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The Official Baldrige Blog

More Value for Business Students: Application of Knowledge and Critical Thinking

It’s always wonderful to hear not only how the Baldrige Excellence Framework is being taught in higher education—or used by higher education organizations either as a management framework or as the basis for accreditation standards—but how Baldrige is actually bringing value to the next generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs.

In Blogrige, we’ve written before—and plan to keep writing—about colleges and universities teaching Baldrige. For example, check out “Higher Education, It’s Time to Refresh Your Understanding of Baldrige,” “The ‘Great Value’ of the Baldrige Framework to a University,” “Quality on Campus,” and “A Strong Performance Measurement System: Tips from a Baldrige Award-Winning College.”

And here’s another story to add to a growing list of business schools and vendors that are finding that using the Baldrige framework is a great way to teach business students critical thinking and innovation.

We recently learned about a new online service that uses the Baldrige Excellence Framework as the foundation of its thesis course. Olin O. Oedekoven, president and CEO of Peregrine Academic Services, said when the company started to design how to teach online master and doctor of business administration (MBA/DBA) curricula, “we needed a way to drive a thesis that would be generic enough to apply to a global audience . . . so I had the [Baldrige] framework sitting here on my desk . . . and I looked at the framework from an educational perspective and thought yeah this makes absolute sense because the seven [Baldrige] categories would help a student to put together the information [he/she learned throughout the course].”

As part of the academic outcome, the students’ thesis would be to use the Baldrige Excellence Framework to conduct an organizational assessment/analysis of an existing organization or the student could assess/analyze a new business that he/she created.

“Maybe they’re an entrepreneur wanting to start a business,” said Oedekoven. “What a great way to build a business plan for a future business by making sure you have got all of the experience in entrepreneurialism that can be found right in the Baldrige framework.” He added that in doing an organizational assessment, the Baldrige framework hits all of the areas of importance to students—“the finances of an organization, the marketing plan of an organization, how you do quality assurance. All of the elements are there [in the Baldrige framework] for running an organization.”

Often business school graduates have lots of knowledge but not actual experience in applying their research, said Oedekoven. “Students may want to start a business because they have got the passion for certain things, but they may not understand all of the elements that need to be in place to run a business. . . . Baldrige helps to identify what you need . . . [for example, to] consider a marketing plan not just be fixated on a product or service.”

Oedekoven sees levels of value for students who learn to use the Baldrige Excellence Framework: “a broader theoretical foundation for understanding a quality process and . . . the application of that in a real-world setting. Another value is the holistic approach to looking across all of the various subjects within a business curriculum. A lot is covered in graduate business programs. Baldrige allows students to put it all together . . . in the construct of an organization.”

Schools that use the new online curricula will still have undergraduate or graduate courses focused mainly on knowledge-based business principles, such as accounting and marketing, he said, “but the idea that a school could do Baldrige is more in the synthesis of material . . . because what you’re trying to do there is go to the next level, which is application of knowledge and critical thinking. And I think that’s where Baldrige comes in. How you insert it within the broader curriculum is what makes the most sense.”

Oedekoven said he was first introduced to Baldrige in the Wyoming National Guard when senior leadership decided to adopt Baldrige approaches and complete an Army Communities of Excellence (ACOE) award submission. (ACOE is based on the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.) Using guidance from the ACOE program and Baldrige, Oedekoven said the Wyoming National Guard generated several hundred thousands of dollars to put back into soldier life and quality programs at Camp Guernsey, WY. In addition, before the camp started using the Baldrige framework, an average of 50–60,000 people used the camp per year, and those "use days" are important because they are the basis for Department of Defense funding, he said. (“Usage” includes all forms of use, from the main use of soldiers training but also including use by government agencies and nonprofit organizations.) Over a ten-year period, use days had increased to about 250,000 or a 300% improvement, Oedekoven said.

"What we found was that if the camp focused on its customers, then more customers came and used the camp. It sounds obvious, of course, but it did result in a culture shift of those running the camp," he said. "The more use days we could generate, the more funding we received and with the additional funding, we could make improvements and expand facilities. This all proved to be vitally important after 9-11 when the National Guard started deploying units to combat operations. Because we had better facilities through a customer focus, we were in better shape to support the predeployment training requirements. . . . Much of that growth was a direct result of adopting the Baldrige framework and how to think and manage from a customer-centric perspective."

When he began his career in higher education, Oedekoven said he was re-introduced to Baldrige principles because many accreditation organizations, including the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), use/incorporate the Baldrige framework in developing their guidelines.

“[The Baldrige framework is] logical and inclusive for an institution/department,” Oedekoven said. “It’s a natural logical flow of thought and how to understand and analyze all the goods within that broader framework. . . . The challenge as leaders is to be able to adapt and apply the [framework]. . . . Baldrige is such a logical approach; it definitely adds value in higher education.”

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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Peregrine Leadership, a related company, works closely with Rocky Mountain Performance Excellence (RMPEx) the regional Baldrige-based award program for Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.

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