Insights on Leadership (from Insights Columns)

By Christine Schaefer

Since its inception in 2010, the online column Insights on the Road to Performance Excellence—written by Baldrige Program Director Emeritus Harry Hertzhas frequently received more web hits per month than any other page on the site.Logo and Harry Hertz photo for Insights Columns

Particularly popular are the spring columns that have followed the Annual Quest for Excellence® Conference for the past eight years. In those columns, Dr. Hertz has described key themes he perceived while attending the newest Baldrige Award recipients’ leadership and other presentations at the best-practice-sharing event.

With the latest such column posted this spring (“Why Not You?”), I wanted to make it easy for readers to consider and compare the year-to-year themes in organizational leadership chronicled in Insights since 2010. Following are the themes, along with the Baldrige Award-winning organizations that inspired them, from all eight post-Quest columns to date.

2017 Themes in Presentations by Baldrige Award Recipients Don Chalmers FordMomentum GroupKindred Nursing and Rehabilitation Center– Mountain Valley, and Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital:

  1. Leading for Innovation
  2. Collaborative Team Work
  3. Culture and Strategy Yield Results
  4. Building Trust through Transparency and Accessibility
  5. Family Values

See column “Why Not You?

2016 Themes
in Presentations by Baldrige Award Recipients Charter School of San Diego (CSSD), Charleston Area Medical Center Health System (CAMC)Mid-America Transplant, and  MidwayUSA:

  1. Mission, Vision, and Values
  2. Culture
  3. Transparency
  4. Work Systems
  5. Innovation Process
  6. Metrics
  7. Integration
  8. Transformation (or Transformational Change)

See column “The 28th Quest for Excellence Conference in Eight Words and Phrases.” 

2015 Themes
in Presentations by Baldrige Award Recipients PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Public Sector Practice (PSP)Hill Country Memorial, St. David’s HealthCare, and Elevations Credit Union

  1. Senior leaders set the tone.
  2. Culture, Values, and Trust
  3. Core Competencies
  4. Importance of the Community
  5. Innovation
  6. Goals, Metrics, and Results
  7. Alignment and Simplicity
  8. Importance of People

See column “People, Process, and Plentiful Passion.”

2014 Themes in Presentations of Baldrige Award Recipients
Pewaukee School District and Sutter Davis Hospital:

  1. Have a compelling anchor to guide all decision making.
  2. Emphasize key to focus organizational decision making.
  3. Results build engagement.
  4. Stay the course.
  5. Success requires alignment and integration.

See column “First, Put a Stake in the Ground.”


2013 Themes in Presentations of Baldrige Award Recipients Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire ControlMESANorth Mississippi Health Services, and the City of Irving, Texas:

  1. The Importance of Relationships and Transparency
  2. The Logic Chain of Purpose → Employee → Customer → Strategy (Implementation)

See column “Experience the Energy of Excellence.” (In the same column, Hertz also describes nine themes he saw across the previous 20 years of Quest presentations!)

2012 Themes
in Presentations of Baldrige Award Recipients Schneck Medical Center, Henry Ford Health System, Southcentral Foundation, and Concordia Publishing House:

  1. Engage and build relationships with both customers and employees.
  2. Ground everyone in your organization’s mission and values.
  3. Be open, be transparent, and communicate (senior leaders).
  4. Focus on entrepreneurism and innovation.
  5. Take intelligent risks.
  6. Capitalize on technology.
  7. “Do other things well, and financials will follow.”

See column “The Quest for Knowledge.”

2011 Themes
in Presentations of Baldrige Award Recipients MEDRAD, Nestlé Purina PetCare Co., Freese and Nichols Inc., K&N Management, Studer Group, Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, and Montgomery County Public Schools:

  1. Ethics and Transparency as a Strategic Advantage (Key Linkage to Workforce Engagement)
  2. Clear Linkage from Workforce Engagement to Customer Engagement to Business Results
  3. Sense of Family within Workforce, Purposeful Focus on Larger Community Involvement, and Commitment to Sustainable Resource Use
  4. Focus on Innovation
  5. Focus on Measuring What’s Important to the Organization
  6. Explaining Why (to Promote Workforce Engagement)

See column “Your Quest for Performance Excellence.”


2010 Themes in Presentations of Baldrige Award Recipients Honeywell Federal Manufacturing & TechnologiesMidwayUSAAtlantiCare, Heartland Health, and  Department of Veterans Affairs Cooperative Studies Program Clinical Research Pharmacy Coordinating Center:

  1. Blend quality tools and the Baldrige Criteria as an overall management framework.
  2. Internal [organizational] communication begins with the senior leader’s personal communications.
  3. The culture of an engaged workforce stimulates the engagement of customers.
  4. Key metrics are tied to accomplishing strategy and to serving key stakeholders.
  5. Being a good citizen is good business.

See column “Mind Your “Ps” and “Q’s”: Personal Learning at the Quest for Excellence.”

More Insights?

Based on word counts alone in these lists, what appear to be recurring, cross-sector themes over the past decade are a focus on (an organization’s) mission/vision/values, culture, innovation, transparency, engagement/relationships (with people in the workforce and customers), strategy, measurement/metrics, and community involvement/citizenship.

What can other organizations learn from considering such themes in the role-model leadership of Baldrige Award recipients since 2010? I invite you to delve deeper into these themes, reading the columns for details. If you have observations or insights to share, you are welcome to do so by posting a comment below.

For further reference, see the online archive of all Insights columns to date.

Posted in Baldrige Award Recipients, Baldrige Criteria, Baldrige Director, Baldrige Events | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Is Your Bench Ready? Six Reasons That It May Not Be

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

Succession planning is a common topic that comes up in any Baldrige assessment, which explores an organization’s strengths and opportunities for improvement.

The term “succession planning” shows up several times in the 2017–2018 Baldrige Excellence Framework as part of an organization’s focus on success and on “responsible governance.” The Criteria within the framework ask how senior leaders, in order to create an environment for success now and in the future, participate in succession planning and the development of future organizational leaders. And, under the topic of career progression, the Criteria also ask how succession planning is carried out for management and leadership positions.

Therefore, without some succession planning for leaders and managers, an organization would probably find its Baldrige feedback report rife with opportunities to do a little more planning for the future in order to be considered sustainable.

Becker’s Hospital Review recently ran an article on the six common succession planning errors and how to avoid them. Author Tamara Rosin writes, the “labor market today is highly competitive, and healthcare leaders . . . indicated ‘finding quality candidates’ was their biggest challenge when filling executive vacancies. While more than half (53 percent) of respondents [to an executive search firm survey] said their primary strategy for addressing this challenge would be internal development, only about one-third said they have a formal succession planning program.”

Quoting Mark Madden, senior vice president of senior executive search at B.E. Smith, the article’s author lists the following as the most common pitfalls when it comes to succession planning:

  1. Lack of consensus around the succession plan
  2. Exclusive focus on top executive positions
  3. The succession plan is too rigid
  4. Technology is overlooked
  5. Leadership development is too limited
  6. Failure to train for the future

As I mentioned above, succession planning is a common topic in Baldrige assessments, as the Baldrige framework is designed to help an organization succeed now and in the future through a systems approach that links all aspects of the organization. Therefore, one would expect succession planning to be robust among Baldrige Award recipients. Here are some succession planning examples from these recent role models, taken from their award application summaries.

  • At Baldrige Award recipient MidwayUSA, succession planning is part of the Leadership System. The Leadership Development Process is used to identify future leaders, identify specific activities and formalized leadership approaches, and align future leaders with developmental opportunities. Senior leaders, including the president, mentor leadership development candidates. A strategic objective, “Improve Leadership Skills,” and a company action plan keep the focus on leadership development.
  • Baldrige Award recipient Mid-America Transplant does succession planning for all members of its leadership team, who develop succession plans for their positions and plans for future leaders. Plans are formed in conjunction with personal development goals captured in a web-based performance management platform. Succession plans are aligned with annual performance evaluations. In addition, a defined leadership curriculum is embedded in the Learning and Development System, which includes one-on-one coaching for each manager.
  • All senior leaders at Baldrige Award recipient Charter School of San Diego participate in succession planning and the development of future organizational leaders through a formal Succession Planning Process, which includes identification and review of factors for selecting candidates, a process for developing leaders, and the selection of successors. It also includes a confidential letter that has been prepared by the CEO and legal counsel in the event the CEO must be replaced unexpectedly.
  • Baldrige Award recipient Charleston Area Medical Center Health System also includes all seniors leaders in succession planning and develops organizational leaders through a four-step Succession Planning Process: (1) identify critical positions that would require an emergency interim replacement; (2) determine bench strength for those positions; (3) determine candidates who would be ready now, within one year, or within one–two years; and (4) create development plans for identified future leaders. Each candidate receives guidance and mentoring that balances both individual and organizational needs.

How robust is your organization’s succession planning? Is your bench ready?

Posted in Baldrige Award Process, Baldrige Award Recipients, Baldrige Criteria, Business, Health Care, Leadership, Uncategorized, Workforce Focus | 1 Comment

Yes, You Can Learn about Ethics from a Car Dealer

By Christine Schaefer

Reading in the news recently about fatal car accidents traced to recalled, faulty airbags heightened my appreciation of the 2016 Baldrige Award-winning small business Don Chalmers Ford. This car dealership near Albuquerque, New Mexico, has distinguished itself by ensuring integrity and ethics in its practices, and its leaders consider this a core competency of the business.Photo of DCF service employee working under vehicle

At the Baldrige Program’s Quest for Excellence® Conference last month, Don Chalmers Ford (DCF) President and Dealer Principal Gary Housley stressed the focus on ethics in his leadership presentation. An example he shared was the dealership’s decision not to sell a group of used cars with an open recall on their airbags despite the fact that selling used cars with potentially faulty airbags was legal, that competitors were doing so, and that the small business would face a significant loss of revenue in the short term.

If you are familiar with the Criteria for Performance Excellence (part of the Baldrige Excellence Framework), you know that ethical behavior is an essential component of this framework for organizational leadership and management. Ethical behavior is both a core value of the Baldrige framework and the focus of a set of questions that are requirements in the leadership category (at 1.2b[2]).

To learn more about DCF’s ethical practices, you can read the publicly available summary of the dealership’s 2016 application for the Baldrige Award. Following is DCF’s response to the Criteria question How do you promote and ensure ethical behavior in all interactions?

“The auto industry does not have an ethical reputation,” it begins. “DCF takes this seriously, beginning with comprehensive and strategic hiring. Approaches promote and ensure ethical business practices for all stakeholders initially in the Employee Handbook and continuously in the Driving Forward Report, Compli, and the online process manual. The SLT [Senior Leadership Team] evaluates and strengthens these deployment methods.”

If you are not familiar with a Baldrige assessment, note that in this excerpt DCF is intentionally describing how its approaches to ethical behavior are deployed and improved because approach, deployment, learning, and integration are factors that Baldrige examiners use to evaluate an organization’s processes.

DCF’s response to the Baldrige Criteria requirement for ethical behavior in leadership—also excerpted from the company’s 2016 Baldrige Award application summary (PDF)— continues as follows:

1. Is it the truth?

2. Is it fair?

3. Is it the right thing to do?”

This timeless test was adapted from a 110-year-old service group, Rotary International, known for its honest business principles, and is deployed to every employee through training and a pocket card.

A core value since 2005, making all employees responsible for ethical practices like servant leadership, integrity and ethics also met the criteria for a core competency.

Innovations in key areas like Finance and Insurance [F&I] video recordings allow third party audits that assess the process discipline, and integrity and ethics of the transactions. Feedback is provided to the F&I Manager monthly to ensure that continuous improvement takes place.

As DCF Director of Performance Excellence Lee Butler explained recently, the (customer-permitted) video recordings of F&I meetings with car buyers help the dealership ensure a systematic and disciplined approach, protect the customer, and are used as a training tool to assist the finance managers in honing their skills.

head shot of Lee Butler

Lee Butler, Director of Performance Excellence, Don Chalmers Ford

“A random sample of the video recordings are reviewed by a third party for key process steps to ensure that we have presented the products correctly and that we are not misleading the customer,” Butler said. “The viewer sits down with the finance manager and goes over strengths and opportunities for improvement.”

More Methods to Ensure Ethical Behavior

DCF’s variety of approaches to promote ethical behavior begin with its orientation for new employees. As the application summary states,

The SLT reviews I&E [Integrity & Ethics] at new employee orientation as part of the “How I Connect” sheet that is 100% deployed.

In filling out the “How I Connect to the Don Chalmers Ford Experience” sheet, Butler explained recently, all new employees “write what I can do to support [the DCF value of] integrity and ethics and what we can do.”

“The sheet is reviewed with the president of the dealership within the first month of their employment. The sheet is then laminated and returned to the employee,” Butler added. “This approach is repeated annually for all employees to reinforce and reconnect to the core values.”

Other DCF practices to ensure ethical behavior include the following, as described in the application summary:

A confidential employee hotline is available for employees to report any integrity, ethics or legal issues to a third party. Background checks and drug tests are performed on new employees, with monthly random drug tests on existing employees.

Immediate and serious consequences, leading up to termination, discourage deviations from the organization’s culture of integrity and ethics. When breaches are suspected or reported, the I&E Process is used to verify the concern, determine severity, and decide appropriate consequences …

Benefits of Being Ethical

DCF’s evident commitment to ethical behavior supports its stated mission of “Growth Through Customer Loyalty,” as it has helped the small business distinguish itself from competitors. DCF’s many industry- and benchmark-level performance results for its measures of customer satisfaction, loyalty, engagement, and advocacy suggest the beneficial long-term impact of its ethical practices on the business (see the “Customer-Focused Results” section in DCF’s application summary).

What’s more, ethical practices have helped DCF distinguish itself outside its industry, too. In 2014, DCF became the first automotive dealership to receive the Ethics in Business Award of New Mexico’s Samaritan Counseling Center. The nomination for that award was submitted by a financial lending partner, according to DCF. A group of University of New Mexico business school students conducted a site visit to assess the dealership’s ethical processes and then submitted their recommendation to an independent selection committee.

Through DCF’s status today as a Baldrige Award recipient and national role model, the car dealership provides a showcase for organizations in wide-ranging sectors and states across the country to learn about systematic, well-deployed, continually improved, and integrated processes for promoting and ensuring ethical behavior. At the same time, DCF demonstrates exemplary results that can be achieved—and perhaps also suggests what tragic results can be prevented—when businesses “do the right thing.”

How does your organization promote and ensure ethical behavior in all interactions?

Posted in Baldrige Award Recipients, Baldrige Criteria, Leadership, Small Business | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Why Not an Engaged, Family-Based Workforce to offer Exceptional Health Care?

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

“Why not me . . . to be extraordinary?” asked Kendra LaCour-Ramey, director of medical staff services at Baldrige Award recipient Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital, during a recent Baldrige Quest for Excellence© Conference session. “Why not us to become the preeminent community hospital in the nation? Why not us to create a remarkable and engaging experience for the entire workforce?”

Qiara Suggs and Kendra LaCour-Ramey of Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital

Echoing these aspirations, Qiara Suggs, senior human resources business partner at Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital, said “Why Not Us or Me? is a framework developed to elevate our organization in its thinking while setting high performance targets.” It not only challenges the organization to be successful but for the workforce to be personally successful, too, she said.

In fiscal year 2016, Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital, part of the Memorial Hermann Health System, was honored with the 2016 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Its workforce retention results were at 90 percent for employee partners, 100 percent for physician partners, and 90 percent for volunteer partners–all results comparable to or exceeding national benchmarks. Additionally, the first-year retention rate for all partners was nearly 75 percent, exceeding the national level.

People are the cornerstone of the framework, said LaCour-Ramey; “But gone are the days of just happy employees; it isn’t enough. . . . They must be happy and engaged. . . . Regardless of your title, . . . our goal is to make sure we connect and engage all of our workforce in various ways.”

LaCour-Ramey and Suggs shared tips with the Quest conference audience on how to connect and engage your workforce using the Why not us? mindset, the hospital’s family caring for family culture, and its cycle of workforce engagement to promote advocacy and loyalty.

While many organizations struggle with workforce engagement, LaCour-Ramey said, Memorial Hermann Sugar Land has “bucked this trend,” with engagement results in the top decile nationally (96th percentile). These results have even been attained in Houston, a very competitive health care market—largest in Texas, fourth largest in the United States, in one of the most affluent U.S. counties, and with four major hospitals in that county, which is also one of the most diverse in the nation.

“We place great emphasis on workforce engagement to drive our family caring for family culture at a level of high performance and innovation,” said LaCour-Ramey. Engagement is attained through the hospital’s Advance strategies, with their emphasis on valuing employees, engagement, inclusiveness, and learning opportunities. Forums, an open-door policy, and the People Excellence Council support the strategies.

“Our employees know that we listen and we act on feedback,” she said.

LaCour-Ramey said one key to success is including physicians and volunteers as part of the workforce; “Our volunteers are likely the first you will see when you walk into our hospital . . . and our physicians are at the bedside. . . . This is why [treating them like family] is so important.” She added that the hospital once considered physicians to be customers but quickly realized that that thinking did not align with the culture.

Suggs echoed the importance of physicians and volunteers within the family culture, especially in an extremely competitive health care industry; “When we talk about our workforce, not only are our employees being picked off by our competitors, but so are our physicians and volunteers, and they all play a huge role in how we execute on our strategies.”

The hospital’s cycle of workforce engagement includes multiple phases:

  • Discover and recruit
  • Welcome and connect
  • Energize and enrich
  • Recognize and refuel
  • Grow

To discover and recruit, the hospital has developed a workforce plan using local market analytics, national staffing guidelines, capacity metrics, and performance reviews.

According to Suggs, the interview process incorporates multiple layers. Recruiters and leaders look for skills, competencies, and knowledge, especially for identified, critical positions. In addition, a recent cycle of improvement added front-line staff to culture panel interviews to specifically assess a candidate’s potential fit in the organization. This panel looks at aligning individuals with organizational values by asking behavior-based and unconventional questions that look for a person’s emotional intelligence as well as competencies.

“At Memorial Hermann, we’re purely focused on fit,” said Suggs. “Have you ever hired someone who has the perfect skill set, but [he/she] just didn’t fit in with your organization? . . . Our recruiting process is set to focus on individuals who will complement our culture. . . . It’s those innate characteristics that are unteachable.”

To welcome and connect, expectations are communicated and candidates are offered the opportunity for a few hours to job shadow and observe the work environment. During the onboarding process, leaders send personalized notes to employees’ homes and stop in at new employee orientation. All new hires have a training preceptor who is equipped to orient them to the department and facility. In addition, pit stop conversations are a one-on-one, personalized check that onboarding and training are effective, and if they’re not, the conversations allow trainers to course-correct early on.

“Keep in mind that onboarding begins an employee’s journey, career throughout the organization,” said Suggs. “So it’s important for us to outline a systematic process to make sure that everyone has a pleasant and equal experience.”

When it comes to recognizing and refueling, “We celebrate [the frontline],” she said, adding that monthly and annually recognitions are personalized with the goal to make them meaningful and motivational.

Growth is intertwined in all of the phases, she said. “As an organization that thrives on learning and development, we offer adequate, timely, and meaningful learning opportunities for all of our employees, including our leadership team. . . . We encourage our workforce to growth through an innovative mindset,” said Suggs, adding that tuition assistance is offered to employees pursuing higher education, and Memorial Hermann Sugar Land is one of the few organizations to help with student loan repayment, with the “expectation that you bring knowledge back to your organization.”

Is your staff (or you) engaged enough to wonder why not your organization (or yourself) to be exceptional?

Posted in Baldrige Award Process, Baldrige Award Recipients, Health Care, Uncategorized, Workforce Focus | Leave a comment

How Long-Term Care Center Grows Its Own Engagement

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

By 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that in the United States 19.4 percent more registered nurses (RNs) will be needed to fill vacancies to care for our population, including an increasingly aging population. In addition, our health care organizations will need 21.1 percent more nursing assistants, 48.5 percent more home health aides, and 24.8 percent more licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and vocational nurses.

But at Baldrige Award recipient Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation – Mountain Valley, some registered nurses drive as far as 40 miles to work there—even though it is not the highest paying health care center in the area, and a “grow-your-own” philosophy has resulted in LPNs training to be RNs, nursing aides training to be LPNs, and even some housekeepers training to be nursing aides.

What’s the secret? According to Jodi Hagaman, director of nursing service, speaking to a Baldrige Quest for Excellence© Conference audience, the nursing and rehabilitation center truly values its workforce and creates a culture of safety, empowerment, innovation, excellence, and no fear. It also uses the Baldrige Excellence Framework and the feedback reports received from applying for the Baldrige Award and American Health Care Association (AHCA)/National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) National Quality Award Program (based on Baldrige) to validate its strengths, and reveal and prioritize its opportunities for improvement.

The 68-bed, skilled nursing facility, located in Kellogg, Idaho, has 90 employees and 33 key volunteers. According to Hagaman, “We are not the highest paying center [in the area] by far, but [nurses] want to work with us because they have researched our culture and our reputation.”

Like the entire health care industry, Hagaman said that Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation – Mountain Valley is challenged with the retirement of many of its staff members and with recruiting new staff and nurses that want to work in its rural environment in a formerly bustling silver mine town.

She said that the center has been more successful than most in “growing our own through our culture of excellence.” Growing this culture has meant using the Baldrige framework to guide a determination of the drivers of workforce engagement and then to develop strategies with action plans and goals to promote that engagement.

“Our employees want to feel safe. They do not want to work in an environment of blame [where] they would potentially end up spending most of their energy protecting themselves, not doing what is in the best interest of our organization,” she said. “In our center, staff are willing to speak up, to be honest, and have a positive approach.” Communication is our strength; we give our workforce the freedom and responsibility to be efficient, she added.

To accomplish its core competencies of a highly engaged workforce, resident/patient-centered care, and excellent customer service, Kindred Nursing and Rehabilitation – Mountain Valley has developed a Workforce Capability and Capacity System with seven steps. The system is also aligned with its mission, vision, and values and considers succession planning. “When you see things go bad in health care, it’s usually because of turnover,” said Hagaman.

Senior leaders at the center remain intimately involved in operations. Hagaman said that each morning during stand-up meetings, all senior leaders and nursing staff review data and any staffing concerns that may be felt in the next three–five days. Stand-up meetings are also used to discuss referrals and discharges and to ensure the center has appropriately trained staff for patients per day and prior to admission.

The management of changing needs occurs through a Learning and Development System, as well as through a Service Excellence Program, which was created after reading Baldrige opportunity for improvement feedback. Successes are celebrated at any opportunity, Hagaman said; for example, the center recently celebrated its 100 percent deficiency-free survey from the Idaho Department of Health, which requires each nursing and rehabilitation facility in the state to be thoroughly inspected and evaluated in areas such as safety, quality of care, patient rights, food service, nursing care, and administration.

In addition, Hagaman said frank, two-way communication with senior leaders has created an environment of credibility and openness, opening up a “code of trust within the workforce”; such a favorable environment is evident in employee engagement results. “How we create our culture of excellence is through a highly engaged workforce. . . . [We have a] culture of innovation that encourages workforce empowerment with no fear of retaliation,” she added.


Posted in Baldrige Award Process, Baldrige Award Recipients, Baldrige Criteria, Health Care, Uncategorized, Workforce Focus | 5 Comments