Baldrige Competitiveness in Puerto Rico

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

Small businesses in Puerto Rico are becoming more competitive, more sustainable, more global, and many of them have Carmen Martí and the Baldrige Criteria to thank.

For three years, the Puerto Rico Small Business and Technology Development Centers (PR-SBTDC) has been teaching the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence to small businesses on the island, with the intention to increase their competitiveness and help them succeed in a global marketplace.

According to PR-SBTDC executive director, Carmen Martí, the Baldrige Competitiveness Program has been a resounding success, with more than 125 businesses, including 250 top-management executives, participating. And word about the value of the Baldrige model has been spreading among other small business development centers (SBDCs): 63 such centers, with a total of 1,100 U.S. offices, are adopting aspects of the program, said Martí. In addition, SBDCs in Central America are adopting Baldrige: “[In El Salvador] they have been inspired by the framework to grow their micro- and small businesses.”

The Baldrige Competitiveness Program


Manuel Fernós of the Universidad Interamericana de P.R.; Carmen Martí; and Jorge Junquera of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co.

Caribbean Business describes the program, which began in 2011, as an initiative to help Puerto Rico businesses establish standards of excellence and become more competitive using the Baldrige Criteria. The participant small businesses represent $307 million in sales and 11,614 jobs, according to PR-SBTDC’s 2012–2013 Annual Report.

Participants who have implemented the Baldrige Criteria report “high-impact results,” especially in the areas of leadership, sales, metrics, operations, human resources, workplace environment, financial results, and client satisfaction, said Martí. “[These participants] are evidence of the efficiency and effectiveness of [the Criteria’s] strategies and operational processes. . . . I guarantee that the Baldrige journey of learning best practices, as well as networking with peer entrepreneurs and Malcolm Baldrige National Quality awardees, will be exceptional and meaningful.”

The program includes eight, monthly, day-long sessions that focus on a theme within the Criteria; the participants are challenged to implement the theme in their own businesses. During the sessions, best practices are discussed (and in many cases adopted), and real-life examples are shared. In addition, at the end of each program, a successful case implementation of the Criteria is presented, and entrepreneurs share how the Baldrige Criteria helped them.


Baldrige Competitiveness Program Participants

Martí said that for many participants, “it has been an extraordinary experience to identify areas of opportunities for improvements in their own business models. As I say, [the small businesses use the Baldrige Criteria to] ‘put the house in order prior to growing and exporting your business.’”

The Baldrige Competitiveness Program has “been a signature product for the Puerto Rican small business community, particularly in today’s challenging times,” Martí said. “We have become very engaged in our business community using the Baldrige framework. . . . The PR-SBTDC completed its [own] accreditation process, based in the Baldrige Criteria concepts, with all standards met and multiple best practices, thanks to the knowledge and understanding of the Baldrige framework.”

Participant Examples

Maximo Torres, of Maximo Solar Industries, in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, completed the Baldrige Competitiveness Program at the end of 2013, after almost two years of learning and getting involved with the Baldrige Criteria.

Maximo Torres said that his biggest learning has been how to restructure his company for growth and to bring consistency to its various areas of operation; actions have included simple things like starting every staff meeting with a review of the mission and vision.

He said Maximo Solar Industries, which manufactures, sells, and installs solar panels, is rebranding itself as a business renewal energy company and using the management framework of the Criteria as a guide. The framework has resulted in a new focus on customer relationship management, knowledge management, training, and process efficiency.

“In all areas of the business, we’ve seen areas of improvement and will continue to do so,” said Maximo Torres. “Business growth is double to what we have had last year. It’s a combination of efforts that have impacted us to restructure ourselves and manage the change. Growth can be a pain, a dangerous path. Having that knowledge from Baldrige and getting everyone in the company on the same page have helped us to be more focused on what we need to do.”

Maximo Torres said the biggest challenge for his company has been managing change and growth, as Maximo Solar Industries moves from servicing just the residential market to the commercial market, as well as to exporting to a global market.

“There are so many programs out there for quality. We are familiar with ISO, Lean, but there has to be something more specific to manage the business and that’s Baldrige. It connects all of the parts of the business to quality,” said Maximo Torres. “We are moving towards total consistency. We want to be the most proficient and excellent contractor not only on the island, but we look to expand to the international market. The next Baldrige steps are crucial for us. It definitely was a great decision to get involved [with the Baldrige Competitiveness Program]. We don’t want to be good; we want to be great, excellent. All of the examples from so many Baldrige Award recipients showed us what was possible, what was realistic. . . . Truly Baldrige is a key aspect to our success.”

“The Baldrige Criteria gave me new skills and knowledge to manage my business, resulting in the development of an integrated strategy improving the company’s marketing, sales, manufacturing, accounting, human resources, and strategic planning systems,” said another program participant Eniel Torres, of Maga Foods in Sabana Grande, Puerto Rico. “Now I have measurements to manage the efficiency and performance of the company as a whole.”

Eniel Torres said he began as an entrepreneur with a popcorn machine and grew his business to become a manufacturer of gourmet vinaigrette for restaurants in Old San Juan. Maga Foods now manufactures cereals, pancakes, seasoning, and snacks and distributes these products throughout the United States and the Caribbean. A growth strategy guided by the Criteria has allowed the company to add new products and private labels for different establishments, leading to an increase of 10% in exports.

Next Steps

Beyond implementing Criteria strategies and best practices in their own organizations, Puerto Rico small businesses can also look to Texas for additional resources and support. Martí said the PR-SBTDC has partnered with the Quality Texas Foundation, a member of the Baldrige-based Alliance for Performance Excellence, to support small businesses.

“At SBTDC, we are committed to supporting the growth of local enterprises. That’s why we have put all of our efforts into offering this important Baldrige model performance excellence program,” Martí said. “We hope the seeds we have planted will bloom into tomorrow’s local multinational corporations.”

The PR-SBTDC began its next Baldrige Competitiveness Program on the island in spring 2014. “I hope [our success] will inspire other SBDC programs throughout the U.S. to become engaged in the Baldrige journey,” added Martí. “SBDCs serve nearly 625,000 small businesses in the U.S. [Use of the Baldrige model] is a great opportunity to grow and become more competitive as a nation.”

Posted in Baldrige Award Process, Baldrige Criteria, Baldrige State & Local Programs, Business, Customer Focus, Leadership, Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management, Operations Focus, Performance Results, Small Business, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Engaging Patients in a Changing Health Care System

Posted by Christine Schaefer

In the Baldrige Health Care Criteria for Performance Excellence, the Customer Focus category (category 3) asks how your organization engages its patients and other customers for long-term market­place success. The related self-assessment questions cover how your organization listens to the voice of the customer, builds relationships with patients and other customers, and uses patient and other customer information to improve and to identify opportunities for innovation.

As the U.S. health care system undergoes major changes, what are some effective practices for engaging patients in new and challenging contexts?

I recently spoke with a Baldrige examiner who responds to that question by drawing on both her professional expertise in business management and her personal experiences as the mother of a patient navigating the health care system for multiple surgeries.

Randi Redmond Oster is now in her second year on the Baldrige Program’s Board of Examiners. For more than a decade, she was an engineer and executive with GE Capital. She specialized in new business development and earned Black Belt Six Sigma certification. Oster later applied her business knowledge and skills in her role as a patient advocate for her son as he underwent numerous surgeries.

Randi Oster and her son, Gary

Randi Redmond Oster and her son, Gary Oster

During those experiences, Oster saw numerous opportunities for health care providers to better engage patients and their families through information and tools to empower them. Today she works to educate hospitals and others on how to address such opportunities; she also has shared her insights in a book she wrote on empowering health care consumers.

When Oster works with health care organizations now, she says she “helps them understand the patient perspective today and ways they can move forward by being responsive to the dynamic change that is happening.”

She pointed out three key developments that have changed the ways that health care organizations must focus on customers today:

  1. Consumers have higher deductibles. “Because they’re spending more money, they’re asking more questions,” Oster observed.
  2. Consumers have access to more data on the performance of health care organizations and employees; for example, the Hospital Compare tool on the site allows consumers to compare organizations on patient satisfaction measures.
  3. Consumers are exposed via news outlets and social media interactions to negative health outcomes via stories about medical procedures. This creates a challenge for the health care community in terms of the satisfaction and engagement of health care consumers. For example, whereas historically wait times were long for patients, health care organizations will risk consumer dissatisfaction for long wait times today.

“The shift in health care is accelerating so quickly that [hospitals] are struggling to keep up,” Oster said. The key question for executives of such organizations is, How do you position your organization for innovative changes at an accelerated pace? Oster sees the Baldrige framework’s category 3 as particularly valuable as health care providers must ensure high levels of patient satisfaction and engagement. After all, funders and customers alike are increasingly using those results to measure such organizations’ performance.

She recounted a turning point in her work with a health care organization that “did not want to lose a patient to a competing hospital and risk not developing a long-term relationship with the customer.” She recalled hospital executives, including the heads of nursing, patient experience, and quality, concluding, “We have to ‘wow’ patients.”

“Not only do such organizations have to meet medical needs,” said Oster, “but they also need to figure out what patients need personally.” The greatest challenge in doing so, she added, lies in the relatively short time a health care provider has to meet the patient’s manifold needs. During a typical 15-minute appointment with a patient, the doctor is in effect a data entry clerk (entering information from the appointment into an electronic health record) and required to listen. “It is hard to ‘wow’ patients if they feel rushed and as if they are merely a number representing data in a system,” she said.

Yet changing doctors and their behaviors can be “cumbersome and costly,” said Oster. She concluded that organizations would do well to empower patients so that “they can maximize those 15 minutes with their doctor.” For example, when her son was hospitalized, Oster kept a “feedback list” and put stars next to names of health care providers she felt did a good job. A few days after her son was discharged from the hospital, she sent a thank-you letter to the CEO of the hospital commending employees on her list. Later, when her son had to be readmitted for complications from surgery, she received words of thanks from nurses and other staff members as they shared that the CEO had read her thank-you letter to all employees. During her son’s second hospitalization, Oster felt she had developed a good relationship with many employees as a result of her feedback.

She has since suggested other hospitals give all patients a similar feedback tool to support the customer relationship. “[Empowering patients] is how they can differentiate their organization from competitors in terms of patient satisfaction and engagement,” she said. She noted that the second set of Baldrige Criteria questions on determining patient satisfaction and engagement (3.1[b]) are about determining satisfaction relative to competitors (3.1[b]2). As the leadership of one hospital realized, “If we don’t do well in satisfying customers, they’ll go somewhere else.” Because of that potential to lose business, innovation in processes to build customer relationships is essential, said Oster.

“My personal mission is to improve the health care system,” she added. “I have a two-tier strategy—bottom-up is to educate people about the system; top-down is to use the Baldrige framework to explain to CEOs how to improve the system by helping them understand the consumer perspective.”

Posted in Baldrige Examiners, Customer Focus, Health Care | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Higher Education, It’s Time to Refresh Your Understanding of Baldrige

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

Much has been discussed about the value of tomorrow’s leaders learning about the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence while still in school. As an example, I remember listening to a presentation by Bruce Kintz, president of Concordia Publishing House, a 2011 Baldrige Award recipient, about how he remembered that the Baldrige Criteria were part of his leadership training when he came to the struggling publish house; as a new president, he implemented the Baldrige Criteria and turned the organization’s future around.

Over time, the Baldrige community has worked hard to plant the seeds of Baldrige in academia through dedicated professors with Baldrige examiner experience, presentations, participation at conferences (in fact, my colleague recently staffed a Baldrige booth at the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs conference), LinkedIn groups, and meetings with deans and professors, among other initiatives. But like anything today, more brand name awareness, more education, and more proof of outcomes are always needed.

As students are one of the largest groups that contact the Baldrige Program’s customer service line, we recently developed a “Criteria 101″ document (found on the Baldrige website’s home page under Popular Links) that specifically answers their what, how, why, and where questions in simple language.

We’ve also been reaching out to professors, as time allows, to ask how and why they teach the Criteria and what the Baldrige Program might provide to support them. We’ve learned that professors who teach the Criteria, most often

  • use them as a management and/or self-assessment tool, often asking students to assess a Baldrige case study or their own organizations (either dreamed up or real)
  • start with the Organizational Profile and then ask students to develop strategy and deployment, with objectives and metrics, until they can build an organizational system and understand its complexities and needs for alignment
  • review Baldrige case studies (including scorebooks) from a variety of sectors, as well as actual Baldrige Award recipients’ application summaries and profiles
  • practice the Baldrige approach-deployment-learning-integration (ADLI) and levels-trends-comparisons-integration (LeTCI) approaches, and then ask students to offer organizational improvement suggestions
  • view Baldrige multimedia on YouTube and flickr
  • use Baldrige self-assessment tools such as Are We Make Progress? and easyInsight: Take a First Step Toward a Baldrige Self-Assessment
  • focus on the Criteria’s Core Values as the basis for an assessment project, requiring students to extract the relevant themes from the Core Value descriptions and use them as a basis for assessing their own organizations
  • help students to realize a performance excellence initiative for their own organizations

According to Ferris State University professor Dr. Anita Fagerman, a current examiner for Baldrige-based Michigan Performance Excellence, there is great value for students in learning about the Baldrige Criteria: “The Criteria are so important to assessing an organization to determine where you’re at and where you want to be. . . . [Use of the Baldrige Criteria] is all encompassing, cross-cutting. It keeps an eye on the money at the same time as addressing business concepts.” She added that teaching the Organizational Profile yields some of the best insights from students.

Dr. Britt Watwood, who teaches an  online interdisciplinary doctorate program on leadership at Creighton University and who is a former examiner and judge for the Baldrige-based Georgia Oglethorpe Award, said, “What always impressed me about Baldrige is not that it tells you how to do quality but asks you the right questions that drive the thinking that leaders need. Quality is just the lens that helps leaders become better. I can think of no better lens for leadership than Baldrige.”

He added, “I would continue to use the Criteria for leadership questions about quality . . . because the Criteria are well thought through, and the systemic approach is what really grabs the students’ attention.”

Dr. Jim Evans, a professor at the Carl H. Lindner College of Business at the University of Cincinnati and former Baldrige judge and examiner, has collected reflections from his masters’ of health administration students on learning about Baldrige:

It is my personal goal to attempt to receive the Baldrige Award, whether as a CEO or merely as a person working for a company attempting to improve itself through the Baldrige process. 

I anticipate that my in-depth training in the Baldrige process . . . will be a real asset to me and as well as my organization as we begin our own journey toward excellence.

The last page of the “Criteria 101″ document contains information that deans and professors who may not have looked at the Criteria for years—even decades—may find of interest. In fact, these links were recently shared with a dean at the Yale School of Business who said he felt that his colleagues’ knowledge on Baldrige should be refreshed.

So, please help in planting and sowing the seeds of Baldrige with tomorrow’s leaders. Feel free to share the “Criteria 101″ document with professors in higher education in your area, and we will keep sharing, too. And if you teach Baldrige or can share pearls of wisdom on how to encourage deans and other professors to take a second look at the Criteria, please share!

Posted in Baldrige Award Process, Baldrige Criteria, Baldrige State & Local Programs, Business, Customer Focus, Education, Health Care, Leadership, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Boosting Workforce Engagement (from the Bottom Up)

Posted by Christine Schaefer

We sometimes hear of organizations adopting the
Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence in relatively limited ways to improve performance. They may start by just adopting core concepts and values behind the Baldrige framework. They may conduct a self-assessment with their employees in just a few categories of the Baldrige Criteria. They may be able to do these things, at least initially, in only one department. They may not yet have buy-in from their organization’s senior leadership.

To share how others might scale use of the Baldrige Criteria to their situation, I recently interviewed two department leaders who started using the Baldrige framework just with the people who provide support services to the rest of their organization.

The story they shared is one of a positive transformation in the workplace culture of the University of Kansas Medical Center. It began three years ago after eight administrative and operations departments started benefitting from foundational concepts and assessment questions in the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. The boost in workforce engagement and related results—particularly in the quality of work provided by the support services to other departments—reportedly became apparent within the first year, creating a momentum for changes that continue to spread across the organization today.

Choosing Baldrige

Steffani Webb, vice chancellor for administration at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC)—who is also a new Baldrige Executive Fellow—had initially heard about the Baldrige Criteria in a graduate business class that had used a Baldrige case study to learn about organizational management. “The Baldrige framework seemed to me a very comprehensive but still simple approach linking together all the important aspects of management and leadership and operations,” Webb said.

Webb oversees central support-services departments that encompass human resources, information resources, public safety, parking, facilities, landscaping, finance, and compliance functions. These departments, she said, had tended to be viewed as “very bureaucratic, focused on tasks and policy and processes, regardless of how effective those were in meeting the needs of those they needed to serve.”

In deciding to adopt Baldrige “in a subset of the organization almost as a pilot,” Webb said she figured “if it was successful there—even if we never took it wider in the organization—it would benefit the organization by making those functions better for people.”

Inspiration and Tools for the Journey

In September 2011, Webb and two colleagues—including Tom Field, KUMC’s associate vice chancellor for organizational improvement—attended a Baldrige regional conference in Kansas City, Missouri. They learned about using the Baldrige Criteria in presentations by senior leaders of several high-performing organizations that had received the Baldrige Award.

That same year, Field became a Baldrige examiner, and a colleague became a state-level examiner with the closest Alliance for Performance Excellence program. The examiner training and experience they each gained in using the Baldrige framework to evaluate organizations “really helped,” said Field.

According to Field, the KUMC group left the Baldrige regional conference with “inspiration and enthusiasm” about using the Baldrige framework in their organization. He noted that a helpful exercise at the conference used a relatively simple Criteria-based assessment tool provided by the Baldrige Program called Are We Making Progress? (AWMP).

Within their organization, Webb, Field, and others initially used the AWMP self-assessment tool as a “to-do list.” According to Webb, managers and leaders used the survey to identify areas to work on; they also have now used it more broadly throughout the organization to address gaps in performance. For example, they reallocated funding to support an internal communications position.

“From my perspective, AWMP was a catalyst for everything we did,” said Field. Today, KUMC is also using AWMP “as a key piece of our employee engagement survey,” said Field. They are planning to send this year’s survey to all employees of the organization for the first time; the 2012 and 2013 surveys went only to support services employees, who constitute about 20% of the medical center’s overall workforce.

According to Webb, the initial Baldrige-based assessment they conducted in the administrative departments focused on the workforce (category 5 of the Baldrige Criteria) in order to improve services. “We wanted to create a culture around engaging and empowering the workforce,” she said. “Next we started to get more effective about instituting organizational values and goals.” Drawing from the Leadership category of the Baldrige Criteria, they worked on “better conveying those values and goals in order to bridge the gap between ‘management’ and the workforce.”

Ongoing Training

Using the university’s mascot, KUMC’s Baldrige journey has been named the “Jayhawk Way,” and the related training program is known as “Leading the Jayhawk Way.” Field conveyed the “big goals of the training” as follows: (1) to create an internal brand for the workforce—i.e., one promoting workforce members as “highly motivated people aligned to a shared vision of important work, to make this a place where you wouldn’t want to leave,” (2) to create alignment in the organization (because “we had been very task-focused but not necessarily connected to the organization’s greater vision”), and (3) to “improve how we communicate with each other and create a culture of open, constructive communication.”

After two “waves” of training provided over the past two years, the voluntary program has now served 709 participants from KUMC, including 100 faculty members of the organization. Registrants include employees from a partner hospital, the parent organization, and two other medical center campuses, some of whom will be driving great distances to participate. What’s more, a partner business of KUMC has expressed interest in sending executives to a future session.

The Impact

Improvements that Webb, Field, and others at KUMC have seen so far have exceeded their expectations. “What happened was that changes in the levels of engagement and quality of work that people were doing caught the attention of people in other parts of the organization,” said Webb. “I figured implementation would be slow, but the truth is that it has lit a fire.”

Webb and Field both cited the “culture of appreciation” that has developed as a significant change. For example, “the facilities and landscaping staff began to receive notes of thanks from other departments—it was never the case before that people acknowledged each other’s efforts,” Webb said. She noted that traditionally some of those employees weren’t allowed much say in their work; “they were told what and how to do the work,” but that now they are encouraged to speak up to suggest improvements to better serve customers.

KU Facilities Group
KU Facilities Group


How long did it take before improvements became apparent? According to Webb, some positive changes were evident almost immediately in the workforce after the launch of Baldrige efforts; one year later, “the organization was very different.”

She attributes the success so far of the improvement initiative to the early focus on people—the “ones at every level of the organization who know where the problems are.”

“It’s nice to see people who for most of their careers were way in the background who now understand the connection between what they’re doing and the more glamorous [work of the organization],” she said. Most administrative employees will never interact with a patient or a student served by the larger organization, she added, but “they now understand that none of that great work can happen without them.”

KU Landscaping Group
KU Landscaping Group


The Verdict

“The [Baldrige] model is outstanding—even if you only use it in your own area, improving your part of the organization is good,” said Webb. “In doing so, you demonstrate what’s possible. This is enabling the future growth of our organization.”

While Webb acknowledged “our organization still has a long way to go” in its journey to excellence, she stressed, “This has been so much easier than I ever thought it would be. As one employee said, ‘We moved a rock and started a landslide.’”

Posted in Workforce Focus | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Happy 4th of July

No blog today;  just a wishing you a safe and happy 4th of July.

Blogrige posts resume next Tuesday, July 8th.  See you then!

US Flag at NIST

US Flag at NIST

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment