Improving Board Performance the Baldrige Way

Posted by Christine Schaefer

Since earning a Baldrige Award in 2005, Bronson Methodist Hospital has nearly doubled in size. Today, the Kalamazoo, Michigan-based health care provider is part of the Bronson Healthcare system serving patients in nine counties in the southwest region of the state.

According to Sue Reinoehl, the system’s senior vice president of strategy and communication, such growth “makes it challenging to ensure that we are delivering the same high-quality patient experience across our system.” But she sees the Baldrige framework for performance excellence as an excellent tool to drive alignment.

“We’re deploying our strategies across the system utilizing the Baldrige framework that helps us maintain our hallmark patient-centered focus. We’ve had this strategic discipline and cascade at our leadership and staff levels, and now we are applying the same discipline to our board processes,” Reinoehl said.

Bronson Strategic Plan Cascade

Image used with permission.

“We have been working over the past three years on formalizing performance improvement for governance built on benchmarking, cycles of improvement, and the strategic plan for the system. We call it, appropriately, the Governance Performance Process.”

According to Reinoehl, the annual process includes review of the strategic plan and what changes the board might need to make to better support the plan. It also includes a self-evaluation of board effectiveness and best practices. This information culminates at a board retreat, where opportunities for improvement and recommendations are identified, resulting in board goals and future education topics.

Reinoehl shared that this process has resulted in important improvements. For example, it revealed a need for a change in the governance board’s bylaws that did not allow employees to serve on the board. Like many hospitals, Bronson was employing more physicians (as opposed to working with independently employed physicians as partners) and needed a more contemporary policy regarding physicians serving on the board. This discussion raised additional questions about independence, committee chairs, and conflicts of interest. The Governance Performance Process provided clarity and resulted in welcoming employed physicians on the board.

Reinoehl first got involved with Baldrige when Bronson Methodist Hospital (PDF) was preparing to apply for the Baldrige Award about ten years ago. Initially, “I pretty much got dragged into it,” she joked. But she added that she soon became convinced of the opportunity that a better aligned and deployed strategic planning process could have on the organization’s outcomes.

“Through the Baldrige framework, we developed discrete processes and formalized deployment so we could cascade the strategies throughout the organization; we call it our ‘Strategic Management Model,’” she said. “As a result, we achieved a common understanding of the vision and direction and how everything could help support it. And that generated better outcomes.”

Reinoehl was selected as a national Baldrige examiner in 2007. In the years following her organization’s Baldrige Award, she has continued to educate others about use of the Baldrige framework by her organization. “I am surprised how many hospitals still contact us to discuss how Baldrige has helped us. It’s great to continue to learn what others are doing,” she said.

“Baldrige is about having formal, systematic cycles of improvement,” she said. “It’s something you just live as an organization. And since Baldrige is all about continuous improvement, it never stops.”

Given that perspective, her organization is now focused on future improvements.

“We’re now designing a new leadership system that’s based on what we call Evidence-Driven Improvement. It integrates Lean and Baldrige and other improvement tools,” she said. “It will be key in building our leadership competencies for the future.”

Attend the Baldrige Regional Conference in Minneapolis on September 23 to learn more about how Bronson Healthcare uses the Baldrige framework to improve board performance and that of the entire system. Reinoehl will present a morning session September 23. Download the full schedule (PDF) of presentations and register soon.

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Small Businesses to Watch in the Commonwealth

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

Small businesses in the Commonwealth of Virginia are being introduced to the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence with results so successful that the Governor, the  Secretary of Commerce and Trade, and the U.S. Small Business Administration, among other state and federal organizations, are taking notice. Results for the small businesses have included job creation, growth and sustainability, and changes in leaders’ mindsets around lifelong learning.

Small business Aromas Specialty Coffee & Gourmet Bakery, Williamsburg and Newport News, VA

One to Watch participant small business: Aromas Specialty Coffee & Gourmet Bakery, Williamsburg and Newport News, VA

The Ones to Watch (formerly called 12 to Watch) is an initiative of the United States Senate Productivity and Quality Award (SPQA) for Virginia and Washington, D.C., a Baldrige-based program that is part of the Alliance for Performance Excellence. The initiative is aimed at providing ongoing mentoring, technical assistance, and training on how to use the Baldrige Criteria framework as a management tool for state small businesses that meet certain eligibility criteria. According to SPQA staff, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones supported and guided the initiative, adding an emphasis on ongoing mentoring by SPQA board members for the small businesses on how to create jobs, be sustainable, and expand.

The original 12 to Watch program was created in 2011. SPQA volunteer staff and board members wanted to find a way to help the economy of the Commonwealth of Virginia become stronger, especially during the turbulent times at the beginning of this decade. Their focus turned to small businesses, and they used their passion for the Baldrige Criteria—which represented a form of national service for many—to help mentor these small businesses and leverage partnerships with other Commonwealth organizations interested in job creation.

The small businesses that took advantage of the initiative varied from start-ups to tech firms to government contractors. Donna Douglas, SPQA vice chair for strategy, said mentors were able to do a crosswalk between the Baldrige Criteria and other certification programs (e.g., CMMI, ISO 9000) for these small businesses to show what the certification could do for their business and what the Baldrige Criteria could do.

“Until they got engaged with Baldrige, many of those small businesses that had been focused on the more specialized certifications were unaware that they had an opportunity to take a holistic approach for growing their organizations and understanding continuous quality and productivity improvement,” she said, adding that one of the greatest opportunities for these small businesses was using the Baldrige Criteria to look beyond tactical planning to consider strategic planning.


One to Watch participant small business: SteelMaster Building Systems, Virginia Beach, VA

“With no exceptions, the opportunity to use the Baldrige Criteria as a strategic plan was something that each one of those small businesses embraced,” said Janice Garfield, SPQA board chair and a program mentor. “Very few of them had a strategic plan. They had a business plan, but they did not have a strategic plan that was holistic and showed them how to measure what was relevant and important in terms of what they wanted to do. In every instance, helping organizations plan and align key performance measures with what they were all about and where they wanted to go was what our mentors and application of the Baldrige Criteria brought to those small businesses.” Garfield added that small businesses “were voracious in their appetites for the kind of mentoring that we were providing.”

Garfield added that an unintended consequence of the program that SPQA staff heard over and over was a change in leaders’ mindsets. One small business president said “a key learning for him was that he’d been managing his business instead of leading it.” One leader has now built a lifelong learning program into his business so that workforce members can continue their professional education while they work for him. Garfield said the leader realized he wanted to align the business with his vision “in a way he might not have done if he didn’t participate in the program. He learned that creating an environment for lifelong personal and organizational learning was part of his goal.”

The new and improved Ones to Watch initiative, to begin in 2015, is being unveiled at the Virginia Forum for Excellence, September 15–16, 2014, in Richmond. Douglas said the SPQA is especially excited about this next iteration because of the support from the Virginia secretary for commerce and trade who assigned Syd Dorsey, Virginia advisor for small business equity and development, to collaborate with the SPQA on an executive council to further strengthen partnerships throughout the state.

Douglas completed an SPQA Discovery application (a state-level application that offers an entry point to a full Baldrige Criteria application by focusing on Criteria requirements at the overall level) for her own organization because the organization “needed a starting point,” she said. “The beauty of the Baldrige Criteria and [the SPQA] Discovery application . . . [is to] get people to start thinking about the interrelationships between each component [of their operations], starting with leadership and looking from the leader perspective to results and then the processes in between. . . . The beauty of Baldrige is that once you start looking at the Criteria and get beyond the complexity, you understand that embracing the Criteria [framework] allows you [flexibility] because you are monitoring your progress as you go along. . . . Say, for example, that your revenue is not coming in as anticipated, the Baldrige Criteria give you the mechanics and skills that you need to look elsewhere in the organization or tweak areas where you are weak.”

In her former local county government position, Douglas said, “The Baldrige Criteria sustained us through some tough times. Data collection is big, and if you’re not collecting data quickly and analyzing and making needed changes, then you are dead in the water. I am a believer [in the Baldrige Criteria. They] help through thin times and fat times as well. . . . They begin to help you laser focus on the meaning of workforce engagement, leadership, results, and infrastructure.” When people get into the Criteria, she added, they start thinking not just about individual projects, but also about how to grow revenue.

The Ones to Watch small businesses in Virginia are all still in business—thanks in part to the mentoring, training, and partnerships offered and built through SPQA volunteers in the Commonwealth who believed in the value of small businesses for the economy and what was possible with the Baldrige Criteria.

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A University That Uses Baldrige Approaches to Excel

Posted by Christine Schaefer

Fourteen years ago, the University of Wisconsin–Stout became the first (and to date, only) four-year university to receive the nation’s Baldrige Award. Using the Education Criteria for Performance Excellence as a framework to build and align processes, the organization  distinguished itself in part for its “Mission Driven, Market Smart” focus on educational programs supporting students’ future careers in industry and education.

As a result of such offerings and excellence in other areas too, 99 percent of employers surveyed rated UW–Stout graduates as well-prepared, the job placement rate for graduates was at or above 98 percent for the five years leading to UW–Stout’s Baldrige Award, and about 90 percent of alumni said they would attend the university again.

Since 2001, the university has been engaging the entire campus in the continued focus on performance excellence, according to Kay Schnur, director of enterprise information systems, and Kristi Krimpelbein, special assistant to the chancellor.

“Baldrige has become part of our culture,” said Schnur. “We ask for input from everyone, use it, and celebrate what it allows us to achieve.”

As an example of Baldrige Criteria-based practices, Schnur and Krimpelbein cited the university’s Strategic Planning Group. With approximately 35 members today, the group includes senior leaders and governance representatives.

UW-Stout Strategic Planning Group

UW-Stout Strategic Planning Group; photo used with permission.

Together they are responsible for identifying action items that will ensure the successful completion of the strategic plan. Since changes were made to the planning process years ago, the action items are fewer in number but higher in impact.

“During annual ‘You Said, We Did’ sessions held each January, we share actions taken based on feedback,” said Krimpelbein. “More than half of the workforce has attended these engagement-building sessions, which are held each January. We also celebrate accomplishments and recognize the individuals, teams, and groups behind them.”

Attend the Baldrige Regional Conference in Minneapolis on September 22 and 23 to learn more about the University of Wisconsin–Stout’s Baldrige journey and approaches to engage employees in performance excellence. Schnur and Krimpelbein will present an afternoon session September 23. Download the full schedule (PDF) of presentations and register soon.

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A Role-Model Government Center That Keeps Getting Better

Posted by Christine Schaefer

In 2009, a federal government organization that supports multicenter clinical trials for the benefit of American military veterans received the prestigious national Baldrige Award. The Veterans Affairs Cooperative Studies Program Clinical Research Pharmacy Coordinating Center (Center) distinguished itself for high productivity and for maintaining strong customer (investigator) relationships. For example, the Center’s 2008 productivity level of $221,000 per full-time employee compared favorably to eight top competitors (i.e. the highest competitor’s performance was approximately $195,000).  The Center has maintained 75 percent of its customers for greater than 10 years, generating repeat business that raised the organization’s extramural funding (the leveraged portion generated outside Congressional appropriations) to a level of $11 million in 2008 demonstrating true customer engagement.

The Center continues to focus on delivering exceptional service to its customers (investigators). Its 100+ employees support clinical trials across multiple clinical study sites by providing pharmaceutical expertise, project management, safety monitoring, regulatory oversight, and manufacturing and distribution services. The Cooperative Studies Program encompasses five coordinating centers, the pharmacy center, three epidemiology centers, and a genomics center.

Initially, the Center utilized the Baldrige framework for performance excellence, and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001 Quality Management System standards as the foundation of continuous improvement. In 2004 the Center became the first ISO 9001-registered VA facility.

“The interlinking of Baldrige and ISO began many years ago when we asked ourselves how best to provide quality services for investigators and veterans, but over time we pondered if our performance measures were telling us enough and whether something was missing in our ISO-defined management review,” said Julia E. Vertrees, associate center director of quality assurance. “Today, using the concept of a Total Integrated Performance Excellence System (TIPES), the Center is working towards a deeper integration and interlinking of our quality tools with the Baldrige framework key to building a holistic management approach.”

VACSP Total Integrated Performance Excellence System

VACSP Total Integrated Performance Excellence System; image used with permission.

Jan Hickey, chief of clinical manufacturing, noted that when the recession hit several years ago, decreased federal funding “slashed travel and training dollars.” Yet she called the organization’s use of the Baldrige performance-excellence principles and ISO a “lifeline for us.”

Vertrees added, “The TIPES supports an organizational culture and processes that can achieve and sustain high performance levels in good times or bad.”

Attend the Baldrige Regional Conference in Los Angeles on September 8 and 9 to learn more about the VA Center’s Baldrige journey and integrated management system. Vertrees and Hickey will present a morning session September 9. Download the full schedule (PDF) of presentations and register soon.


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Does Your Organization have a Culture of Quality?

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

What are the elements of a culture of quality according to executives and managers, both in the United States and around the world? And how does your organization’s culture stack up?

ASQ recently teamed up with Forbes Insights on the free paper, “Culture of Quality: Accelerating Growth and Performance in the Enterprise,” surveying 2,291 senior executives and quality professionals on their perspectives of what goes into such a culture and how to maintain it.

“[An organization's] true effectiveness requires an accompanying commitment to various cultural elements such as leadership, a compelling vision, companywide shared values, pervasive behaviors, and complementary performance metrics and incentives. It is only when an organization exhibits these and related components that it can be said to exhibit a true culture of quality,” according to the white paper.

A “Culture of Quality” contains lots of insightful data from the surveyed leaders; for example,

  • Only 60% say their management supports the quality vision and values unequivocally.
  • Overall, only 47% of respondents say their leaders lead by example or otherwise “live” the values, and only 50% say support for the company’s quality vision is apparent among middle management.
  • Only 24% overall strongly agree that they actively involve customers in formal quality discussions.
  • Only 12% overall strongly agree that they use social media to gauge customer sentiment.
  • 53% plan to increase investment in quality programs over the next 18 months—with 17% describing the increase as substantial.

According to the paper, “Key drivers behind [an investment in a quality program] include quality’s positive impact on effectiveness and profitability, quality’s ability to serve as a key competitive differentiator and the view that high quality represents a barrier to entry to competitors. Quality is also viewed as a vital tool in risk management and the drive for innovation.”

The white paper presents mini-case studies on companies such as Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Samsung, Fed-Ex, and Tata.

Tata Quality Management Services, a division of the holding company, Tata Sons, promotes business excellence, ethics, innovation, and related quality objectives in all businesses of the Tata Group. “In the early ‘90s, when India was transitioning from a closed to an open economy . . . Tata realized that if we wanted to remain competitive in a more open and global environment where markets exist seamlessly, we would need to transform our products, services and mindsets. So we evaluated various frameworks before deciding to adopt the Baldrige Criteria,” said Sunil Sinha, resident director, Middle East and North Africa Region, Tata Sons. “The Baldrige Model’s introspection-based approach, which seeks to provide insights ahead of solutions, suited the federal nature of the group. Further, [the Baldrige approach’s] ability to customize itself to hundreds of variations in business models was a big advantage. So from then on, it was our role to help advise Tata companies on how to improve, based on their business imperatives and the provisions of the excellence framework.”

Intel uses an internal team award–the Intel Quality Award (IQA)–to motivate employees to pursue continuous improvement, innovate, and grow in Intel’s core values. To prepare for the award, Intel employees conduct self-assessments, using the Baldrige Criteria scoring ranges.

Baldrige Award recipient Fed-Ex uses voice of the customer data as the foundation of its culture of quality. “Our customers have high expectations, and we firmly believe that our quality standards are not set by us, they are determined by our customers. . . . Customer experience metrics drive continuous improvement all the time. We use voice of the customer data and analytics to home in on our opportunities and drive our innovations and improvements,” said Rebecca Yeung, managing director, service experience leadership.

The white paper concludes with a “handful of readily discernible components” of a culture of quality; for example,

  • Clearly visible, engaged, and unwavering senior management support for quality initiatives
  • Clearly articulated vision and values
  • Active and ongoing engagement with customers to continually identify and address current and evolving needs
  • Clearly stated quality goals
  • Performance expectations for all individuals throughout the company that clearly link to quality goals
  • Appropriate incentives—which can favor monetary or recognition-based awards, depending on individual circumstances

The full paper “The Culture of Quality: Accelerating Growth and Performance in the Enterprise” can be downloaded free of charge.

How can your organization gain and sustain a culture of quality?

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