Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


The Official Baldrige Blog

Leading for Innovation, Part 5: Insights from Stellar Solutions’ Janet Grondin

Janet Grondin, Stellar Solutions, 2017 Baldrige Award Recipient

Janet Grondin speaking during Stellar Solutions' Quest for Excellence innovation presentation.

Credit: Mark Hamilton, Hamilton Photography

Five-Part Leadership Blog Series

Senior leaders of five recent Baldrige Award recipients representing diverse sectors of the U.S. economy—The Charter School of San Diego (CSSD)Elevations Credit UnionGuidehouse (formerly PricewaterhouseCoopers Public Sector)Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital, and Stellar Solutions--presented insights on how they guide their high-performing organizations to innovate at the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program’s 34th Quest for Excellence® conference in April 2023. Following are highlights of the presentation by Janet Grondin of Stellar Solutions.

Realizing “Dream Jobs” in the Aerospace Industry

Janet Grondin Stellar Solutions Strategic Space Leader and Mission-Focused CEO photo
Janet Grondin, CEO, Stellar Solutions, 2017 Baldrige Award Recipient
Credit: Stellar Solutions

Stellar Solutions, a 2017 Baldrige Award recipient headquartered in Palo Alto, CA, provides professional engineering services for government and commercial aerospace projects. Its vision is to “satisfy our customers’ critical needs while realizing our dream jobs.” Since its founding in 1995 by Celeste Ford (now chair of the board of directors), the woman-owned small business has grown to encompass offices in three U.S. states (California, Colorado, and Virginia), as well as overseas (in the United Kingdom) to accommodate its international clients. Its workforce has grown to about 220 full-time employees, the majority of whom hold security clearances and are embedded at client sites in 38 states around the country.

Illustrating how Stellar Solutions operates in alignment with its vision, Grondin gave an example of how the company has responded to a Stellar employee who expressed interest in working on a commercial space station last year. Based on that interest, executives identified other employees in the company with interest in such work, considered potential customers, and then determined what expertise the company has that would differentiate it from competitors for a contract in that area.  

Workforce-Focused Innovations

Reflecting the company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, its workforce innovations include using pay equity analysis to ensure that every employee is being paid fairly and not discriminated against. The approach was initiated by the company’s chief financial officer. The company also established a leadership bonus plan that aims to increase diversity in hiring by tying bonuses to a goal of having 50 percent of job interviews be with non-White and non-male candidates.  

Other Innovation Practices

Grondin next outlined an innovation practice that the company calls “crossing boundaries.” She explained that after Stellar Solutions sent a team to support the August 2021 departure of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the company realized that some of the same expertise and methods used to support U.S. warfighters could be applied to supporting U.S. firefighters. So the company adapted its expertise to provide help to interagency efforts to combat wildfire crises, in particular, by sending images and knowledge from space to officials who can use these to save property and lives on the ground.

Another innovation that Grondin highlighted was driven by the increasing pace of launches of U.S. shuttles and satellites in Cape Canaveral, FL. There, Stellar experts collaborated to streamline the process for integrating rockets and satellites in order to meet the U.S. Space Force’s need to maintain a high rate of launches at the site.

In 2022, Stellar Solutions’ founder, Ford, established a fund to invest in start-up companies that have developed space-related innovations. Connecting with those ventures already enabled Stellar Solutions to gain four new contracts, with three more in the works (as of April 2023), according to Grondin.

Role of the Baldrige Framework  

Presenting Baldrige as “a Guiding Star for Stellar Solutions,” Grondin quoted Ford in saying, “Our company is built to last.” Among results demonstrating its success, Stellar Solutions has maintained a high rate of customer satisfaction (4.8 on a scale of 1 to 5 since 2020); it also has increased employee retention since 2018, which Grondin attributed to its focus on placing employees in their “dream jobs.” She concluded,

“The Baldrige framework has really helped us look at our results and take action.”

Five-Part Leadership Blog Series

Previous Blogs
Leading for Innovation, Part 1: Insights from CSSD’s Mary Bixby
Leading for Innovation, Part 2: Insights from Elevations Credit Unions Gerry Agnes
Leading for Innovation, Part 3: Insights from Guidehouse’s Scott McIntyre
Leading for Innovation, Part 4: Insights from Memorial Hermann’s Malisha Patel

2023-2024 Baldrige Excellence Framework Business/Nonprofit cover artwork

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.

Purchase your copy today!

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 (BPEP). Her work has focused on producing BPEP publications and communications. She also has been highly involved in the Baldrige Award process, Baldrige examiner training, and other offerings of the program.

She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Virginia, where she was an Echols Scholar and a double major, receiving highest distinction for her thesis in the interdisciplinary Political & Social Thought Program. She also has a master's degree from Georgetown University, where her studies and thesis focused on social and public policy issues. 

When not working, she sits in traffic in one of the most congested regions of the country, receives consolation from her rescued beagles, writes poetry, practices hot yoga, and tries to cultivate a foundation for three kids to direct their own lifelong learning (and to PLEASE STOP YELLING at each other—after all, we'll never end wars if we can't even make peace at home!).

Related posts


Add new comment

Enter the characters shown in the image.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Please be respectful when posting comments. We will post all comments without editing as long as they are appropriate for a public, family friendly website, are on topic and do not contain profanity, personal attacks, misleading or false information/accusations or promote specific commercial products, services or organizations. Comments that violate our comment policy or include links to non-government organizations/web pages will not be posted.