Four years ago, Elevations Credit Union (ECU) became the first nonprofit financial services organization to win a Baldrige Award. According to ECU Senior Vice President of Analytics & Innovation Pete Reicks, the Boulder, CO-based, organization began its “journey to align and integrate the organization to the Baldrige Excellence Framework” in 2009.
“The journey has not been easy—nothing of excellence ever is,” said Reicks recently. Such a quest “rarely follows straight lines and requires everyone to participate. But it is nothing short of culture-changing, in an amazing and rewarding way.”
At the Baldrige Program’s annual Quest for Excellence® Conference in April, Reicks will present in detail how ECU has used the Baldrige Excellence Framework (which includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence) to surmount challenges and achieve strong performance results year over year. In our latest exchange (shared below), Reicks discussed the upcoming presentation and his thoughts and tips for other organizations on using the Baldrige framework.
Please briefly describe what attendees will learn at your upcoming conference session.
The presentation shares the story of our Baldrige journey and the learning acquired along the way, which I hope will be useful to others who are on their own journey. Our learning is shared through three key themes: Head, Gut, and Heart. The Baldrige journey was definitely intellectually (Head) challenging as we evaluated our answers to the Criteria questions through the power of the framework using ADLI [approach, deployment, learning, and integration—the Baldrige process evaluation factors] and LeTCI [levels, trends, comparisons, and integration—the Baldrige results evaluation factors].
Our sense of what’s truly possible and how we could realistically pursue it (Gut) was consistently challenged as the organization progressed through the annual [Baldrige Award] application, examination, and review of our strengths and OFI [opportunities for improvement] feedback. Most important, our purpose, commitment, and energy (Heart) were reaffirmed as our workforce, members, and stakeholders realized the value brought from the journey.
What are some examples of how your organization has benefitted from your ongoing journey?
What are your top tips for introducing or sustaining use of the Baldrige framework to promote an organization’s success?
What do you view as key reasons or ways that organizations in your sector can benefit from using the Baldrige framework?
The key reason is to achieve sustained performance excellence. This results from focused, mission-driven individuals operating as a team, using aligned and integrated work processes to create ever-increasing value for customers (as measured through the balance of several lenses) to achieve a meaningful organizational vision.
What is your “elevator pitch” about the Baldrige framework and organizational assessment approach? In other words, what would you say to a group of senior leaders in your sector who are unfamiliar with the Baldrige framework if you had 1-2 minutes to tell them something about it?
I would say, “The Baldrige Criteria are the questions the best organizations are not only asking themselves, but also are purposefully answering with rigor, consistency, outside scrutiny, and an eye for innovation.”
Similarly, what would you say to a group of college business students about the Baldrige framework?
College exposes you to a wealth of understanding and demonstrates your competency in a domain of knowledge via your chosen degree. The Baldrige framework and examination process provides the vehicle by which all the hard skills (domain knowledge) and soft skills (human and organizational behavior) come together. While many have been exposed to a capstone simulation in a master’s degree of business administration (MBA) program of studies, the realities of working within an organization assigned to a department or function often don’t translate well. But Baldrige helps bring the capstone simulation to reality for everyone within an organization, bringing both the zoom-out macro-level understanding of decisions’ causes and effects as well as the daily zoom-in optimization of the individual pieces of the whole.
When did you first hear about the Baldrige framework? What were your initial thoughts or “aha” moments as you began learning about it?
In 2008, our CEO asked us to start evaluating whether to use the Baldrige framework. Initially, I thought it was another tool to be compared to others such as Lean Six Sigma. Gradually, I realized it was the toolbox by which all other tools are aligned and integrated in their use and evaluation.
How did you and your colleagues first react or feel after learning your organization would receive the Baldrige Award?
We were honored, yet felt very humble. Winning the Baldrige Award brings a clear understanding about how much opportunity for improvement still exists and is actually possible. We are proud of what we accomplished, yet keenly aware of how much more we need, want, and are eager to do to improve our organization.
How has your perception of the Baldrige community changed since your organization became a Baldrige Award recipient?
We have gained a greater appreciation for how earnest those in the Baldrige community are. Those who find their way to and stick with this kind of journey do it because they are purpose-driven and seek to create value that is both meaningful and lasting for the good of the people they serve.
BALTIMORE | April 8–11, 2018
Join us for the 30th Anniversary Quest for Excellence Conference showcasing the best practices of the 2017 Baldrige Award recipients!
Sunday, April 8
Join us Sunday evening for the Award Ceremony and Dinner honoring the 2017 recipients.