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The Official Baldrige Blog

Ten Reasons Small Businesses Benefit from the Baldrige Criteria, Part III

Note: As the third in a three-part series, this blog continues the examples of how small businesses are benefiting from using the Baldrige Criteria. See part I and part II.

Prioritization of Improvements

The small number of paid staff members at the Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter in Louisiana have used the Baldrige Criteria to literally save lives. Shelter director Robin Beaulieu, who was introduced to the Baldrige Criteria by a local MBA class, worked with students to improve the process of selecting homeless dogs for euthanasia, a project the shelter prioritized by using the Criteria to focus on its purpose, mission, vision, and values.

According to Beaulieu, “the Baldrige Criteria have provided a foundation to build a sense of purpose and method of questioning ourselves and reflecting on how to improve our performance and save lives,” she said. “As a municipal shelter, we are challenged and are a reflection of the community. We are never satisfied with our performance, but we are systematically improving, and the numbers have shown how much we have improved.”

From 2010 to 2013, the shelter’s two key measures—euthanasia and adoption rates—have significantly improved: euthanasia reduced by 67% and adoptions increased by 75%.

“I urge other small businesses to learn the value of using the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence,” said Milrany. “Freese and Nichols uses the framework to better understand where to focus our continued efforts to improve our services for the benefit of clients.”

Milrany said that many of Freese and Nichols’ clients are municipalities interested in Baldrige. She tells them, “It isn’t the award . . . the journey is what’s important.” She advises organizations to identify the areas of their operations that need improvement using Baldrige self-assessments such as Are We Making Progress? and easyInsight: Take a First Step toward a Baldrige Self-Assessment. She suggests “work on those a little at a time so that Baldrige is not a big daunting thing. Use the self-assessments to see where your gaps are. That’s a good indicator of where to start.”

For Shapiro, the Are We Making Progress? survey proved the easiest way to begin and quickly identify areas to improve. She gave the survey to her staff members to learn how they thought the organization was doing.

“Using the results from that questionnaire gave us guidance on what we needed to do to make things better,” she said. “It was very clear once we got results that the animal hospitals [within the practice] had different problem areas to focus on.”

Writing an Organizational Profile also proved an obvious place to begin for the veterinarian. "When I started writing the Organizational Profile, it started to make things much easier. . . . [It] helped me identify who I am. I never really verbalized it. When I know what we want, it makes it really easy to figure out solutions to problems."

Added Shapiro, “Everything we’ve done [with the Baldrige Criteria] has made our organization a happier place to work. We’ve identified what’s really important to us,” added Shapiro. “The little bit I have done has given me so much clarity. . . . [Baldrige] has already helped us so much. . . .  I’m inspired by it.”

Measurement of Data

The Synergy Organization uses the Baldrige Criteria to help it better understand those things that matter most to its business success and know what to do about them, in a nonprescriptive way, said Cohen. Using measurements, as outlined in Criteria category 7, “helps me to know how we’re making progress on the things that make the most sense. And helps me to connect the dots and to understand how these seemingly disconnected elements are interdependent, helping us to do the right things right the first time,” he added.

Freese and Nichols uses the Criteria to help it sustain a balanced approach for customers, stakeholders, and employees. According to Milrany, balanced scorecards are used to measure financial sustainability, the commitment to clients, the commitment to technical excellence, and the commitment to employees.

“A sustainable organization can’t just focus on one of these,” she said. In her former local county government position, Douglas said, “The Baldrige Criteria sustained us through some tough times. Data collection is big, and if you’re not collecting data quickly and analyzing and making needed changes, then you are dead in the water. I am a believer [in the Baldrige Criteria. They] help through thin times and fat times as well.”

When people get into the Criteria, she added, they start thinking not just about individual projects, but also about how to grow revenue.

Development of Leadership Skills

An unintended consequence for small businesses being mentored in Virginia was a change in leaders’ mindsets, said Garfield. One small business president said “a key learning for him was that he’d been managing his business instead of leading it.” Garfield said the leader realized he wanted to align the business with his vision “in a way he might not have done if he didn’t participate [in learning the Criteria]. He learned that creating an environment for lifelong personal and organizational learning was part of his goal.”

Dr. Shapiro added, “Even though I am very early in [learning the Criteria] process, I have found it to be very inspirational. It has already created positive change in my organization, changed my leadership style and skills, and has even changed how I communicate with pet owners—I'm sharing with them who we are, what sets us apart, what our culture is about, and how this positively effects care. For the first time since owning a business, I feel confident in making decisions.”

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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