All the flowering trees are budding and the flowering bulbs are coming alive. Living in the Washington, DC area, how can you not love the cherry blossom trees blooming? And they are just about ready to do so. But early April is also an exciting time for me each year in the Baldrige Program. Even before the Baldrige Award ceremony and the Quest for Excellence conference with all the learning and energy the conference has, there is a rite of passage on the weekend preceding the conference.
On April 2nd and 3rd, respectively, the fifth cohort of Baldrige Executive Fellows completes its year and the sixth cohort begins its year. On Saturday (April 2nd), 15 Fellows will be presenting their personal capstone projects, year-long projects of strategic significance to their organizations. Based on history, those of us who mentor and facilitate the Fellows sessions will be wowed! Capstone projects of prior Fellows have led to whole new product lines for their company, international expansion, a total redefinition of an organization's key customers, and new organizational leadership systems. The Fellows will have adopted ideas from their cohort members and incorporated practices they learned from Baldrige Award recipients. We all will have had a year of intense learning (including us facilitators) and will have formed new friendships and professional relationships that will last well beyond the year!
On Sunday (April 3rd), 18 new Fellows will begin their year. They will be introduced to the Baldrige Excellence Builder, will hear from prior Baldrige Award recipients, and will meet current and former Baldrige Executive Fellows.
And all of this happens before the excitement of the 28th annual Quest for Excellence conference even begins. At the conference, we will hear detailed presentations from four organizations who have achieved strategic and operational excellence. The four organizations represent small business (MidwayUSA), education (Charter School of San Diego), health care (CAMC Health System), and nonprofit (Mid-America Transplant) sectors. There will also be presentations by former recipients of the Baldrige Award, and special sessions on new areas of achieving communities of excellence and cybersecurity excellence. I always find the networking opportunities and the informal discussions to be additional sources of new information and a time to reconnect with friends and colleagues, I return from the Fellows' sessions and the Quest conference energized, full of ideas, and challenged to prioritize among the many possibilities.
It was at a Quest for Excellence conference quite a few years ago, that I first learned about the growing potential of social media for business use and customer independence. This new awareness allowed the Baldrige Program to incorporate social media into the Baldrige Criteria as a strategic consideration in the early stages of it being a leading edge strategic advantage for organizations. It is interesting to see such new concepts emerge. Will there be any this year? Attend the conference and see!
I hope to see you at the conference!