The Baldrige Program’s 33rd Quest for Excellence® Conference brings together the leaders of U.S. organizations to celebrate and learn role-model best practices from current and former Baldrige Award recipients.
Attendees take home practical lessons in critical areas such as leadership, strategy, customer and employee engagement, and operations. The speakers also provide attendees with proven solutions to help their organization achieve breakthrough performance and results.
At the 33rd Quest for Excellence Conference this week, where award recipients from the past three years are being honored, Genevieve Cavallo, vice president of enterprise transformation at Elevations Credit Union, is presenting the session titled “Building Organizational Resilience through the Baldrige Framework.”
As Elevations is a 2014 and 2020 Baldrige Award recipient, I had an opportunity to interview president and chief executive officer Gerry Agnes. Agnes reflected on how the Baldrige Excellence Framework inspired Elevations’ journey to excellence and how other organizations might also leverage the framework to improve their organization’s performance. Following is my recent interview with Agnes.
What I learned, along with the entire Elevations Credit Union team, are three key themes:
The Baldrige framework has positioned Elevations Credit Union to perform exceptionally well for its members, employees, and community, regardless of remarkably challenging conditions, including the Great Recession and a global pandemic.
My top tips, in addition to those noted in my previous answer, stem from the objective of gaining organizational commitment to the Baldrige framework:
The Baldrige framework, if deployed properly, builds organizational resiliency. We began our Baldrige journey in the summer of 2008 during the Great Recession and received our first award in 2014.
We received our second award during a global pandemic that created a global economic recession. During that period, our return on equity averaged 11%, which was 38% greater than that of our peer group.
The Baldrige framework enabled us to create robust leadership and strategic planning systems that contributed mightily to our ability to predict or respond very early to changing conditions. By doing so, we have been able to realize above-market returns on equity.
I learned about the Baldrige framework when I was newly hired as an executive at a former employer. The framework enabled me, as a new leader, to quickly learn about the organization and areas we could successfully and swiftly improve that would benefit the organization and its key stakeholders.
The beauty of the Baldrige framework is that it’s not prescriptive. Rather, it’s designed for organizations that are deeply curious and committed to audacious excellence. It contains around 255 questions asking "How" or asking about your processes in key segments: Leadership; Strategy; Customers; Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management; Workforce; Operations; and Results.
The key for leaders who embrace this framework is to create a safe environment so all employees can have honest conversations about salient matters that impact its customers, employees, and key stakeholders. Because if you create that environment while deploying the Baldrige framework, you will be wildly successful.
Also, do not fall into the trap that the Baldrige framework requires additional work or resources, or that it’s accomplished in a single department. Rather, it’s how everyone does their work.
Lastly, the best time to deploy the Baldrige framework is now. Do not wait for the perfect moment as it will not come. Deploy it now. You’ll be glad that you did!
The Baldrige framework is not widely adopted, yet those who’ve embraced it have created sustainable, successful organizations. Research the organizations that have received the Baldrige Award, and you will confirm my statement about sustainability and success.
Then study how they deployed the framework, and determine what their key ingredients were to success. If you summarize what you learned and use that as a platform in your career, you will experience a joyful and productive career.
The Baldrige framework [has inspired me to] pursue excellence, not perfection.
As this is the second time we’ve achieved the award, our perceptions have remained steady through the years. Our commitment to the Baldrige framework and its community remains strong. We’re honored to be a part of it, and we’re totally engaged.
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.