their missions, improve results, and become more competitive. It includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence, core values and concepts, and guidelines for evaluating your processes and results.

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Available versions: Business/Nonprofit, Education, and Health Care

About the author

Michelle Peña

Michelle Peña is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program at NIST. Her background includes degrees in English and Spanish from George Mason University, an advanced degree from George Washington University, and more than 20 years of experience in the publishing industry. 

Michelle is passionate about the benefits of personal development in the workplace and helping others become more emotionally resilient leaders in their community. Her blogs provide encouraging perspectives to help employees and businesses thrive and build a culture of continuous improvement.

As a digital marketing enthusiast, she also enjoys sharing motivational social media content and actionable growth strategies that professionals can use to empower their organization.

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