Unfortunately, it’s official: Barb Fischer will soon retire from the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP). Her colleagues are trying to focus on how this change will be good for her—but frankly, we’re gonna miss her! In the meantime, we honor her service.
In her career of 40 years, Barb has served the last 18 at NIST’s BPEP. As she joined BPEP after working at the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), one might have assumed that her experience in a hierarchical military organization would create difficulty for her transition to our relatively “flat,” highly collaborative structure based on self-managed teams. But she had already alternated assignments as a leader or member of a series of integrated project teams at the Naval Air Systems Command, which prepared her well for BPEP’s work environment.
During her tenure with BPEP, she has been both a member and leader of our former Outreach and Communications Team, a member of our Coordinating Council, our Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR) on the Baldrige Administrator contract with ASQ, and a member of our current Marketing and Partnership Team. She has led or co-led the planning of 11 annual Quest for Excellence® conferences hosted by BPEP, along with nearly as many regional Baldrige conferences and national Baldrige Award ceremonies. During the annual Baldrige Award process, she has traveled with and supported volunteer teams of Baldrige examiners on 14 site visits at organizations around the country. And her skillful contract management has saved thousands of dollars for BPEP—and stretched two five-year contracts to streamline support for the program over six years.
In her many roles on the staff, Barb has demonstrated understanding of BPEP’s strategic, long-term “big picture,” while also focusing daily on details and data in managing projects. She noted recently that she has especially enjoyed that her BPEP work has introduced her to “an evolving and growing community of organizations” that use the Baldrige Excellence Framework to improve their performance and ensure their long-term success.
Following are Barb’s own words in response to questions we asked her after she announced her retirement.
There have been so many since I joined the program in 2002! Both my first Baldrige Award site visit with an examiner team and my first Baldrige Award ceremony top the list. The site visit and the award applicant literally brought the Criteria for Performance Excellence [part of the Baldrige Excellence Framework] alive for me—and the dedication and professionalism of the volunteer examiners was impressive. The ceremony was celebratory as well as breathtaking and inspirational. Many site visits and many ceremonies later have not changed this for me.
Also memorable for me was having the opportunity to plan and experience the Baldrige program’s 25th Anniversary “QuestCereGalamony” events, which demonstrated not only the best-in-class practices of the Baldrige Award recipients of that year and prior years, but also the resilience of our organization to those throughout our extended Baldrige communities. It had been a tough year, but those events assured people that BPEP was not going away. Our outreach and impact have been demonstrated over and over since then.
Another highlight of my tenure with BPEP is being a member of the initial and current teams to take Baldrige into the social media space, experimenting with new platforms, including establishing our very own blog—this one! Blogrige was the second blog at NIST, and now 12 years later, it is the longest running of NIST’s blogs. I’ve served as a moderator since the blog’s beginning, and our team of writers and administrators has been recognized twice with NIST awards.
Before coming to NIST, I spent 20 years gaining contracting, program analysis, and management experience at DoD—having started as an intern with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) in Philadelphia in 1981. With a bachelor of science degree in biology, I initially planned to be part of DLA’s medical supply-chain management, but instead I followed a path toward naval aviation. In that phase of my career, I visited, evaluated, and collaborated with many of the major manufacturers in the United States. I also served alongside U.S. Navy and Marine officers and enlisted as the configuration/project manager of the executive helicopter program, gaining extensive budgeting and contracting responsibilities over eight years. During that period, I earned a master of science degree in management as well as completed a senior executive management development program. I then returned to DLA to concentrate on major acquisition-reform efforts, including the “single process initiative,” as well as forging strategic alliances, challenging manufacturers to assist our organization with those efforts.
I’m proud to say I’ve been a member of a small cadre of dedicated professionals who have a passion for performance excellence, who innovated and banded together for the survival of BPEP when our government funding was lost [in 2012]. We, along with our key stakeholders, developed a new business model that was approved by NIST and the Commerce Department. Implementing this business model with the help of our public/private partners—including the Foundation for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award—sustained BPEP. My personal contributions largely centered on cost control within BPEP’s contracts, as well as successfully bringing the sales and fees from our product offerings into BPEP’s contract with ASQ, which demonstrated to agency financial managers that BPEP could help fund itself through fee-based services.
More broadly, I’m proud to have had the opportunity to work with so many dedicated people in both the civilian government, military, and private sectors—as colleagues and volunteers—and to know that I’ve made a difference along the way.
I’ll be forever grateful for both the personal and professional support they have provided to me, in dark times as well as happy ones. I’m delighted that these friendships are sure to last. I know the BPEP staff will continue to support and rely on one another, as well.
I am looking forward to being reunited with my grandchildren, family, and friends; playing more with my dog Max; traveling; and exploring new gardening, cooking, and creative endeavors.
Toward the end of a four-month course for program managers at the Defense Systems Management College in 1998, we could select from a few elective sessions. I chose one on the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. It was there that I learned that the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence were used as the basis of the Presidential Award for Quality, which two of the DoD organizations I worked within had pursued and received. I also learned that the Baldrige program was housed at NIST, less than ten miles from my home! A few years later at DLA, I was selected to develop the structure for an award program to recognize defense contractors that were successfully implementing one of our acquisition reform initiatives. Coincidentally, both the Criteria categories and the scoring dimensions were loosely based on the Baldrige Criteria. Kismet! I always felt I was meant to be associated with Baldrige—and I have loved it all!
25 May 2021 - Congratulations Barbara! I can only imagine the fun and the challenges you've experienced. Wishing you the best. David
Barb-I am sorry that we didn't have more time working together at NIST, but I enjoyed the time we did have together. Over the last 18 years, I have enjoyed keeping up with the Baldrige Program by reading the excellent posts that you have authored. Best wishes for an enjoyable retirement. Barry
Congratulations on a well-deserved retirement! I appreciate all you did for the program and for those of us that were fortunate to work with you on Baldridge site visits! You will be missed. Hugs and love!
Thank you .
Thank you for your superlative service to BPEP and well beyond! Your contributions are incalculable and deeply appreciated. We wish you the very best as you transition. With respect, John J.
Barb—Congratulations on your retirement! You have accomplished so much throughout your career and I am very glad that I had the opportunity to work with you during your time in Baldrige. Best wishes on this new chapter in your life! Jackie C.
Congratulations, Barb! I'm so excited for you. It has been a pleasure working with you all these years, and I wish you great success in whatever's next in your journey!!
Mazel tov on your retirement and thank you for your outstanding service to the Baldrige Program, NIST, DOC and the entire nation. Most of all, thank you for being a terrific colleague and even better, a treasured friend.
Wishing you much joy as you begin this new adventure!
We will miss you Barbara. Enjoy this new stage of your life.