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The Official Baldrige Blog

Spotlight on a Baldrige Examiner: Michael Drake

head shot of Michael Drake

Michael Drake

With the annual online application now open for volunteers for our 2017 Board of Examiners, we’ll be featuring interviews for the next few weeks of individuals who have served as Baldrige examiners in recent years. These hard-working, competitively selected volunteers hail from many states, sectors, and professions.

In the spotlight today is Dr. Michael Drake, director of regulatory compliance for Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, Indiana. Drake served as a senior examiner for the Baldrige Award process in 2016, his fourth year on the volunteer board for the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program.




1. Tell us how you first became interested in becoming a Baldrige examiner?

I became interested in becoming an examiner after my organization started its own “Journey to Excellence.” We initially tried writing a Baldrige Award application without any outside help; I think the first draft of our Organizational Profile was around 20 pages long. After that, our administration decided we should bring in some consultants and send a group for examiner training to gain a better understanding of the Baldrige framework.

As I was doing regulatory compliance and quality assurance work for the organization, I thought being an examiner would be a natural fit; so I volunteered. I started by becoming an examiner for The Partnership for Excellence (TPE), the Baldrige-based state-level program for Indiana, West Virginia, and Ohio. I remember going to my first training workshop thinking, “Great, now everyone is going to know what an idiot I am.” Instead, the training helped me to realize that I hadn’t done such a bad job on my Independent Review work, and I found the experienced examiners in the workshop to be a great source of support and feedback. After completing a site visit for TPE, I wanted more; so with the support of my organization, I signed up to be a national examiner.  

2. What were your impressions or highlights of your first training to be an examiner? What have been highlights for you of annual examiner training in subsequent years?

I went to my first national training with pretty much the same feeling of anxiety that I had at the state level: Now people from all over the nation, not just the Midwest, would find out that I was not competent enough to tie my own shoe, let alone examine an application! But I had the same kind of positive experience at national training as I did at the state level; I learned I wasn’t as dumb as I thought, as the guidance and feedback from the more experienced examiners really helped me to gain a much deeper understanding of and appreciation for the Baldrige Criteria [part of the Baldrige Excellence Framework].

One of the best parts of annual examiner training was and continues to be the ability to present and observe the diverse perspectives on the same material from the varying experience levels of the other participants. Even as a senior examiner in recent years, I have continued learning something from newer examiners during training every year.  

3. Would you please share some memorable learning experiences you’ve had as an examiner on Consensus Review teams?

I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to examine and conduct site visits for multiple organizations over the last six years. My background is in health care, but I have been able to review applications in the education, nonprofit, and government sectors as well as health care. In fact, the first award applications I reviewed for both the state and national Baldrige programs were for education organizations. Initially, I thought, “What business does a clinical psychologist have reviewing an education program?” I was once again certain I would be exposed as a fraud. But I soon saw I had a lot to contribute.

As the Baldrige Criteria recognize, a process is a process whether it is in health care, education, manufacturing, or government. So the Baldrige Criteria and Core Values are applicable to all sectors and organizations. I now find myself applying the Baldrige framework to my everyday encounters (e.g., going to the bank, attending a seafood festival, buying a pair of shoes, etc.) and wishing that more companies would take the time to apply the Baldrige principles to how they operate.  


5. How have you applied learning from your service as a Baldrige examiner to your work in a health care organization?

One of the greatest benefits of becoming a Baldrige examiner has been the ability to apply what I have learned to help my organization on its journey to excellence. My experiences as an examiner have helped me to sharpen my analytical skills, to “see the big picture” and break down silos, and to appreciate my organization (and others) as a living, fluid, and ever-transitioning entity.

With the support of my organization’s senior leaders, I have been able to reinforce the Baldrige Core Values (e.g., customer-focused excellence, valuing people, and delivering value and results) in the work our organization performs and to partner with my coworkers to ensure that we are striving continuously to provide a better experience for our patients.

About the author

Christine Schaefer

Christine Schaefer is a longtime staff member of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP). Her work has focused on producing BPEP publications and communications. She also has been highly involved in the Baldrige Award process, Baldrige examiner training, and other offerings of the program.

She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of Virginia, where she was an Echols Scholar and a double major, receiving highest distinction for her thesis in the interdisciplinary Political & Social Thought Program. She also has a master's degree from Georgetown University, where her studies and thesis focused on social and public policy issues. 

When not working, she sits in traffic in one of the most congested regions of the country, receives consolation from her rescued beagles, writes poetry, practices hot yoga, and tries to cultivate a foundation for three kids to direct their own lifelong learning (and to PLEASE STOP YELLING at each other—after all, we'll never end wars if we can't even make peace at home!).

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My salute to you, Dr. Drake, for achieving such a noble achievement.
Mike's responses are heartening for me. With two years as a Baldrige examiner now under my belt, I am still beating myself up a little bit for not being as smooth in my contributions as I am impatient to be for a future team. Thanks, Mike!
Yay, Michael. I am thrilled that you are being spotlighted. I directly benefitted from your knowledge and experience as you mentored me through this latest round of application reviews. I gain more insight each year. Thank you.
Way to go son. Very proud of you. Love Mom

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