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Welcome Remarks at 27th Annual Quest for Excellence® Conference

[As prepared.]

Thank you, Bob. Good morning, and welcome to the 27th Annual Quest for Excellence.

I want to take a moment to thank the Baldrige Foundation for their steadfast support of this remarkable program, as well as our conference sponsors and partners. We could not do this great work without you.

I also want to recognize all the many hundreds of volunteers and staff members in the audience today who have helped review applications, create criteria, select recipients, train examiners, and support the Baldrige Program in so many ways. And thanks to Bob Fangmeyer, in particular, for his outstanding leadership and guidance for the program.

The event last night was wonderful. I have to say, the Baldrige community really knows how to celebrate success.

Afterwards, Deputy Secretary Andrews and I were marveling at the enthusiasm and dedication that is so evident in our 2014 award recipients, as well as in the community as a whole. 

Now, as I look out over this even larger group, it is time to really demonstrate the strength and vitality of the Baldrige process. You might call it the heart and soul of Baldrige.

Beginning now, and for the next two days, we share our stories.

Well before people knew how to write things down, humans have been passing along knowledge and sharing their experiences so that others have a better chance to succeed and thrive.

In much more recent times, say the 1980s, this time for sharing might have been called a quality circle. Today, we recognize it as much broader than that. 

It's really more of a step-by-step, how-do-we-get-from-here-to-there organizational wisdom circle.

And this year, we have four truly outstanding organizations showing us the way and sharing their experiences so that we can get from good to great faster, and with less expense and less trial and error.

So, I'd also like to acknowledge our award recipients for agreeing to share their time, stories, and talents with us: 

  • PricewaterhouseCoopers Public Sector Practice
  • Hill Country Memorial
  • St. David's HealthCare, and 
  • Elevations Credit Union

In two simple words: Thank you. 

As I was participating in the ceremony last night, I was thinking about some similarities that these, our latest inductees to the Baldrige Hall of Fame, have in common. 

We do have two health care organizations from the great state of Texas, but otherwise, these organizations are very different. They vary dramatically in size, in mission, in culture, and in customer base.

Yet, if you look at the qualities that won them this award, you quickly see some common threads. I was personally inspired by three things they achieved through the Baldrige process that have helped them become role models for the rest of us.  

Common threads [are]:

  1. They know how to listen and collaborate.
  2. They measure, adapt, and measure again.
  3. And they clearly care about their employees and their communities. 

Of course, just like all of us, I hear and process the stories of our recipients through my own lens of experience.

I've worked at NIST for more than 40 years. It is an organization I care about deeply, and I'm living my dream job right now. For those of you not familiar with our organization, we are the nation's measurement and technology experts. 

We're part of the Department of Commerce because our work to improve measurement science, standards, and technology very directly spurs innovation and continuous improvement in the products and services produced by the nation's business community. Over the last hundred or so years, support for innovation has proven to be a powerful lever for economic growth.

At first glance, the three themes I attribute to our honorees—collaboration, measurement, and a commitment to caring—don't sound on the surface like a way to build wealth. 

But that's because you have to dig a bit deeper to see the true value of the Baldrige process. 

  • It's not about how much money can be made and how quickly.
  • It's not about the latest cut-throat tactic to beat your competitor in the marketplace.
  • It is about the long-term, and it's about sustainability. 
  • It's about inspiring people to work with you, not against you. 
  • And it's about rigorously examining and re-examining your way of doing things and boldly going wherever the data lead you to improve them.

In short, it's about what organizations like the four whose stories of wisdom we will listen to over the next few days have done to serve their customers, their employees, and their communities. And it's about how doing so has produced the best results and biggest rewards for everyone involved. 

So, without any more fanfare, thanks to everyone for coming and committing to fostering excellence within your own organizations.

And now, let the sharing begin.

Created May 13, 2015, Updated December 29, 2016