Can the Baldrige Excellence Framework and the best practices of U.S. role-model cities and communities—as honored by the Baldrige Award and Communities of Excellence 2026 (COE2026)—be implemented in cities and communities around the world? Feedback from a recent conference in Japan proved that the answer is a resounding yes.
In early February, an international conference called “Challenge of Local Governments on Management—Beyond COVID-19” featured three Baldrige Award-winning cities and COE2026 sharing their key success factors in improving the “quality of management” and solving governments’ “wicked problems” (defined as problems difficult for government to solve without collaborations such as those with companies and citizens). The COE2026 keynote focused on the effort to take local governments' role one step further to include multiple community players in order to address large issues.
The Japan Productivity Center (JPC), a nonprofit committed to “promoting productivity in Japan’s industrial society and in improving the quality of people’s lives,” invited sharing from Baldrige Award-recipient cities in the United States, namely, Coral Springs, FL; Fort Collins, CO; and Germantown, TN.
Craig Anderson, strategic advisor to the JPC, said, “It was an honor to be part of such a stimulating and promising international event, one that hopefully can be replicated in other countries. The goal of the conference was to share best practices for public-sector performance management using case studies from COE2026 and . . . Baldrige-winning U.S. cities."
Anderson added, "The bottom line is that the Baldrige framework works in state and local government organizations, and COE2026 complements the Baldrige principles by extending their applicability to a broader set of community stakeholders. The JPC has indicated they received a lot of positive feedback and inquiries from attendees, so I hope that we can build on this first engagement."
Conference materials offered the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of a “wicked problem” faced by governments, explaining “that governments with excellent management have been able to deal with COVID-19 by planning, implementing, evaluating, and improving. . . . It is believed that the higher ‘quality of management’ in [such] governments, the more effective [and evidence-based] decision making can be. . . . It is clear that this is not limited to COVID-19, but [rather, is] the same for any problems.” The conference materials defined “high-quality management” as the Baldrige framework.
The cities of Coral Springs, FL; Fort Collins, CO; and Germantown, TN “built their leadership, planning/evaluation systems, organizational culture, etc., at a high level, and as a result, their performance such as [results for] citizen satisfaction, staff satisfaction, and bond ratings [have been sustained] at high levels,” according to the JPC materials.
COE2026 kicked off the conference with the keynote presentation, and then the three cities presented and participated in a question-and-answer panel.
With a mission “to improve the quality of life for the nation’s residents by assisting communities in implementing the Baldrige-based Communities of Excellence Framework,” COE2026 has adapted the Baldrige framework for communities to focus on solving problems. Problems include education disparities, deteriorating public health, and inequalities in economic opportunity (especially for people living in poverty). COE2026 shared that its customized Baldrige-based framework and efforts aim to provide a solid, proactive framework for cross-sector collaboration and performance excellence among key players and stakeholders. This enables ongoing nationwide challenges to be tackled with systematic thinking and action, collaboration and cooperation, and a commitment to performance excellence at the community level. Twenty-two communities throughout the United States have participated in COE2026 since 2016, and more communities are expressing interest and engagement each year.
The City of Coral Springs, which in 2007 became the first city to receive the Baldrige Award, has continued to sustain high levels of performance, including for measures of citizen and employee satisfaction (95% surveyed would recommend working there) and bond rating. Coral Springs—whose mission is to be the premier community in which to live, work, and raise a family—shared how it sustains its results through management of the city, even though external environments and some top management and staff positions have changed. City Manager Frank Babinec and Assistant City Managers Catherine Givens and Dale Pazdra presented the city’s business model, inputs/data for listening and learning from residents and businesses, surveys, the strategic plan, the annual budget, and educational efforts and partnerships.
Babinec, Givens, and Pazdra offered this testimonial for the conference: “It was an honor and privilege to participate in the conference to share our story and continuous quality journey as we continue to evolve with the changing environment.”
The City of Fort Collins is trying to solve its problems in collaboration with residents, private companies, and the government through a “co-creation model.” The city offers various collaborative opportunities, including mobile apps based on generations, lifestyles, and preferences. As a result, many indicators such as living environment, culture and quality of leisure, and working environment are ranked in the top 10% of all U.S. cities, and the bond rating is at the highest level. Fort Collins shared how it realized effective collaboration and achieved results.
Fort Collins Performance Excellence Program Manager Terri Runyan said, "The City of Fort Collins was humbled to participate in this international conference with such high-performing organizations as Coral Springs and the City of Germantown, along with the Communities of Excellence. The JPC provided an extremely well-done venue and shows much enthusiasm for leading the international community in inspiring the Baldrige process and framework."
The City of Germantown created its vision and values in collaboration with its citizens, and it deploys these to government officials, private companies, citizens, and other stakeholders in a variety of ways. As a result, the unemployment rate has improved, citizens’ engagement level has become one of the highest in the world, and the bond rating has remained at the highest level. During the virtual presentation, Germantown shared how it raised citizen awareness and achieved results.
In addition, according to Stacey Crockett, Germantown's senior communications strategist, the Strategic Plan was completely generated by residents, with the process guided by City staff members. The Strategic Plan is deployed through departmental business plans and throughout the workforce, with each employee’s Individual Employee Development Plan connecting their daily work back to the City's strategies.
Attendees at the virtual conference included national productivity organizations (NPOs), local governments, local councils, academics/experts, private organizations, and the media. Seven countries participated: Japan, Malaysia, Iran, Philippines, Thailand, Fiji, and Australia. The JPC is currently evaluating attendee feedback and developing a two-pronged approach for moving forward. First, the JPC will provide specific assistance to several of the local Japanese government organizations that have expressed interest in using the Baldrige framework. Second, the JPC will coordinate with the Asian Productivity Organization (APO) to provide similar workshops for other APO member countries.
“I can state first-hand that there is a tremendous appetite for Baldrige performance excellence across Asia,” said Anderson. “Hopefully, we can nurture and build on that interest in the future.”
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.