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The Official Baldrige Blog

The Quest for “Audacious Excellence”


At the upcoming 29th Annual Quest for Excellence® Conference, Pete Reicks, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Performance Excellence for Baldrige Award recipient Elevations Credit Union, will be presenting, he says, on something truly “audacious”: the credit union’s continued journey to excellence.

In a virtual interview, Reicks shared with me how the nonprofit organization has continued to innovate since winning the Baldrige Award. He plans to take that learning and share with Quest participants Elevations' next step in the journey: "audacious excellence."

What has happened in the two years since receiving the Baldrige Award?

Free ebook and video of "Colorado’s Path to Performance Excellence" available at


Elevations has been busy honoring our commitment to share our story as a Baldrige Award recipient. We have been an invited presenter at over 40 events, ranging from state and regional Baldrige-based conferences to the ASQ annual conference, ultimately presenting the Baldrige story to representatives of hundreds of organizations. We have authored and been sought out for over 30 articles in publications such as ASQ’s Quality Progress magazine and the Denver Business Journal.

In particular, we are proud of having produced and hosted the “Colorado’s Path to Performance Excellence” event at the Ritz-Carlton, a two-time Baldrige Award recipient, in Denver. The panel discussion at the conference included all four previous Colorado Baldrige national and state recipients, was moderated by Harvard Business Review, was attended by 137 C-level executives from companies along the Front Range, and included closing comments from Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. A free eBook, as well as a video of the event, is available at

Can you share an example of your success?

Elevations continues to apply the Baldrige Excellence Framework to assess if we are performing as well as we could and how best to improve or change. Since becoming a recipient in 2014, our key performance comparisons to our peer group continue to improve. At year-end 2016, we broke records with all-time high performances in net worth, assets, outstanding loans, total members, Net Promoter Score, and net income.

What are your top tips for using Baldrige resources?

  • Don’t allow a gap of understanding to exist in your organization between perceived and actual performance. Comparisons to in-market competitors and peers are essential to ensure true understanding of your performance. While rarely a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, benchmarks trended over time reveal powerful insights. Organizations may find it difficult when previously unknown opportunities for improvement are revealed, but strengths will also be uncovered. As the culture begins to embrace the power of comparisons, rather than fear what may be revealed, the organization may find that improvement is accelerated and innovation opportunities revealed.
  • Use the Baldrige Excellence Framework to align and integrate zoom-in, daily, process execution with zoom-out, strategic planning. At Elevations, we call this our Operational Rhythm. The Baldrige journey has helped bring discipline and rigor to our Operational Rhythm through a process-centric systems perspective, managed by fact rather than anecdotes.
  • Organizational excellence is a journey taken together. Organizational excellence is not achieved quickly, nor by a subset of the whole. Ensure the organization fully understands and embraces why “excellence” is important to customers/students/patients, their community, and most importantly themselves. Hold onto the “why?” firmly, as it will be the key to persevering.

What else might participants learn at your conference session?

We have continued to improve and innovate in a number of areas through our use of the Baldrige framework. A few examples include

  • the introduction of a formalized scenario-planning process to supplement our existing strategic planning process;
  • commitment to a new Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) of “Audacious Excellence”--Elevations will become a two-time Baldrige Award recipient, our metric of success;
  • creation of a virtual voice-of-the-customer focus group with our members through an online collaboration tool;
  • increased frequency of our Net Promoter Score analysis of in-market competitors;
  • creation of hyper-local web advertising that aligns with traditional TV brand messaging to drive improved brand awareness outcomes; and
  • enhancement of our Business Process Management (BPM) methodology with member journey mapping tools.

What are a few key reasons that organizations in your sector can benefit from using the Baldrige Excellence Framework?

The credit union philosophy is “People Helping People.” Elevations’ mission is to provide solutions for a better life. Similar to many organizations who find their way to Baldrige, our philosophy and belief in the mission drive us to be better tomorrow than we are today. Excellence matters. The Baldrige Excellence Framework, a systems approach to improving your organization’s performance, is how we seek excellence in fulfilling our mission.

To learn more, register now for the 29th Annual Quest for Excellence Conference, which will feature the 2016 Baldrige Award recipients and many more national role models sharing their best practices.

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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Very inspiring article, great to learn from.

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