Support of the U.S. military and our Veterans has always been a core value for Americans. And for the nonpartisan Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, when nonprofit organizations became eligible for the Baldrige Award in 2007, military bases, centers, agencies, and other units could receive feedback from trained Baldrige examiners on considerations to continuously improve their services. (VA and other military health care organizations were already eligible through the health care category.) In addition, Baldrige resources have supported the military and Veterans through Baldrige-based programs that have existed at various times at the five armed services branches, such as the Army Communities of Excellence, and within state Baldrige-based programs (the Alliance for Performance Excellence), as well as by the use of nonprescriptive and customizable Baldrige resources by any person or organization. Following are just some examples of how Baldrige has supported our military and Veterans through such endeavors.
Baldrige Award recipient the Veterans Affairs Cooperative Studies Program Clinical Research Pharmacy Coordinating Center is a federal government organization that supports multicenter clinical trials targeting current health issues for America’s veterans. The Center manufactures, packages, stores, labels, distributes, and tracks clinical trial materials (drugs and devices), and monitors patient safety.
According to Dr. Robert Ringer, assistant center director for pharmaceutical management and research, the Center’s work aims to benefit Veterans through clinical research, with the goal of improving health care outcomes that are particularly prevalent in the Veteran population.
“Rigorous clinical trials help us better understand and treat diseases and conditions that disproportionately affect those who served this great nation,” he said. “The culture of our Center is such that we believe we owe it to our Veterans to deliver the highest quality products and services to the research sites we serve. We believe the Baldrige Criteria has the strongest record of measuring and achieving performance excellence. The [Baldrige] model helps us more intensely scrutinize our operations and measure ourselves against organizations that are best in class to keep us focused on performing at the highest level.”
The Center uses the Baldrige Excellence Framework, which includes the Criteria, to help it better understand its own systems and processes, and how to improve linkage and alignment across the organization, said Dr. Ringer; adding, “We observed a significant improvement in customer satisfaction and productivity, as well as higher employee engagement—all of which made the Center more capable of achieving our mission of improving health care outcomes.”
By receiving the Baldrige Award, the Veterans’ program at the Center demonstrated that performance excellence can be achieved in a federal organization. Also, Dr. Ringer said, by measurably improving its systems and processes, the Center was able to demonstrate real value to both Veterans and tax payers. Many improvements were achieved by learning from feedback, which was received after applying at Baldrige-based state, sector, and national levels, as well as participating in Baldrige site visits.
“We carefully reviewed each and every [opportunity for improvement] OFI generated by site visits from examiners from Baldrige, Quality New Mexico, and [The Secretary of Veterans Affairs’ Robert W. Carey Performance Excellence Award]. There are far too many OFIs to list here, but it is safe to say nearly every systematic process was improved in some way by implementing changes based on the OFI report,” he said.
Added Dr. Ringer, “For us, Baldrige principles and performance excellence have become part of our ‘standard procedures.’ We are a leaner, more productive organization—and continually look for ways to improve. [Baldrige] ties directly into our core mission, vision, and values. We believe we have one of the most noble jobs in America—to serve and care for those that served our country.”
Brenda Lopez, program manager for the Army Communities of Excellence (ACOE) who works with the Texas Army National Guard, said during her tenure she has led cross-functional teams in developing and implementing key business processes, leading strategic planning sessions, and establishing a culture for continuous process improvements using the Baldrige framework. “As a military leader and service member for over 16 years, . . . I learned several important key core values such as loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage, and . . . have a special interest in quality and improvement for both personal and professional settings,” said Lopez. Being a lead writer and examiner for the annual Baldrige-based ACOE performance assessment has allowed me to provide feedback for improvement to other National Guard states, she added.
“Throughout this [Baldrige] journey, I have acquired specific knowledge and comprehension in business operations and organizational excellence. My objective is to continue helping improve business operations through effective and systematic processes, and assisting [organizations to] become top-performing and professional models for all,” she said. Lopez says she hopes to become a national Baldrige examiner to expand her analytical skills and knowledge about the different industries using the Baldrige model. "Additionally, becoming a Baldrige examiner will allow me to share best practices within my organization and improve the overall business operations for the Texas Army National Guard,” she added. To read more about how Baldrige resources support the U.S. military and Veterans, here's another story about Baldrige Award recipient U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center. There are also several stories about improved, streamlined performance being demonstrated by ACOE award winners, for example in Ohio and Wisconsin.