Every fall and every spring, Baldrige Award recipients openly share their best practices with other organizations that want to improve their performance. This sharing and learning happens at two regional conferences in September and at the annual Quest for Excellence® Conference in April. For the benefit of those who missed those events last September and this April, below are five sets of tips shared by Baldrige conference presenters over the past year.
How to Adopt the Baldrige Framework for Long-Term Use
The following tips are based on a blog interview of Joseph (Joe) Brescia, director for strategic management and process improvement; and James (Jim) Caiazzo, team leader for the Office of Strategic Management, at U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), a 2007 Baldrige Award winner in the nonprofit sector.
1. Establish a sense of urgency. The Baldrige Excellence Framework is a vehicle for establishing and maintaining transformational change in your organization. The responsibility of great leaders is to align the mission, vision, and values within the organization. Paint the vision of what change looks like and how the Baldrige framework gets you there.
2. Use the Baldrige Criteria to provide a common language across your organization to discuss improvement so that everyone is using the same vernacular.
3. Make sure you focus on results. In other words, the way to institutionalize the Baldrige framework is to actually use it to manage the business. That comes down to establishing a formal venue for senior leadership to review results and make changes as required. This way, when you have changes in leadership, with the venue institutionalized, it doesn’t live and die with the leadership that started it.
How to Use the Baldrige Framework to Drive Your Desired Results
The following tips are based on a blog interview of Jayne E. Pope, CEO of Hill Country Memorial (HCM), a 2014 Baldrige Award winner in the health care sector.
1. Align and integrate processes within the workforce. Align all processes and the workforce to achieve strategic goals, with all processes supporting this alignment and integration. For example, when refining the workforce performance system, HCM asked how the redesign could integrate the system with the organization’s strategic plan. The organization developed quarterly coaching plans and an annual performance appraisal that aligns individual goals with strategic goals.
2. Streamline processes and make them as easy to use and understand as possible. For example, HCM wants individuals to be experts at their jobs but doesn’t expect them to be performance improvement experts, so it developed easy-to-use worksheets that walk employees through process design and the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) methodology. Having such user-friendly tools allows every member of the workforce to be involved in performance improvement.
3. To achieve strategic results, identify key action plans and monitor progress. Just having goals is not enough; develop robust action planning and monitor processes. For example, through HCM’s Strategic Breakthrough Initiative process, executives identify those key short-term action plans that will move the organization toward achievement of its strategic goals. These are 90-day action plans, and the team reports out progress on a weekly basis to the executives. This weekly report-out supports accountability and ensures that team members have the support and resources needed to achieve their goals.
How to Get Started with Baldrige-Based Organizational Improvement
The following tips are based on a blog interview of Pete Reicks, senior vice president of performance excellence at Elevations Credit Union, a 2014 Baldrige Award winner in the nonprofit sector.
1. Embrace the journey, make the investment, and leave a legacy. You owe it to yourself, your workforce, your customers/students/patients, and your community. The hardest step is setting the goal. You have to commit. The journey is an investment. Just get started, regardless of the reasons to delay. The only better decision is to have started sooner.
2. Use the power of the Baldrige framework and the magic of ADLI and LeTCI to affirm your Why (your organization’s mission and purpose). Become systematic in your How (approaches) and appreciate the Who, What, and When (deployment) occurring within an interdependent system (alignment and integration). Meaningful measurement (levels, trends, comparisons) of (aligned and integrated) results (operations, customers, workforce, leadership, and financial/market performance) drive accelerated cycles of applied learning.
3. Make it FUN (really)! Celebrate! Make reaching for your goals fun. Have many carrots and few sticks. While gains may be slow at first, committed, talented, passionate people will be attracted to your organization as they see movement towards excellence. They will want to be part of it, to contribute and to attain excellence not only for today, but in an environment built to sustain excellence for generations to come. The Baldrige journey exposes talent, accelerates development, and is a magnet for others.
4. Ensure an operational rhythm. Bring rigor and purpose to your organizational forums and meetings. Get to a point where your staff can discuss their work with the same fluency with which they dissect their sports team the day after a game. If the water-cooler or happy-hour conversations at the local watering hole are more honest than those in your meetings, you’re not being effective. Measure your performance. How are you doing relative to leaders within and innovators outside your industry? Get comfortable with truthful conversations. Set emotion aside and find ways to work smarter, collaboratively.
5. Recognize that the path of a Baldrige journey is not a straight line. Realize you’ll take some spills. Learn from them and move forward. Guard against “change fatigue.” Be smart about change. Evaluate new ideas by reconciling them against your core values and strategic plan. Know the difference between good and great. Sometimes you need an outside view. Bring in someone unencumbered by the internal organizational dynamics who can coach you through blind spots as well as affirm your organization’s strengths.
6. Embrace what’s “simple smart” (after you’ve made the “simple easy” improvements). Simplistic solutions quickly applied to complex problems temporarily address symptoms yet are ultimately rendered ineffective by unaddressed root causes. Fortunately, the answer is often not fighting complexity with complexity. A simple-smart approach requires an appreciation for the hard work necessary to get under the hood, correctly diagnose root cause, and assess the trade-offs presented by potential solutions.
How to Create a Strong Measurement System for Your Organization
The following tips are based on a blog interview of Fonda Vera, associate vice president of planning, research, effectiveness, and development; and Bao Huynh, director of institutional effectiveness, at Richland College, a 2005 Baldrige Award winner in the education sector.
1. Begin with your mission, vision, and values in mind. Be sure to measure what you value.
2. Identify key performance indicators and measures that will yield actionable data (i.e. why are you measuring this?).
3. Be sure you are selecting important measures for your organization. Just because you can measure something doesn’t make it important.
4. Commit to your measurement system for a year; then evaluate and revise it as appropriate.
5. Use your results to create the next iteration of your strategic plan.
How to Manage Your Organization’s Key Processes to Achieve Excellence and Innovation
The following tips are based on a blog interview of JoAnn Sternke, superintendent of Pewaukee School District, a 2013 Baldrige Award winner in the education sector.
1. Identify a process owner as the “go to” for this process, and have this person document the process so there is a collective understanding of the process throughout your organization.
2. Know what’s key and measure this.
3. Have a systematic review of the process. Remember the “S” and the “A” in Plan–Do–Study–Act improvement methodology. Don’t become so busy doing the process that you don’t evaluate it or refine it.
4. Realize that your organization can ensure innovation through a systematic process, rather than “light bulb moments.” The quest to offer greater value to stakeholders drives both process improvement and innovation.
For more tips and best practices from Baldrige Award recipients of recent years, attend the presentations of these role-model organizations at the annual Baldrige Quest of Excellence® or Fall conferences.