How a Role-Model Nonprofit Nurtures Employee Performance

By Christine Schaefer

If you want to foster talent and ultimately grow leaders in your organization, “culture is key.” That’s what you can learn from Baldrige Award-winning Elevations Credit Union. And that was a core message of the organization’s chief operating officer Jay Champion and chief human resources officer Annette Matthies as they recently shared best practices to support, engage, and develop employees during the Baldrige Program’s annual Quest for Excellence® conference.

Elevations Credit Union Leaders Share Workforce Practices at the Baldrige Program’s 27th Annual Quest for Excellence Conference.

Elevations Credit Union Leaders Share Workforce Practices at the Baldrige Program’s 27th Quest for Excellence Conference.

The Boulder, Colorado-based nonprofit started out in 1952 as a small credit union on the campus of Colorado University. Today it has 332 employees and serves more than 106,000 customers at 11 branches. Yet an employee interviewed on video said the organization “still feels small” due to its cohesive culture.

Using skier skill levels as an analogy, Champion and Matthies defined the credit union’s performance levels for workforce-focused practices as follows:

  1. Beginner: Invigorating our culture
  2. Intermediate: Differentiating through training
  3. Advanced: Nurturing talent
  4. Expert: Growing leaders

Beginner Level: Invigorating the Culture

After Elevations embraced the Baldrige Excellence Framework to improve its performance several years ago, the organizational culture was an initial focus area. Elevations already had defined its mission, vision, and values when it began using the Baldrige framework, explained Matthies. But those foundational elements of culture were not well-known by employees, she said. “I couldn’t tell you what the values were back in 2009,” she admitted.

Integrity. Respect. Passionate. Creativity. Driven by Excellence. Today it would be difficult, if not impossible, for Elevations employees not to be familiar with those core values. They are printed on employees’ badges, visible on employees’ computer screen savers, incorporated into new-employee orientation, and used during the hiring process as a screen for job applicants’ “fit” with the organizational culture, said Champion. What’s more, 25 percent of employees’ performance evaluation is based on their adherence to the organization’s core values.

The core values matter so much that the organization has let some employees go for not adhering to them, said Champion. “When you do that,” he pointed out, “you show what’s important.”

At the same time, having fun and volunteering in the community are supported by the organization’s vision. That vision includes the statements “We are known for the good work we do in the community,” and “We are sought out as THE preferred employer.”

“We take our fun seriously,” said Champion, adding that Elevations has found that this “drives results” in the areas of both employee and customer engagement. Having fun at work improves employees’ engagement, which leads to greater customer loyalty, he said.

Because “volunteering is a big part of who we are,” according to Matthies, every Elevations employee gets two paid days off from work to volunteer in the community. Last year alone, Elevations employees performed 4,000 hours of community service. Champion said this has been a draw for millennial-age employees.

Intermediate Level: Differentiating through Training

Results for annual employee surveys in 2011 and 2012 showed that Elevations needed a better staff training program. According to Champion, the training overhaul that followed was “the equivalent of a heart transplant.” The result is a month-long training program with a “Mock Branch 2.0” simulated work environment for new hires. At the end of each training week, a live assessment is conducted to measure participants’ learning.

“We invest four whole working weeks in every employee’s training,” stressed Champion. And “it wasn’t cheap,” said Matthies of the $400,000 Elevations invested to build the intensive onboarding program. But training improvements confirmed by “hard data” show the return on the organization’s investment, she affirmed.

Advanced and Expert Levels: Nurturing Talent and Growing Leaders

Elevations supports employees’ ongoing development by investing in their professional certifications and providing individual coaching for both performance improvement and career development. “Millennials love this,” said Matthies. “They want more frequent feedback than older employees [want].”

The current improvement focus, she said, is to ensure that all employees feel that their supervisors take an interest in helping them advance their careers. “We’re going to hold supervisors accountable to having development conversations,” she said.

To advance performance in what Champion referred to as the “final skiing lesson,” the objective of Elevations’ practices to develop employees is “growing leaders.” Reflecting the organization’s Employee Value Proposition (see graphic), the focus is on “building careers, not just jobs,” he said.

The Employee Value Proposition of Elevations Credit Union, 2014 Baldrige Award Recipient

The Employee Value Proposition of Elevations Credit Union, 2014 Baldrige Award Recipient


Posted in Baldrige Award Recipients, Nonprofit, Uncategorized, Workforce Focus | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Collins on Baldrige as a SMAC Recipe, Discipline, Creativity, and Paranoia

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

Author Jim Collins who operates a management laboratory in Boulder, Co, where he conducts, research, teaches, and consults with executives from the corporate and social sectors

Author Jim Collins operates a management laboratory in Boulder, Co., where he conducts, researches, teaches, and consults with executives from the corporate and social sectors.

Last week, Jim Collins, an author who has sold more than 10 million book copies worldwide, was a featured guest on the radio show “Performance Excellence USA.” Co-hosts Julia Gabaldon, president/CEO of Quality New Mexico, and Steve Keene, partner in charge, Moss Adams LLC, and chair-elect for Quality New Mexico, asked Collins how his findings have changed over time, about the importance of discipline and agility, and how great leaders make decisions in chaotic times. They also explored Collins’s take on how the Baldrige Excellence Framework is a “SMAC” recipe: a specific, methodical, and consistent leadership approach.

Following are highlights of the conversation:

Going back to your book Good to Great, what would be different today about your findings and conclusions?

Twenty-five years ago, I asked what separates a great enterprise from a mediocre one, and the principles then have not changed much today. What makes a great enterprise tick are the enduring principles of the hedgehog concept, level-5 leadership, first getting the right people on the bus, a culture of discipline, confrontation of the brutal facts, and the building of momentum. What I feel really, deeply passionate about is the idea that in a world of tremendous change, we really need some principles that we can build upon.

Discipline is a common theme in your research. You have been quoted as saying, “I see the Baldrige process as a powerful set of mechanisms for disciplined people engaged in disciplined thought and taking disciplined action to create great organizations that produce exceptional results.” Can you elaborate on that?

The blend of being able to put creativity and discipline together really distinguishes any kind of outstanding enterprise. Think of it as you have disciplined people who engage in disciplined thought and take disciplined action. When you stand back and examine how somebody really begins to build momentum, that’s what they’re doing. The interesting thing about building a culture of discipline is the idea that in the end almost fanatic levels of discipline—but not rigidity—doing the things that produce the best results with great rigor—separate excellent-from-mediocre enterprises.

If I do something a little bit better consistently over a very long period of time, it compounds to a gigantic result, like pushing a fly wheel. You start pushing in an intelligent and consistent direction, and after a lot of effort, you finally get a big, giant, creaky turn, but the discipline then comes. You build more and more momentum, and then you get this great, powerful, cumulative effect of the fly wheel, but to say, “Oh that’s too hard, we need a new fly wheel,” that’s a lack of discipline. The real discipline comes in the compounding effect.

One of the things that always struck me about the Baldrige process is it’s a way of institutionalizing a culture of discipline. It’s entirely the antithesis of what’s dysfunctional with disciplinarians: geniuses with a thousand helpers who personally discipline people. We’re talking about making an entire cultural ethos where everyone is engaged in a systematic, methodical, consistent approach to making things work better day upon day, week upon week, year upon year, over a long period of time.

You have written, “Scale innovation to blend creativity with discipline.” Tell us more.

We wanted to research the role that innovation plays in helping enterprises and companies become big winners in environments that are full of chaos and change. Innovation is definitely important, but it’s kind of a threshold item. What we really found that is more important is the ability to scale innovation based upon an empirical assessment of what works, or what we call fire bullets and fire cannon balls. Essentially think of it as you have a ship bearing down on you. One approach would be to take all of your gun powder, put it in a big cannon ball, and fire it at the attacking ship, hoping it hits, but then it misses. You’re out of gun powder and in trouble. But you could take a different approach, which is to put a little bit of gun powder into a bullet, and fire it at that ship. It misses, but it takes the right direction, so you take another little bit of gun powder and fire closer. Now you hit the side of the ship. You know that if you put all of your resources into the next cannon ball, it’s going to hit because you calibrated it; you have empirical validation. What we found is that the companies that don’t do well either don’t fire enough bullets to discover what will work to hedge against uncertainty, fire big uncalibrated cannon balls that splash in the ocean and leave them exposed, or fail to convert an empirically validated bullet into a big giant cannon ball. When you take a small innovation that worked and scale it into something really big, that is what distinguishes the really great success stories.

In chaotic times, what turns the odds in a leader’s favor?

A triad of behaviors are used by great business leaders: fanatic discipline, empirical creativity, and productive paranoia.

Fanatic discipline is the notion of a leader taking a 20-mile march, whether conditions are good or bad, as long as progress is being made. This leader exhibits self-control in a world that is out of control, and therefore he/she will be the master of his/her own results. The great irony is the more the world is out of control, the more you need to be within self-control.

Empirical creativity is betting on something innovative but making sure that it is empirically validated so you don’t leave yourself exposed if it doesn’t work.

Productive paranoia is about learning from mistakes but understanding that the only mistakes you can learn from are the ones you survive. What we found is that as the world becomes more chaotic and uncertain, you can find yourself exposed. The leaders who do very well in these environments, particularly entrepreneurial leaders, have what we call productive paranoia. If you’re a productive paranoid, you say I feel very fortunate that my glass is full—not half full—but I’m aware that it could change at any moment, so I better be prepared. These leaders carry three-to-ten times the normal amount of cash to assets—just in case things go bad. This means always staying away from the risks that could kill you when you’re going to go do great, big, dangerous, creative, adventurous things; you’re going to do those things but in a way that you are guaranteed to survive the bad luck events along the way that could knock you out of the game.

When you put these three habits together, you get the kind of leadership behaviors that distinguish people that do exceptionally well in chaotic environments.

What is your advice on handling large amounts of change and the speed of that change?

Leaders should get a recipe that works, and once you have a recipe that works, you don’t want to throw that recipe out every two years; you want to evolve that recipe. This is analogous to the U.S. Constitution. You wouldn’t have wanted the founders to have written a constitution that needs to be thrown out and rewritten every 10 years. The whole idea is that you need to have very disciplined evolution of your constitution, and that’s where the founders came up with the amendment mechanism. We have found that the great company builders thought the same way: I’m going to build a culture on a set of values that work, but I have to allow them to evolve, and I’m going to do that through a disciplined evolution rather than just a reaction to the current fads.

A “SMAC” recipe is specific, methodical, and consistent just like the Baldrige process.

Regarding the speed of decision making, we asked whether the people who decide faster and act faster always win, and the answer is no. There is that old saying that you are either the quick or the dead, but sometimes, the quick are the dead. The question is not fast or slow. The question is how much time do you have before your risk profile changes. If I’m sitting on the side of a hill and there is a forest fire, I better move fast because my risk profile is changing by the minute. Or let’s suppose you have a slow-developing disease where there may be a lot of different kinds of treatments to consider. First thing you might ask is, “How much time do I have until my risk profile changes?” Take that time to go through a very disciplined analysis to determine what would be the best course of treatment.

Approaches, like the Baldrige framework, help organizations get better, and the concept of agility is paramount. Can you elaborate on the importance of agility?

One thing that we know for certain is that the signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change. Now if you don’t change, don’t have an ability to have an agile response to the changes in your world, you will become irrelevant. But the true signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency. It’s when you have no sense of a recipe, no sense of a disciplined adherence to an approach that you then apply with great imagination.

There are two sides of a coin: on the one side is the fanatic discipline to really, really follow a recipe. A successful coach may evolve a winning program by improving based on the people involved and being very agile. The flip side of the coin involves luck. What we found through research is that luck doesn’t make great winners by itself, but what does contribute mightily is getting a high return on luck. When an unexpected luck event happens, your ability to recognize it, zoom out, make an adjustment, and then zoom back in and aggressively implement it, is how you get a higher return on luck. The question isn’t whether we’re going to get luck in life, it’s what you do with the luck. That incredible attention to a SMAC recipe with an ability to adjust and get a high return on unexpected luck; that combination is what separates those who end up being ten times better than others.

Listen to the entire 40-minute conversation with Collins from the radio show Performance Excellence USA:


Posted in Baldrige Award Process, Baldrige Criteria, Business, Leadership, Performance Results, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Insights from Leaders of 2014 Baldrige Award Recipients (Part 2)

Read the first part of this series that features 2014 Baldrige Award recipients PricewaterhouseCoopers Public Sector Practice and St. David’s HealthCare.

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

Photo of leaders of 2014 Baldrige Award recipients and the U.S. Color Guard from Baldrige Award Ceremony on April 12, 2015

Leaders of 2014 Baldrige Award recipients and Commerce Department Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews watch the procession of the United States Joint Service Color Guard at the Baldrige Award Ceremony on Sunday, April 12, 2015

Award recipients during the leadership plenary of the Baldrige Program’s Quest for Excellence® Conference this week. Following are detailed highlights from those leadership presentations.

Jayne Pope, CEO, Hill Country Memorial Hospital

There is a tourist attraction just north of town—a large granite formation called Enchanted Rock. According to Jayne Pope, CEO of 2014 Baldrige Award winner Hill Country Memorial, that rock represents the history of the nonprofit, rural hospital in the hill country of Texas and its climb to serve its community, getting better and better year after year.

“Any one of you who has made a climb knows that some of the most beautiful vistas are along the way,” she said. “We at Hill County Memorial have been able to turn, and we have seen some beautiful sights, some wonderful accomplishments. Yet, we can’t linger, because we know as leaders, the real work is what lies ahead. . . .  Once you have committed to a climb . . . you are obligated to find the best, safest, most efficient road to the top. . . . We have integrated the Baldrige Criteria to help us get through our climb.”

Pope said the independent, non-tax-supported hospital is the economic and civic backbone of its communities. Opened in 1971, community members literally collected coins in mason jars to start the hospital, with over 90 percent participating in the fund drive.

Hill Country continues today as a center for caring and compassion, with every workforce member appreciating its “legacy of trust” with the community and demonstrating very impressive results:

  • distinction as a 100-top U.S. hospital four years in a row, five times in its history
  • number one in the nation for patient satisfaction
  • physician and employee satisfaction in the top decile

Said Pope, “The Baldrige Criteria are what has propelled these results.”

The hospital answered its community obligation not by thinking small but with “a powerful promise,” she said. Adopting the “proactive, innovative attitude of [its] founders,” the hospital redefined its mission in two words: “Remarkable Always,” with “remarkable” defined as performing in the top decile in America—and that’s across all hospitals, large and small, urban and rural, every hospital industry standard.

Hill Country also lives by a motto, “keep it simple and remember what we are here for”: an aspirational and brief vision (“Empower others. Create healthy.”) and a measurable and clear mission.

“Before we engaged with the Baldrige Criteria, we thought that we wanted to be the best community hospital anywhere,” Pope said. “And then we started to use the Baldrige Criteria, and we started to dream bigger. We thought about being the best hospital in the nation.”

Pope shared leadership lessons that Hill Country has learned:

  • Developing services tailored for its “independent-natured” community in and outside the hospital, with services such as hospice, home health, a farmer’s market for healthy choices, community industries for free health screenings, and a wellness center.
  • Creating core competencies that differentiate the hospital in its industry and market and really living those competencies.
  • Building relationships with patients and staff. Pope said the role of a leader is to remove obstacles for team members so that they can go above and beyond to serve patients; “It’s my job as a leader to serve the people who serve the people.”
  • Integrating the values into everything that we do. Pope said patients know when staff are living the values, as evidenced through strong customer engagement results. As CEO, Pope personally screens physicians to ensure that their personal values align with the hospital’s values, and all team members are coached to ensure their work aligns with the values. “Not a day goes by at Hill Country Memorial when you will not hear, ‘How does that fit with our values?'” she said.
  • Being accountable to the mission. Pope defined the core competency of “execution” as really living the mission; setting a big picture goal, determining how to measure it, and monitoring it along the way. “As leaders, we believe we have the accountability to build a culture that we’re all on the same page, . . . so that’s we’re able to be working in sync.”
  • Being transparent. Pope said leaders share the desire to always get better for the sake of others. In a changing market, this is done by holding leaders accountable and ensuring transparency with the board, community,  physicians, and workforce. “The leadership system is about doing right,” she said.

In 2007, Pope said the hospital looked at where it performed against other top hospitals. “We weren’t great,” she said. “We recognized that we needed a framework to help get us to the top, so we chose the Baldrige framework. . . . Year after year after year, we got better, until now we’re in the top 1 percent in the nation.”

In regards to the climb to always get better, Pope said, “We’re not perfect. We’re not at the summit. We have opportunities to learn. . . . .We can’t linger, our real work is ahead.”

Gerry Agnes, CEO, Elevations Credit Union

In 1953, 12 individuals at the University of Colorado contributed about $50 to a cash box; individuals making deposits at 2014 Baldrige Award winner Elevations Credit Union now number about 108,000.

Defining a credit union as a nonprofit, financial cooperative, CEO Gerry Agnes said the community-based organization may be small but competes with some of the largest financial organizations in the world. That was one thing he said he learned from Baldrige: identify who you benchmark/compete against. Credit unions have about 6% of the market, but that does not mean they can’t compete “mightily,” he said.

Agnes shared lessons he’s learned from leading the credit union on its Baldrige quality journey, which started in 2008 with the question, “Just how good are we?”

Of course, the year was 2008, the midst of the financial crisis. Although one in four residents in Elevation’s primary market was a member of the credit union, capital wasn’t growing nearly as quickly as it was for competitors, neither was there significant growth for the credit union in members or assets.

“Many people were asking us why would you spend financial capital and human resources to undertake [the challenge of adopting the Baldrige framework] in the middle of a crisis. And we thought to ourselves, we’re really at a fork in the road,” Agnes said. “If we take the wrong fork, we might end up in mediocrity. . . . We wanted to make sure we understood who we are, where we’re going, and how we are going to get there.”

Agnes shared some of his leadership lessons:

  • Build your foundation with the core values and vision; ask how are you going to get there?
  • Make adopting the Baldrige framework about a journey to excellence not winning the award.
  • Create a safe environment to be honest. Citing the line “you can’t handle the truth” from the movie A Few Good Men, Agnes said he was reminded that “in organizations, truth is often really hard to handle. . . . If I had one goal to measure my success, it would be, have I created an environment with my team that is safe, where we can have brutally honest conversations about salient matters that will benefit our members, our employees, our community.”
  • Get input and buy-in from all employees and the board of directors. “At the end of the day, employees want to be seen, heard, and valued,” he said. “People were starting to see that we valued their input and actually took action on it. They realized it was safe to ask [difficult] questions. That enabled us to persevere.”
  • Acknowledge the “pain curve.” Agnes said the credit union thought it was doing pretty well, but then employees really started looking at the data and realized they may not be doing as well as they thought. “It’s quite remarkable that over time our perceptions and reality got closer and closer,” he said.
  • Celebrate victories, large and small. “Relish every one of them,” Agnes said. “Because if you celebrate with your team, you rejuvenate their spirits and keep that momentum going.”
  •  Actively plan. Agnes said Elevations is very proud of its “operational rhythm,” which includes actively managing its strategic plan: “Our plan is not something that sits back and collects dust.”

With honest conversations and a culture permeated by continuous improvement, Agnes said Elevation’s quality journey got some momentum, and the results were clear. By 2014, Elevations had seen 2 to 1 growth in capital, 6 to 1 growth in membership, and 2 to 1 growth in assets. This “stark contrast of results stemmed from the Baldrige framework,” he said.

Member-centricity was our winning strategy, with fully engaged employees and a very loyal member base, Agnes said; the “financial results are the byproduct of employees serving our members and doing a great job.” He added, “My job as CEO is to turn this organization over to the next CEO in better shape than it is today, and through the Baldrige framework, we [will be] able to do that.”

Posted in Baldrige Award Process, Baldrige Award Recipients, Baldrige Criteria, Business, Customer Focus, Health Care, Leadership, Nonprofit, Performance Results, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sustainability Hits Top Five CEO Challenges

Posted by Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon

sustainable environmentIn the recently released Conference Board Report, CEO Challenge 2015, sustainability was listed among the top five challenges for the first time. Although it was in the top five, there were regional differences, between the U.S. at challenge number 10 and China and India at 3 and 4, respectively.

According to the United Nations, “Sustainability calls for a decent standard of living for everyone today without compromising the needs of future generations.” According to the Conference Board, CEO priorities in the sustainability arena include developing socially/environmentally conscious products and having sustainability as part of their business’ brand identity.

Baldrige treats sustainability as a holistic concept related to overall societal responsibilities. I encourage all organizations to take this holistic approach. Examples mentioned in the Criteria for Performance Excellence include: reducing your carbon footprint, resource conservation, use of renewable energy sources and recycled water, increased use of audio and video-conferencing to conserve multiple resources, use of enlightened labor practices, strengthening local community services (including education, health care, and emergency preparedness), and improving practices of your trade or business associations.

Societal responsibility is one of the  Core Values and Concepts that are embedded in the Criteria and form the basis for them. Societal responsibility starts with an organization’s leaders being role models for and stressing the organization’s commitment to societal well-being. To be a role model organization, leadership also entails influencing other organizations, private and public, to partner for these purposes. And finally, managing societal responsibilities means your organization uses appropriate measures of success and that your leaders take responsibility for those measures.

How does your organization perform in the big picture of societal responsibilities and sustainability?

Posted in Baldrige Criteria, Business, Leadership, Operations Focus | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Insights from Leaders of 2014 Baldrige Award Winners (Part 1)

Posted by Christine Schaefer

“If we’re not getting better faster than our competitors, then we’re losing ground.” (Scott McIntyre, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Public Sector Practice [PSP] US Leader)

“Values are really the culture of our organization.” (David Huffstutler, St. David’s HealthCare President and Chief Executive Officer)

“How we live [our organization’s core competencies] differentiates us in our industry and in our market.” (Jayne E. Pope, Hill Country Memorial Chief Executive Officer)

“To make progress … we had to get to the source of truth. My measure of my own success as a leader: “Have I created a safe environment for my team to handle the truth?” (Gerry Agnes, Elevations Credit Union Chief Executive Officer)

Those are some of the insights and lessons shared by senior leaders of the 2014 Baldrige

Photo of leaders of 2014 Baldrige Award recipients and the U.S. Color Guard from Baldrige Award Ceremony on April 12, 2015

Leaders of 2014 Baldrige Award recipient organizations and Commerce Department Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews watch the procession of the United States Joint Service Color Guard during the Baldrige Award Ceremony on Sunday, April 12, 2015.

Award recipients during the leadership plenary of the Baldrige Program’s Quest for Excellence® Conference this week. Following are detailed highlights from those leadership presentations.

Scott McIntyre, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Public Sector Practice (PSP)

PSP is one of six businesses within the broader financial services firm of PwC, one of the largest privately held organizations in the world operating in 157 countries, McIntyre explained. PSP operates globally and in the United States, and he has responsibility for its U.S. and overseas operations.

From the start of his presentation, McIntyre spoke of his firm’s need to attract “great talent.” In doing so, he said, it seeks to build a business that is widely recognized as a top performer by third-party endorsements, which now include the Baldrige Award.

“Being recognized … is very important to us because our brand is very important,” he said. “We were very fortunate to learn a few weeks ago that PwC’s brand at the global level is ranked number-two in the global brand health index.”

According to McIntyre, the PSP organizational structure is designed to put the customer first and thus reflects “the investments we make in products and services and in people” to serve its clients’ unique needs.

To realize its vision to be recognized as the public sector’s clear choice for driving effectiveness across federal agencies, the organization’s leadership focuses on three objectives, said McIntyre.

One is building out a leadership capability. This includes understanding competitive dynamics, contemplating changes in the industry, and setting the tone and vision. The second is making sure it furnishes the tools to its employees to support its vision. And the third is grooming future leaders. Fulfilling those three objectives is his job, McIntyre said.

He described the organization’s “leadership pipeline” as beginning with its annual intern event at a Disney amusement park. The experience emphasizes teamwork, collaboration, and sharing. “These are not just core values of our firm,” he added, “They’re core tenets of our leadership program.”

McIntyre said one of the unique aspects of his organization’s leadership development program is its dual focus on grooming people to be effective leaders whether they stay with the organization or go on to other organizations—“whether they’re in PwC or [become] clients of PwC.”

A second unique leadership practice of his organization, he said, is “the way we look at what we want to cultivate” in employees. Corporate efforts to develop leaders tend to focus on rewarding performance, he said, but his organization has learned that exclusively rewarding “performers” (those “who bring in money every day”) can drive away “producers” (those “people who produce big ideas … who are true visionaries”). To attract and retain people who can help the organization be competitive for the long term, McIntyre’s organization changed its leadership system to put more emphasis on supporting visionaries even as it maintains a focus on high-performing contributors to the organization’s current success.

McIntyre also shared some of his organization’s learning and improvements as a result of its adoption of the Baldrige framework and process.

“Using Baldrige to improve was, I think, one of the smartest things we did in our business,” he said. “It really gave us a touchstone, it really gave us an opportunity to learn about [how the Baldrige framework and criteria for excellence] could be adapted to our organization … and to constantly measure ourselves and evaluate how we’re doing.”

For his organization, he explained, the process was about “taking an organization that was very successful in its marketplace and that’s growing very dramatically… and [making] changes.” Among those changes, the organization refined its core competencies last year. For example, he said the organization recognized that talent recruitment and development “had to be a core competency” for the firm to remain successful.

Another change was to completely overhaul its strategic planning process. Clients’ ever-changing demands and competitive pressures made it necessary for the organization to be able to rapidly develop strategy on a situation-specific basis, he explained.


David Huffstutler, St. David’s HealthCare

One of the largest health systems in the state of Texas, St. David’s HealthCare encompasses six hospitals, four free-standing emergency departments, four urgent-care clinics, and six ambulatory surgery centers. It also is associated with 76 physician practices and affiliated with six hospitals in outlying areas. It is the third-largest employer in the Austin and central Texas area, with more than 7,400 employees, supported by nearly 2,000 physicians.

St. David’s HealthCare has a unique business model as a joint venture partnership between the for-profit hospital management company HCA and two nonprofit community foundations, St. David’s Foundation and Georgetown Health Foundation. This partnership has been in place since 1996. “It’s really a very unique business model that’s been great for the community,” said Huffstutler. Beyond the capital and operating funds generated, surplus profits go to shareholders of the management company and to both local foundations, he said. In 2014 alone, they contributed $50 million to their communities, he added.

The organization’s mission of providing exceptional care “is the basis of everything we do,” said Huffstutler. Four years ago, it set a vision to be the finest care and service organization in the world. While that vision is “clearly aspirational,” said Huffstutler, “we really wanted to reach for the brass ring.”

The organization decided to adopt the Baldrige framework as a way “to really know whether we were getting better and … benchmark ourselves against organizations, not just in our industry but across industries,” said Huffstutler.

“St. David’s HealthCare had not had a very sophisticated performance improvement methodology prior to this time,” he said. “We knew how to execute well, but we didn’t have a framework.” With the Baldrige approach, the organization gained “a disciplined and organized process to get better as an organization, external expertise, and someone who can give us feedback on where we’re going as an organization.”

Since embracing the Baldrige improvement process, the organization learned to use the leadership system to take advantage of its core competencies: operating discipline, a culture of excellence, physician collaboration, and clinical expertise. For example, in recent years the organization has applied its operating discipline to prioritize opportunities to pursue, develop action plans, allocate resources, and track programs.

He described the organization’s critical success factors as follows:

  1. Improve understanding of mission, vision, and values
  2. Communicate commitment to performance excellence
  3. “Expand the circle” (educating the workforce on why improvement is important and creating internal experts to help with improvement efforts)
  4. Ensure systemwide alignment in measurement and performance (making sure that departmental goals lined up to organization-level goals)

A key success factor, Huffstutler emphasized, “is all about the culture of the organization—it’s all about believing in what you do, understanding that you’re involved in a higher purpose.” Therefore, his organization focuses on driving home its mission, vision, values, and goals through “activities around making sure our employees can understand those and recite those, but more important, be able to convey” them in their daily work.

The organization’s performance dashboard reflects a balanced approach with measures in three areas: customer loyalty, exceptional care, and financial strength. “Making sure we’re good stewards” of resources is his organization’s responsibility to the community, Huffstutler said.

Stressing the value of the continuous improvement process, he asserted that his organization has a responsibility to keep improving and that its patients expect it to do so: “We owe it to them, so we have to get better.”

In the highly regulated health care industry, he added, the pursuit of excellence is also important because of both incentives and penalties tied to health care quality measures.

Coming next: Insights from CEOs Jayne Pope of Hill Country Memorial and Gerry Agnes of Elevations Credit Union

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