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The Official Baldrige Blog

A View from the Top of "Mt. Everest of the Leadership Management World"

graphic depicting Mount Everest

Used with permission


The City of Irving, Texas is only the second U.S. city to date to have earned the prestigious Baldrige Award for performance excellence.

How did the 68-square-mile city in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan area earn this national distinction? Irving's city manager Tommy Gonzalez answered this question recently by first describing the importance of strong leadership, including providing good direction for employees, and maintaining a focus on customers, the workforce, and results:

"[W]e have strong leadership here. We have great servant leaders throughout our executive team. They really are focused on how can we provide the best service [and] how can we listen to our employees and really focus on their efforts. . . . We owe our employees good direction. We owe them good management, good leadership . . .  . And the Baldrige Program,  . . . really speaks to all of that. It speaks to leadership. It speaks to the processes and good management principles. It speaks to results, the customer focus, the workforce focus. . . . [Using the Baldrige Criteria] gives you this direction, and it challenges you to greater heights. And you need to respond and do that."

Gonzalez then compared his city's achievement of the high performance needed to win the Baldrige Award to successfully climbing the world's tallest mountain:

"And so, the way you’re recognized is if you meet those heights, if you climb that mountain. You know, it’s Mt. Everest of the leadership management world."

He also used the mountain-climbing analogy to describe the focus on continuous improvement and alignment between organizational processes and results that are part of using the Baldrige framework:

"So what’s so great about the Malcolm Baldrige Program is that it [has you] talk about . . .  how hard it was to climb. Let’s talk about all of the mishaps you might have had along the way and all the should have, could haves, all the almosts . . . you know, that person could have fallen off the mountain. You can do the same thing, you know, running an organization. . . . Do you remember when we got better at that program? That’s why we got that result. That’s why we got to the top of the mountain."

To learn more about the City of Irving and its journey to excellence, see the profile on the Baldrige Program's website. You can also view a video featuring Irving here.

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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Congratulations for your success on the Baldrige journey.

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