Spotlight on a Baldrige Examiner: Jo Ann Henry

By Christine Schaefer

As the annual online application is open for volunteers for the 2017 Board of Examiners (until 6 p.m. ET on January 9), we are featuring another interview this week of a Baldrige examiner who has served in recent years. Competitively selected, these volunteers hail from many states, sectors, and professions.

Following is an interview of Jo Ann Henry from Oklahoma, where she is a process consultant for a health care organization, INTEGRIS Health, in Oklahoma City.

Jo Ann Henry head shot

Jo Ann Henry

She has volunteered for four years for the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. As a senior examiner during the 2016 Baldrige Award process, she led a team for the Independent Review and Consensus Review phases and acted as backup team leader for the Site Visit Review.

1. Would you please share how you first became interested in becoming a Baldrige examiner?

Three years into INTEGRIS Health’s own journey to performance excellence, my former boss, Susan Dragoo, a Baldrige examiner herself, encouraged me to become an examiner. I was a state examiner for two years with the Oklahoma Quality Award Foundation [a member of the Alliance for Performance Excellence network of state and regional Baldrige-based award programs] before applying to be a national examiner.

2. What were your impressions and highlights of your first training [the Examiner Preparation Course]? What have been highlights for you of annual examiner training in subsequent years?

I remember feeling very inadequate at my first training session to be an examiner. There were examiners who had over ten years, and some with over 20 years, of experience as examiners. I couldn’t believe I was at the same table with some of these people; however, they made me feel at ease and I remember them giving me compliments and encouraging me. I made several new friends that day.

Every year since, the highlight of examiner training has been reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones on the same journey. While there is a lot of work involved in the process, the friends you make and the professional development you receive make it worth it.

3. Without naming applicants, of course, would you please share some memorable learning experiences you’ve had as an examiner on Consensus Review teams? 

The first Consensus Review team that I had the privilege to be on was pretty amazing. The team leader, Bo Snyder, was phenomenal in bringing the team together. There were people from different backgrounds and with experiences and personalities, so during some discussions it seemed like we might never come to consensus. Yet during Consensus Review, everything seemed to just come together, and the team was able to provide the best feedback report. When you trust the process, it all comes together.

4. Similarly, would you please share some memorable learning experiences you’ve had as an examiner on a site visit?

My first site visit was extremely memorable. When I read the part of the Site Visit Manual that says “Do come prepared for a heavy schedule; expect 14- to 16-hour work days,” I was flabbergasted. I thought they were just exaggerating a little.

Well, every day that week was intense, and 14 to 16 hours was no joke. When I first met my team, there were a few members who I thought might make the week challenging. Nevertheless, by the end of the week, we had all become very close, and we still keep in touch to this day. We had worked together to give the applicant the best feedback report possible. That was a huge accomplishment, and we couldn’t have done it without teamwork (and maybe a few tears).

5. How have you applied learning from your service as a Baldrige examiner to your work in a health care organization?

One of the best lessons learned from my experience as a Baldrige examiner is to ask the tough questions that people forget about in health care. Is our approach systematic? How are we deploying the approach? Are we evaluating the approach and learning? Are we sharing best practices?

As a Baldrige examiner, I am continuously learning what questions we should be asking. As INTEGRIS continues its performance excellence journey using the Baldrige Excellence Framework (and Criteria), it is especially nice to hear when others in the organization start asking those Baldrige questions, too.

6. How do your colleagues/family/friends view your service as a Baldrige examiner?

When I’ve shared with my colleagues, family, and friends the time commitment for being a Baldrige examiner, they definitely thought I was insane. Yet those of us who have been examiners know that once “Baldrige” is in your blood, it is hard to give it up. Despite the time commitment, blood, sweat, and tears … it is one of the best learning experiences and the best professional development one can get!

Posted in Baldrige Award Process, Baldrige Criteria, Baldrige Examiners | Tagged | Leave a comment

A Time for All of Us to “Pardon the Turkey”

Posted by Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon

Once again this Thanksgiving, the President carried out the ritual of pardoning the White House turkey.  It caused me to wonder about the history behind this annual ritual. turkeyAs I soon learned, the practice was formally instituted by President George H.W. Bush in 1989. The ritual is intended to draw upon the ideas and ceremonies that encourage forgiveness, as practiced in many of the world’s religions. The value of such  rituals is to periodically reaffirm a social group’s identity through the exercise of collective values, according to late 19th century sociologist Emile Durkheim.

Putting this practice into current day terminology, I would assert that the intent is to exercise and emphasize a society’s espoused set of core values. Thinking of the Baldrige Core Values and Concepts, I believe they also fit as societal values for all of us. At this time of year (and important all year long), I particularly think of valuing people, societal responsibility, and ethics and transparency.

As we close out the year and look to holidays that celebrate the spirit of goodness in all of us, I will reflect on my focus on the three core values I mentioned. It is a time to reflect and re-energize my focus on valuing the people close to me, those I come into contact with, and those in need of help. It is a time to rethink our own commitments to society and social responsibility, and to reflect on our behavior during the past year. Have we treated all people ethically? Is there some change we want to make? Are there any missteps for which we should make amends and seek forgiveness? And are there people who we perceive may have treated us less than fairly, whose needs we should better understand?

At this time of year, should we pardon those who we believe have not treated us as well as we would like and should we seek pardon from those we have not always treated with the most respect and kindness?

Let’s follow the American ritual and reaffirm our societal values through our personal actions.

I wish everyone a joyous, thoughtful, and peaceful holiday season!

Posted in Baldrige Criteria, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Spotlight on a Baldrige Examiner: Michael Drake

By Christine Schaefer

With the annual online application now open for volunteers for our 2017 Board of Examiners, we’ll be featuring interviews for the next few weeks of individuals who have served as Baldrige examiners in recent years. These hard-working, competitively selected volunteers hail from many states, sectors, and professions.

Following is an interview of Dr. Michael Drake from Indiana, where he is director of regulatory compliance for Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes. Drake served as a senior examiner for the Baldrige Award process in 2016, his fourth year on the volunteer board for the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program.

head shot of Dr. Michael A. Drake

Dr. Michael A. Drake


  1. Tell us how you first became interested in becoming a Baldrige examiner?

I became interested in becoming an examiner after my organization started its own “Journey to Excellence.” We initially tried writing a Baldrige Award application without any outside help; I think the first draft of our Organizational Profile was around 20 pages long. After that, our administration decided we should bring in some consultants and send a group for examiner training to gain a better understanding of the Baldrige framework. As I was doing regulatory compliance and quality assurance work for the organization, I thought being an examiner would be a natural fit; so I volunteered.

I started by becoming an examiner for The Partnership for Excellence (TPE), the Baldrige-based state-level program for Indiana, West Virginia, and Ohio. I remember going to my first training workshop thinking, “Great, now everyone is going to know what an idiot I am.” Instead, the training helped me to realize that I hadn’t done such a bad job on my Independent Review work, and I found the experienced examiners in the workshop to be a great source of support and feedback. After completing a site visit for TPE, I wanted more; so with the support of my organization, I signed up to be a national examiner.


  1. What were your impressions or highlights of your first training to be an examiner? What have been highlights for you of annual examiner training in subsequent years?

I went to my first national training with pretty much the same feeling of anxiety that I had at the state level: Now people from all over the nation, not just the Midwest, would find out that I was not competent enough to tie my own shoe, let alone examine an application! But I had the same kind of positive experience at national training as I did at the state level; I learned I wasn’t as dumb as I thought, as the guidance and feedback from the more experienced examiners really helped me to gain a much deeper understanding of and appreciation for the Baldrige Criteria [part of the Baldrige Excellence Framework].

One of the best parts of annual examiner training was and continues to be the ability to present and observe the diverse perspectives on the same material from the varying experience levels of the other participants. Even as a senior examiner in recent years, I have continued learning something from newer examiners during training every year.


  1. Would you please share some memorable learning experiences you’ve had as an examiner on Consensus Review teams?

I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to examine and conduct site visits for multiple organizations over the last six years. My background is in health care, but I have been able to review applications in the education, nonprofit, and government sectors as well as health care. In fact, the first award applications I reviewed for both the state and national Baldrige programs were for education organizations.

Initially, I thought, “What business does a clinical psychologist have reviewing an education program?” I was once again certain I would be exposed as a fraud. But I soon saw I had a lot to contribute. As the Baldrige Criteria recognize, a process is a process whether it is in health care, education, manufacturing, or government. So the Baldrige Criteria and Core Values are applicable to all sectors and organizations. I now find myself applying the Baldrige framework to my everyday encounters (e.g., going to the bank, attending a seafood festival, buying a pair of shoes, etc.) and wishing that more companies would take the time to apply the Baldrige principles to how they operate.


  1. How have you applied learning from your service as a Baldrige examiner to your work in a health care organization?

One of the greatest benefits of becoming a Baldrige examiner has been the ability to apply what I have learned to help my organization on its journey to excellence. My experiences as an examiner have helped me to sharpen my analytical skills, to “see the big picture” and break down silos, and to appreciate my organization (and others) as a living, fluid, and ever-transitioning entity.

With the support of my organization’s senior leaders, I have been able to reinforce the Baldrige Core Values (e.g., customer-focused excellence, valuing people, and delivering value and results) in the work our organization performs and to partner with my coworkers to ensure that we are striving continuously to provide a better experience for our patients.

Posted in Baldrige Award Process, Baldrige Criteria, Baldrige Examiners, Baldrige State & Local Programs | 4 Comments

A Systems Perspective to Leadership and Strategy

Posted by Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon

I recently read a summary of an interview with Wharton Professors Harbir Singh and Mike Useem. The interview relates to their new book, The strategic leaders roadmap. In 2014_07_22_Flowers_Cthe book they contend that successful senior executives must  be capable of integrating strategic thinking with strong leadership skills.

Leaders who adopt the Baldrige excellence framework have already successfully addressed this integrative need because of the questions in the Leadership and Strategy categories of the Baldrige criteria. Indeed, the key considerations that Singh and Useem outline are contained in item 1.1 on Senior Leadership and item 2.1 on Strategy Development and are systemically interrelated in the criteria.

Here are the key points I gleaned from the interview and how they relate to the relevant Baldrige criteria:

  • Leaders must inspire the workforce, and must  also deliver strategic inspiration and discipline: The Baldrige criteria (item 1.1) ask how senior leaders create a focus on action that will achieve innovation and intelligent risk taking, and attain the organization’s vision. Item 2.1 asks how the organization seeks out potential blind spots in its strategy to avoid a senior leader’s bias or potential lack of realization that there is a changing external or competitive environment. Such bias may cause a disciplined approach to a poor strategy.
  • Leaders may be good at strategic thinking, but thin on making things happen, driving strategy and change through the organization: This is the very reason that starting with the Baldrige excellence builder, the criteria ask (item 1.1) how senior leaders set an overall focus on action and, in specific, in item 2.1 ask about the ability to execute the strategic plan and to achieve transformational change.
  • Leaders must realize that execution is not just about the workforce following orders, but that it is about creating and enhancing the value proposition to the client and getting ideas from the entire workforce: In item 1.1, customers and the workforce receive significant attention. At the Excellence builder level the criteria ask: “How do senior leaders communicate with and engage the entire workforce and key customers?” In the more detailed Baldrige criteria there are questions about senior leaders’ two-way communication with the workforce, and their actions to reinforce a customer focus, foster customer engagement, and create customer value.
  • Leaders must balance quarterly results with setting the tone of an ethical climate and a policy of integrity first: Here too, item 1.1 of the Baldrige criteria sends a clear message by asking how senior leaders’ actions demonstrate their commitment to ethical behavior and how they promote an organizational environment that requires it.
  • Leaders must create agility and adaptability in the organization: Item 2.1 specifically asks how the strategic planning process addresses the potential need for organizational agility and operational flexibility.

While I have given some very specific examples from the Baldrige criteria, these are just examples. The systems perspective of Baldrige means these topics are addressed at appropriate places throughout all seven categories of the criteria to cause linkages wherever valuable.

Professors Singh and Useem summarize their treatise by saying that senior leaders must be strategic in thought and lead well. I would assert that you can simply operationalize this unified concept (and more) by following the advice given in items 1.1 and 2.1 of the Baldrige criteria. And in the process, gain a systems perspective of all that is important in leadership and strategy.

Posted in Baldrige Criteria, Customer Focus, Leadership, Strategic Planning, Uncategorized, Workforce Focus | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ten Blogs about Customer Engagement (and the Baldrige Excellence Framework)

By Christine Schaefer

Customer-focused excellence is one of the 11 core concepts and values of the Baldrige Excellence Framework (which includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence). What’s more, “Customer Engagement” is the title and focus of a section (item 3.2) of the Baldrige Criteria on engaging customers by serving their needs and building relationships with them.

Given the key importance of this concept for achieving organizational excellence and success, today I’ve aggregated ten of the most-read blogs Baldrige staff members have written in recent years about customer engagement. Following is the list, with hyperlinks to each blog.

shaking hands

1. Ritz-Carlton Practices for Building a World-Class Service Culture:

2. Six Ways PwC’s Public Sector Practice Focuses on Customers:

3. How Baldrige Encouraged a People to Be Innovative, Community-Focused:

4. Culture Leads to Strategic Expansion and Enhanced Customer Relationships:

5. Meet the Twins (Communication and Information) and Their First Cousin (Engagement):

6. Effective Use of Social Media:

7. Engaging Patients in a Changing Health Care System:

8. Government Agencies and Great Customer Service: A Match Made by Baldrige:

9. The Exceptional Student Focus of a 2015 Baldrige Award-Winning School:

10. Criteria Requirement 3.1b.(1) How do you determine customer satisfaction and engagement?


As always, your thoughts are welcome here! Please consider sharing your insights and best practices—in this case, on engaging customers—by commenting below.

Posted in Baldrige Criteria, Customer Focus | Tagged , , | Leave a comment