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The Official Baldrige Blog

More Challenges/Insights for Excellent Processes


This blog is the second in a two-part series. See the first part.

Day 6: Take a strategic and systematic view of process improvement.

Unfortunately, according to the 12 Days of PEX-MAS survey by the Process Excellence Network, a division of the International Quality and Productivity Center, process improvement can often be "pigeon-holed into delivering cost savings or efficiency gains rather than as an enabler of corporate strategy," with a perception that improvement can mean eliminating jobs.

To combat this perception, survey respondents suggest "take a wider, more strategic and systematic view of how [employees'] work fits into corporate strategy. . . . Instead of coming from the perspective of ‘we want to do process excellence’ and then trying to link it to strategy, we need to look at the strategy targets and goals first. Then use whatever tools and techniques to best achieve these goals.”

The Baldrige Criteria are in agreement with this, not prescribing one tool or methodology to achieve success; rather, the Criteria serve as an overarching framework for improvement across an organization.

Days 7/8: Define process excellence for what holds meaning for your organization.

Survey respondents list several names that they use for "process excellence," including "operational excellence" and "continuous improvement."

In the case of the Baldrige Criteria, many organizations such as the Tata Group and Turner Broadcasting Systems use the Criteria internally but rename elements and adapt language to match their own cultures. There even have been cases of "stealth" Baldrige reported— where organizations are using the Baldrige Criteria but calling their use something else to avoid any preconceived notions or anxiety about an improvement program.

Day 9: Prioritize process within your organization.

According to the survey, "There is a risk . . . that if process improvement only is associated with solving a specific problem at a specific point in time, that it becomes something that burns brightly initially but quickly burns itself out. . . . If you are able to show results, people want to know how it was achieved and they become interested.”

The Criteria have a strong focus on learning and feeding that learning back into improving processes. How you innovate is also important across all areas of an organization's operations. Item 6.1, Work Process, goes into some detail on process performance, process improvement, and innovation management. (See the free 2015–2016 Criteria Category and Item Commentary.)

Day 10: Involve all employees, including senior leaders, in process improvement initiatives.

“If it’s always the process improvement experts who are leading process improvement, then it’s not building culture," according to the survey.

The best models have every level of the organization involved in process improvement. This rings true for most high-performing organizations and all Baldrige Award recipients. For example, the senior leaders of 2014 Baldrige Award recipient PricewaterhouseCoopers Public Sector Practice (PwC PSP) monitor key metrics to control overall costs and work with their operations leaders and the practice’s Quality Management Group to make decisions. Team members continuously assess quality to prevent defects, service errors, and rework before dealing with clients. Such initiatives involve all levels of the organization.

Days 11/12: Use and invest in technology to improve processes.

There's no question that technology has the potential to improve processes. According to the survey, "the technology that has emerged as a frontrunner for investment is big data and analytics technology," with over 33.8 percent of respondents indicating that they plan to invest in data analytics and big data technologies.

In alignment with this, "big data" is called out as an emerging theme in the 2015–2016 Baldrige Criteria, too. "For all organizations, turning data into knowledge and knowledge into useful insights is the real challenge," according to the survey. Dr. Harry Hertz, Baldrige Program director emeritus, discusses the real challenge of big data by focusing on how organizations and governments will manage big data and how  they will properly and appropriately use them.

Do you agree with these process excellence challenges and insights for your organization?

About the author

Dawn Bailey

Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program and involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 25 years of experience, 18 years at the Baldrige Program. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.

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