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The Official Baldrige Blog

Plumbing for a sink inside the cabinet. Home maintenance (Key Work System). Plumbing repairs electrical repairs and upgrades yard maintenance supplier management (Key Work Processes).
Credit: Harry Hertz


It all started with my bathroom sink. I noticed that it was draining slowly and that I could pull out the pop-up stopper. It was no longer attached to the lever that raised and lowered it. A look into the cabinet below the sink revealed that the ball socket and lever had become loose, freeing the stopper to be removed. The bigger problem was that it also resulted in water escaping through the seal so that the vanity had a good bit of water in it. You know, that vanity that has spare medicines, sunscreen, cleaning supplies, etc. The vanity that you've been meaning to clean out for a long time. And now I had that cleaning opportunity at the least opportune time!

My wife helped with the clean-up and drying of wet contents. I then proceeded to clean out the drain, without removing the sink trap. I tried to remove the trap but the plastic, threaded lock nuts were frozen. I had had experience with that once before and ended up breaking the plastic pipe because I torqued the nuts too hard.

Fortunately, all is good now, and the vanity is also clean! And I had a chance to think about my personal work processes and work systems!

Work Processes and Work Systems

Before you think I have gone off the deep end, let me explain. As a homeowner, one of my key work systems is home maintenance. Within that system, I have a number of key work processes:

  • plumbing repairs
  • electrical repairs and upgrades
  • yard maintenance
  • supplier management

As a refresher, the Baldrige Excellence Framework® defines work systems as "the coordinated combination of internal work processes and external resources that you need to develop and produce products (and services)...." Work processes are "your most important internal value-creation processes."

A key question for me when I face a maintenance issue is, Do I use my internal work process for repair/maintenance or do I use my supplier management process? The decision is based on whether I can do it more effectively (including cost control) and efficiently with my own workforce (my wife and I) or with a supplier. 

Workforce Capability and Capacity

Part of the decision-making process involves an assessment of our ability (capability) and time availability (capacity) to carry out the process. In the case of the sink drain, we had both the capability and capacity, coupled with the enhanced efficiency of doing the repair internally.

The Right Choice

So how does this discussion affect your organization (and also your family)? The choice of using your own work process or relying on your larger work system of suppliers, partners, and collaborators can change over time.

Let me illustrate with another personal example. Part of my yard maintenance work process for many years involved mowing my lawn on a lawn tractor. It gave me a release from my regular Baldrige work and also afforded some free time to reflect. When I was unavailable, I had two sons as part of my workforce who were eager to ride the tractor. They no longer live at home, so my workforce has been reduced. Furthermore, I have found that, while I still have the capability to mow, our family capacity to mow has shrunk. And I have found other things to occupy my time. So mowing is now contracted out as part of my home maintenance work system and has become part of my supply-chain management process.

How about Your Organization?

When is the last time you strategically weighed decisions about your work systems? Are there work processes you should move to your supply network? Are there work processes you should bring in house to enhance effectiveness or efficiency and maybe better manage risk? Please, give it some thought!

2023-2024 Baldrige Excellence Framework Business/Nonprofit cover artwork

2023–2024 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 available mid-February

About the author

Harry Hertz “The Baldrige Cheermudgeon”

I am Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon, and Director Emeritus of the Baldrige Program. I joined the Program in 1992 after a decade in management in the analytical chemistry and chemical sciences laboratories at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the home of the Baldrige Program. I started my career at NIST (NBS) as a bench analytical chemist.

My favorite aspects of the Baldrige Program are: (1) the opportunity to interact with leading thinkers from all sectors of the U.S. economy who serve as volunteers in the Baldrige Program, who participate in the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program, and who represent Award applicants at the forefront of the continuous journey to performance excellence, and (2) the intellectual challenge of synthesizing ideas from leading thinkers and from personal research into Insights on the Road to Performance Excellence and other blogs that tackle challenges at the “leading edge of validated leadership and performance practice,” and contribute to the continuous revision of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework.

Outside of work I spend my time with family (including three beautiful granddaughters), exercising, baking bread, traveling, educating tomorrow’s leaders, and participating on various boards and board committees.

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Great read... love the analogy!

So he was not a plumber after all just a fancy novelist

Thank you for this great information.

Thank you for the great information.

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