11 Examples of How the Baldrige Excellence Framework Strengthens Colleges and Universities

By Christine Schaefer

Did you know that the first post-secondary education organization to earn a Baldrige Award—the nation’s highest honor for U.S. organizations that achieve excellence—is a four-year state university in the Midwest? The University of Wisconsin–Stout (see profile in this PDF) won the Baldrige Award in 2001.

The second and third Baldrige Award recipients in post-secondary education further represent the variety of institutions in the sector. Those 2004 and 2005 Baldrige Award recipients, respectively, are Kenneth W. Monfort College of Business (see profile in this PDF), an undergraduate-only business school within the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley; and Richland College (see profile in this PDF), a two-year community college in Dallas, Texas.

Below you can find links to blogs about how leaders in those and other post-secondary education organizations have used the Education Criteria for Performance Excellence (part of the Baldrige Excellence Framework) to help them effectively and efficiently provide a high-quality education to students today.

Listed in order of publication date, the following blogs describe merely a sampling of ways that such education organizations have benefitted from adopting a systems perspective and other core concepts of the Baldrige framework’s approach to managing for excellent performance.

1. Customer Focus at “Colleges That Change Lives” (September 2010)

2. Intelligent Risk at Richland College (April 2011)

3. Higher Education Interacting and Engaging, Not Just for Students Anymore (May 2011)

4. Measuring Performance: Best Practices of a 2005 Baldrige Award Winner (March 2014)

5. A University That Uses Baldrige Approaches to Excel (September 2014)

6. Focus on the 2015 Judges’ Panel: Judge Fonda Vera (July 2015)

7. A Strong Performance Measurement System: Tips from a Baldrige Award-Winning College (March 2016)

8. The “Great Value” of the Baldrige Framework to a University (June 2016)

9. The Impact of the Baldrige Award … 15+ Years Later (January 2017)

10. A Baldrige Fellow’s Plan to Make University Degrees More Valuable (June 2017)

11. Where Business Students Use the Baldrige Framework to Solve Real-World Problems (July 2017)

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program provides resources and services that support high performance by organizations involved in U.S. education at every level.

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First Step in Driving State Efficiencies: Create an Agency Profile

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey 

How does a state government begin the process of strategic planning across many diverse agencies and workforce representatives?

Arkansas State Capitol Building

For the state of Arkansas, it began with the Efficiency Project, which was conducted by the Arkansas Policy Foundation of 21 state agencies and has already resulted in the identification of 184 cost-saving initiatives. The Baldrige Organizational Profile has been one of the tools used.

Strategic planning became a state focus when Governor Asa Hutchinson announced that one of his top three goals for year one was to “drive the implementation of state efficiencies and streamline state operations.” Governor Hutchinson created the Office of Transformation in December 2016 to support these goals.

To guide strategic planning across state agencies, the Baldrige Organizational Profile tool and process were recommended by Randy Zook, President/CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.

“State government is like any other organization. It serves customers and delivers services through processes,” said Zook. “Those processes can most effectively be improved through the Baldrige framework.” The State Chamber partners with the Arkansas Institute for Performance Excellence (AIPE) to promote Baldrige-based training and the Governor’s Quality Award to the state of Arkansas.

Sue Weatter, Executive Director of AIPE, said the Baldrige Excellence Framework and its Organizational Profile was already being used as a resource to guide organizations at both the state and national levels; the Baldrige framework includes an entire category for strategic planning and overall strategy. Weatter said AIPE, a member of the Baldrige-based Alliance for Performance Excellence, made itself readily available to state agencies to guide them through the Baldrige process.

“Our program was originally created with discretionary funding from the [Arkansas] Governor’s office,” said Weatter. “We continue to have a strong partnership. It seemed like an opportunity for our program to give back to the state.”

After meeting with Amy Fecher, Chief Transformation Officer of the Governor’s Office of Transformation, Weatter and Bill Craddock, a state and national Baldrige examiner, as well as the lead trainer for the Governor’s Quality Award Program, said it was decided that each state agency would create an agency profile that answered the questions in the Baldrige Organizational Profile as its first step. The agency profile would also use a few additional questions aligned with the overall goals of the Governor’s strategic plan.

The Organizational Profile is a free Baldrige resource intended to give organizations critical insight into the key internal and external factors that shape their operating environment. These factors, such as an organization’s vision, values, mission, core competencies, competitive environment, and strategic challenges and advantages, impact the way the organization is run and the decisions made. As such, the Organizational Profile helps an organization better understand the context in which it operates; the key requirements for current and future business success; and the needs, opportunities, and constraints placed on its management systems.

“Any gaps in responses to the questions asked in the Organizational Profile could be used as a goal for the agency’s strategic plan,” said Weatter. Similarly, in the strategic planning category of the Baldrige framework, any gaps in how an organization answers a question may become an area to prioritize for improvement when conducting strategic planning or simply considering strategy.

She added, “The questions in the Organizational Profile can provide a consistent baseline in discovering gaps across different agencies within state government. Each agency functions separately with different missions, visions, core competencies, etc., but they all share the same goal of serving the people in their state with the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars and resources under the direction of the Governor. It was a sign of transparency on the part of Arkansas state government to be willing to assess themselves using the same process used by so many businesses and organizations in Arkansas.”

Over two days, the AIPE provided the same training on writing an Organizational Profile to state agencies that is provided to organizational applicants for a Governor’s Quality Award.  Attendee representatives, who comprised agency heads or their designees, answered the questions used for writing an Organizational Profile. Craddock, who also serves as a senior examiner for the national Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, led the training sessions, which included state and national Baldrige resources. In addition, Craddock made himself available to answer questions by email following the training if agencies had questions about Baldrige terminology or on other topics. Each agency was asked to use their answers to the Organizational Profile questions to identify efficiencies within their agencies.

Said Craddock, “The participants were predominantly senior leaders from the various state agencies. Their active participation through follow-up questions conveyed both understanding and insight. It was exciting to see them extend the learning connections from the training to the development of their agency strategic plans.”

“The strategic planning process has been very successful for Arkansas in large part to using the Baldrige Criteria,” added Fecher. “This process has helped agencies that have never done strategic planning get the baseline needed to develop their plans. I have enjoyed reading through all of the plans and continue to learn new things throughout this process.”

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The Challenge of Information Analytics

Posted by Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon

The catch words in many research papers and business briefs today are big data, data analytics, and digital integration. Whatever it is called and no matter how large or small an enterprise, analysis of data is becoming more important for “business” success, customer engagement, and long-term organizational survival.

In 2001, Mark Laney of META Group (now Gartner) identified the three big challenges of big data as volume, velocity, and variety.

Tim McGuire of McKinsey has subsequently defined the three challenges of big data analytics as deciding which data to use, handling analytics, and using the insights you have gained to transform operations.

While all these challenges are very real, they do not fully describe the big data challenge, which in my opinion is choosing, synthesizing, analyzing, interpreting, and acting operationally and strategically. A significant part of the challenge is that data are mono-dimensional (e.g. pie charts, social media commentary, customer feedback) or two-dimensional (x-axis, y-axis) comparing two important measurement dimensions (e.g., productivity, profitability, ROI, customer satisfaction characteristics and their relative importance),  while our needs are three-dimensional and four-dimensional.

For operational improvement,  we generally want “relatively simple” analysis of two-dimensional data, to which we want to add a third dimension, such as time or segmentation by some groupings (e.g. customer segments). There are software packages that will handle these analyses, if we ask the right questions or even ask for software help in defining the questions.

The real challenge is the strategic domain. In this domain we want analytics to give us a three-dimensional full-color operational image, with a fourth dimension of current state and desired or predicted future states of organizational performance, technologies, people and markets served. From those data-based, fact-based pictures we then want to develop strategy or strategic scenarios. Therein, I believe, lies the real challenge and potential of big data and what I would prefer to call information analytics. It requires not just data, but knowledge, insight, and a mindset for intelligent risk taking and innovation.

I hope to explore information analytics further and look at implications for future Baldrige Excellence Framework and Criteria considerations. I also hope you will help me explore the combination of information analytics with trends such as strategic ecosystems, the partnering of several enterprises to accomplish something new or unachievable by any of the partners acting alone. The latter is a certainty for the future and will further challenge our information analytics capabilities.

While I ponder these thoughts, I invite your commentary and input!


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11 Examples of How the Baldrige Excellence Framework Strengthens K-12 Schools

By Christine Schaefer

The first two U.S. public school districts to earn Baldrige Awards—the nation’s highest honor for U.S. organizations that achieve excellence—showed that role-model performance can be achieved in elementary and secondary education schools and systems of wide-ranging sizes, sites, and strategic challenges and advantages.

In fact, the 2001 Baldrige Award recipients are Chugach (Alaska) School District (see profile in this PDF) and Pearl River (NY) School District (see profile in this PDF) were hardly alike: The 22,000-square-mile Chugach district had 30 staff members serving 214 students, most of whom lived in remote areas accessible only by aircraft. In contrast, with 203 teachers, the suburban Pearl River School District, located 20 miles north of New York City, enrolled 2,500 kindergarten-through-12th-grade (K-12) students that year.

Over the next 15 years, six more Baldrige Award recipients in K-12 education would continue to reflect the diversity of the nation’s education system. Those organizations include a charter school that’s part of a public school district in California, a very large and ethnically diverse school district in Maryland, and suburban school districts in the states of Illinois, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.

Below you can find links to blogs about how leaders in those and other K-12 education organizations have used the Education Criteria for Performance Excellence (part of the Baldrige Excellence Framework) to help them effectively and efficiently provide a high-quality education to students today while addressing needs related to poverty and immigration.

Listed in order of publication date (with more recent blogs first), the following blogs describe merely a sampling of ways that such education organizations have benefitted from adopting a systems perspective and other core concepts of the Baldrige framework’s approach to managing for excellent performance.

1. What You Can Learn from a Baldrige Award-Winning School (March 23, 2017)

2. Want to Improve Education? Why Process Management Matters (February 23, 2017)

3. The Exceptional Student Focus of a 2015 Baldrige Award-Winning School (June 30, 2016)

4. A Rural School System Transforms Itself (Supported by the Baldrige Framework) (April 21, 2016)

5. Improving Education with Baldrige: Tips to Get Started (April 8, 2015)

6. Sustaining Educational Excellence Despite Challenges (March 3, 2015)

7. Tight Education Funding, Growing Student Needs: Where Baldrige Is Essential (April 2, 2014)

8. Value of the Organizational Profile to an Ever-Changing Organization (March 25, 2014)

9. Preparing Students for Future Jobs: Update from a 2010 Baldrige Award Winner (March 13, 2014)

10. Insights on Excellence from a Baldrige Education Leader  (June 18, 2013)

11.  A Large School District Shows the Way to Excellence (January 31, 2013)



The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program provides resources and services that support high performance by organizations involved in U.S. education at every level.

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Focus on the Baldrige Board of Overseers: Bennie Fowler

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

Like other federal programs, the Baldrige Program is overseen by an advisory committee whose members are appointed by a cabinet member of the Presidential administration; in our case, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. By charter, the Baldrige Board of Overseers is tasked with reviewing the work of the program and recommending improvements.

In an ongoing blog series, we are interviewing members of the Board of Overseers on their experiences, on the Baldrige Program and its products and services, and on the Baldrige approach to organizational improvement.

Bennie W. Fowler

Following is an interview of Baldrige Overseer Bennie W. Fowler, who is Group Vice President at the Ford Motor Company for Global Quality and New Model Launch.

What experiences led you to the role of Baldrige overseer?

Over the past 40 years, I have held positions that have encompassed international expansion, new product launches, turnaround, and restructuring. As Group Vice President of Global Quality and New Model Launch at Ford, a $165 billion company, I have successfully launched over 900 vehicle and powertrain programs while improving product quality around the world in 103 plants as far reaching as China, India, and Russia.

How do you see the Baldrige Excellence Framework as valuable to organizations in manufacturing?

Every manufacturing organization must have a compelling vision, comprehensive strategy, plan for what they want to become in the future, and relentless execution to the plan.   When you look at the Baldrige Excellence Framework, it focuses on the holistic nature of any organization that wants to deliver high-quality products and be productive at the same time. Sometimes people think that you have to do one or the other, but I know that you can do both. The framework allows organizations to learn how to improve by providing a set of professionals [Baldrige examiners] who can help you. They can come to your facility to assess how you are performing with the framework and work with you to improve your business results.

How do you apply Baldrige principles/concepts to your current work experience/employer?

When I think about Ford’s quality over the last 10 years, we’ve gone from last place in the industry to the number-one full-line manufacturer. Our philosophy has been about understanding what the customers want, reviewing our requirements and engineering standards, and working on improving every day.

When you think of Baldrige principles and concepts, this is the ideology that’s being taught. Know the direction you want to head; what you’re trying to accomplish; have a plan, execute, and follow up. And that’s basically the methodology that we have been using at Ford to really transform our business. We have over 100 manufacturing locations on six continents around the world managing 5,000 suppliers in 60 countries. In almost every region, we’ve made over a 50% improvement in our quality metrics supported by the Ford Quality Operating System.  The Baldrige Framework includes similar operating principles as the Ford Quality Operation System.

The charter of the Board of Overseers says the overseers shall make suggestions for the improvement of Baldrige and act as an advisory committee for the program. As an overseer, what would you like the community/stakeholders to know about the Baldrige Program and its award and other products?

The Board of Overseers’ mission from the Secretary of Commerce is to help U.S. industries to achieve high quality and high productivity. What I would like organizations to know is whether you are facing challenges in your organization or if you just want to get better, the Baldrige Framework can help. We have a variety of products and services that you can take advantage of to make your business better.

What encouragement/advice would you give U.S. organizations thinking about applying for the Baldrige Award or using another one of the Baldrige Program’s products or services?

For any product/service that we provide, the philosophy is that leadership teams train themselves in the use of the Baldrige Framework and then apply their business. The Baldrige Framework is great, very sound, and is built on continuous improvement principles. If you learn, teach, and apply the framework, then the result will be great success.

For interviews of other Baldrige Program Overseers, see the following: Dr. Reatha Clark King, Rulon Stacey.

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