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The Official Baldrige Blog

Measuring Performance: Best Practices of a 2005 Baldrige Award Winner

Richland College students interact with an instructor.

Richland College students interact with an instructor.

Credit: Richland College

In 2005, Richland College of Dallas, Texas, attained the distinction of being the first community college in the country to be named a Baldrige Award winner. Nearly a decade later, the institution, part of the Dallas County Community College District, continues to use the Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence to drive improvements, innovation, and excellence.

According to Fonda Vera, executive dean for planning, research, effectiveness, and development, Richland College today finds value in Baldrige “by supporting employees as examiners; by staying abreast of changes to the Criteria and incorporating those changes into how we work; and, most important, by continuing the discipline of our measurement systems (both overall and departmental).”

In a presentation during the Baldrige Program’s Quest for Excellence® Conference next month, Vera and her colleague Bao Huynh, director of institutional effectiveness, will discuss the college’s Criteria-based practices in relation to measuring its performance through a comprehensive system. They’ll address considerations such as how to choose the best measures, what those measures tell you about the organization’s performance, and next steps after selecting measures and tracking data for them. In the meantime, Vera shared the following information in response to our questions.

What are a few reasons that education institutions can find value in investing in a Baldrige-based performance measurement system?

The three greatest benefits that a Baldrige-based performance measurement system provides are focus, framework, and discipline. The Criteria can guide institutions through non-prescriptive questions to clearly define what is important or key to the organization. Once what is key is determined, that should help the organization make a myriad of other decisions especially in times of uncertainty.

The performance measurement system creates a strategic framework that helps the organization decide where and how to innovate and to determine intelligent risks. The discipline of using data to avoid the tendency of relying upon opinion or whim helps institutions to make continuous meaningful progress towards their goals.

What are your top tips for using Baldrige principles to support performance measurement and improvement?

  1. Design a system for measurement that is repeatable and sustainable (Approach).
  2. Involve all key groups in development and share the results widely (Deploy). 
  3. Make calm, clear-headed decisions based on the data analysis and regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the process itself (Learn).
  4. Align the measurement system with the organization’s mission, vision, values, and key work processes (Integrate).

What else might participants learn at your upcoming presentation?

Participants will learn why it can be useful to regularly entertain the thought of failure. Building productive paranoia into a measurement system can help an organization to better prepare in good times and make calm, clear-headed decisions in bad times. For more information, attend the district’s presentation, “How to Create a Comprehensive Institutional Measurement System,” at the Baldrige Program’s Quest for Excellence® Conference in Baltimore, Maryland on Monday, April 7.

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!).

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As a Baldrige examiner and community college administrator, I can attest that Richland College continues to be held as an exemplary example for community colleges across the country in their performance excellence processes. Their contributions to the higher educational community in promoting the Baldrige principles and best practices are exceptional!

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