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The Official Baldrige Blog

Leadership Practices of Tri County Tech

Two female nurses standing together in a hospital who graduated from Tri County Tech.
Credit: Tri County Tech
Five-Part Leadership Blog Series

In this five-part blog series on the 2018 Baldrige Award recipients’ leadership presentations at the 31st Annual Quest for Excellence® Conference (April 7–10, 2019), senior leaders of the five newest national role models share best practices and stories of how they achieved excellence.

A Story of Student Grit

Photo of Lindel Fields 31st Quest for Excellence Speaker.
Lindel Fields
Tri County Tech
2018 Baldrige Award Recipient
At the outset of his leadership presentation at the Baldrige Program’s 31st Annual Quest for Excellence Conference® in April, Tri County Tech (TCT) Superintendent and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Lindel Fields shared the story of a former TCT student named Brianna. She began her studies in a nursing program at TCT as a single mother (with one young child and another on the way) who lacked the $4,500 needed to pay the school’s annual tuition, fees, and books/materials (combined). Fields credited her grit and also described TCT’s support as he summarized her success on the path to graduating from TCT and being employed as a nurse in a hospital today.

Leadership “the Tri County Way”

A one of 29 public technology centers in the Oklahoma Career and Technical Education System, TCT serves students in three counties. TCT’s vision of “inspiring Success Through Life Changing Learning Experiences” is supported by four core values: being a “great place to work,” “investing in our community,” leadership by all, and being student-focused. Fields highlighted several results that show how the vision and values have guided his institution’s actions.

Tri County Tech Great Place to Work Certified showing group of employees. Top 50 Workplaces: Women 2015; Small Business, Women and Giving Back 2016; Small Business 2017; and Small Business 2018.
Credit: Tri County Tech

For example, TCT has been certified as a Great Place to Work® and ranked among “top 50 workplaces” annually since 2015. In addition, demonstrating its investment in the community and its focus on students, TCT launched a foundation to help ensure that none of its students would be denied the opportunity to complete their studies based on their ability to pay for their education. 

Milestones and Mantras on TCT’s Journey

Fields shared several mantras that TCT leaders adopted as the organization advanced on its Baldrige journey to excellence since 2003. Noting that TCT submitted its first application for the national Baldrige Award in 2016—13 years after its first Baldrige Excellence Framework-based assessment for Oklahoma’s state Baldrige-based award program—Fields shared the TCT mantra “It is not about what you do in a day; rather, what you do daily that matters.”

Soon after Fields was named the superintendent and CEO in 2008, TCT rolled out a strategic plan, Vision 2020, that aimed “to establish the school as one of the premier education institutions anywhere in the United States,” said Fields. Among other goals in the plan, TCT aimed to increase its enrollment to 15,000 students by 2020, doubling its student population of the time; Fields added that enrollment surpassed 23,000 last year.

Fields invoked the mantra “Less is More. Stick to the Core” in the context of the organization’s strategy, noting that 90 percent of TCT’s long-term Vision 2020 goals have been met. He also shared the mantra that reflects TCT’s focus on students: “If you aren’t taking care of a student, take care of someone who is.” As a measure of student success, he pointed to TCT’s 93 percent rate of student retention/completion.

Fields shared TCT’s Net Promoter Score of 81 percent (comparable to the scores of Ritz-Carlton and Costco) to demonstrate his organization’s high performance in the Baldrige framework area of customer-focused results. Among workforce-focused results, he highlighted that “93 percent of our workforce say that Tri County is a great place to work.” Relevant to TCT’s focus on operations, Fields shared the mantra “Spend it like it’s Grandma’s Social Security,” noting TCT’s “52 percent increase in local controllable revenue over five years.”

Fields conveyed the TCT mantra “When you try to be everything to everybody, you can’t be anything to anybody” as a guiding principle for organizational improvements in the years before TCT earned the 2018 Baldrige Award. These changes included a decision to eliminate a longstanding department (community education) and development of a new process for innovation.

View more processes and results of Tri County Tech.

Five-Part Leadership Blog Series: Previous Blogs

Integrated Project Management Company, Inc. (Small Business)
Donor Alliance (Nonprofit)
Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center (Health Care)
Alamo Colleges District (Education)


2019-2020 Baldrige Excellence Framework Business/Nonprofit cover artwork

Baldrige Excellence Framework

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


About the author

Christine Schaefer

Christine Schaefer is a longtime staff member of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and current leader of the Education Team—a group of four who produce publications and communications and...

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