The Baldrige Guide to Overcoming Poor Leadership

Posted by Jacqueline Calhoun and Dawn Bailey

Much has been written recently on the cost of poor quality that leads to recalls, loss of customer confidence, and of course much worse scenarios where customers’ lives and health are at risk. For example, recent recalls in the automotive, food, electronics, and pharmaceutical industries have led to plummeting stocks and even government investigations. And if you search for “corporate greed,” you can find editorials from all industries across the U.S. economy, including in the health care and nonprofit worlds.

In many of these cases, it’s brand-name businesses behind the scandals/recalls. Are these simply cases of the corporate greed of senior leaders and their questionable ethical decisions? Could leadership itself be at fault?

Leadership is paramount in the Baldrige Excellence Framework and its Criteria; the leadership category can be summarized as asking how senior leaders’ personal actions and the governance system guide and sustain the organization. The Baldrige core values also have a distinct focus on leadership, especially in the core values of visionary leadership, ethics and transparency, focus on success, societal responsibility, valuing people, management by fact, and managing for innovation. These core values are the beliefs and behaviors embedded in high-performing organizations.

In the concept of an organization’s ongoing success, taking intelligent risks is also included in the Leadership category. Intelligent risks are opportunities for which the potential gain outweighs the potential harm or loss to an organization’s future success. One might wonder if some of the decisions made by leaders come out of thoughtful and measured intelligent risk, guidance for which can also be found in the Baldrige framework, but others might wonder if some decisions are made purely for the potential profits.

When it comes to our leaders, Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, writes in his book, Leadership B.S.: Fixing Workplaces and Careers One Truth at a Time, that although many of us would like our leaders to exhibit attributes such as authenticity, modesty, transparency, truthfulness, and benevolence, the reality is that some of the most successful business leaders actually exhibit other characteristics: narcissism/dominance, self-promotion/energy, self-aggrandizement/confidence, and self-confidence/charisma–traits that have often proven to be instrumental in building and promoting a brand.

However, these latter traits often lead to decisions that don’t last–or recalls and costly decisions both for the business and the people it impacts. When there are questionable values of visionary leadership, ethics and transparency, societal responsibility, and the valuing of people, among other core values, can leaders really lead their organizations into a sustainable future?

Of course, no business path is guaranteed, but the Baldrige Excellence Framework does provide a guide. Think about some of the leaders and the alleged examples of corporate greed in the news. Now consider the thoughtful questions in the framework, for example, for the following categories:

Category 3 asks how you engage customers for long‐term marketplace success, including how you listen to the voice of the customer, build customer relationships, and use customer information to improve and to identify opportunities for innovation.

Do some of the leaders that we read about really listen to their customers and build relationships? How? (These leaders might learn something from reading about the innovative ways that Baldrige Award recipients accomplish these tasks.)

Category 4, the “brain center” of the Criteria, covers the alignment of operations with strategic objectives. It is the main point within the Criteria for all key information on effectively measuring, analyzing, and improving performance and managing organizational knowledge to drive improvement, innovation, and organizational competitiveness. Knowledge of such data and information would be instrumental in making intelligent risks.

Category 6 asks how you focus on your organization’s work, product design and delivery, innovation, and operational effectiveness to achieve organizational success now and in the future.

Could leaders learn from considering the questions in these categories, as well as the other Criteria categories? Of course! The Baldrige Excellence Framework provides a road map. Now leaders, with all of their traits (the traits of narcissism/dominance, self-promotion/energy, self-aggrandizement/confidence, and self-confidence/charisma may be good or bad depending on your perspective) just need to consider the answers to the Criteria questions to ensure that their leadership is appropriate for their industries, their challenges, and their people (the Criteria are not prescriptive).

With the Criteria as a guide, they can then move their organizations forward toward sustainability–and hopefully regain some of the customer confidence that can so easily be lost.

Posted in Baldrige Award Recipients, Baldrige Criteria, Business, Customer Focus, Leadership, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Being a Baldrige Examiner: The Work and Three “Why’s”

By Christine Schaefer

Being a Baldrige examiner: What is the experience like? Some have compared the work—especially during the final phase of an evaluation—to being in a rigorous graduate-business-degree program. Others may find it is like being part of a dispersed but highly engaged task force, as teams collaborate online and on the phone to complete an evaluation of an organization. Many find the work rewarding enough that they come back year after year to do it again. One could dare to speculate that they consider being an examiner a lot of fun!

Competitively selected at the start of each year, Baldrige examiners from around the country collaborate on teams each summer to assess the performance of U.S. organizations using the Baldrige Excellence Framework and its Criteria for Performance Excellence. Each team produces feedback to help an organization improve its performance, while also helping a panel of judges recommend recipients for the annual Baldrige Award—the nation’s highest honor for organizational excellence. The work of these volunteers is essential to the Baldrige Program’s mission-critical task of identifying national role models in every sector of the U.S. economy that can help other organizations advance their performance, too.

Baldrige examiners receive Criteria-based training each spring. (The Criteria are updated every two years, and training case studies rotate sectors each year to help examiners understand how to apply the Baldrige framework in every industry.) They apply the training weeks later as they work virtually on evaluation teams over the summer. During the first phase of this process, each examiner assigned to a team receives an award application that describes an organization’s processes and results in relation to the Criteria for Performance Excellence.

Examiner team members then collaborate during the second phase of the process, Consensus Review, to produce an online scorebook containing feedback comments and scores on the organization’s performance. During conference calls at the end of Consensus Review, team members agree on final scores and the content of the feedback comments. The team’s online scorebook is eventually converted into a confidential report for each organization detailing its strengths and opportunities for improvement.

But first, the examiner team may proceed to the third phase, Site Visit Review, if a panel of judges determines that the organization’s performance is high enough. During the site visit, the examiner team works long hours to verify and clarify their understanding of the organization’s performance. Team members refine their feedback as they conduct interviews and examine additional data and information from the organization to finalize their findings.

Three Reasons

Why are these hard-working volunteers willing to lend their expertise and time in this way? Here are three common reasons that Baldrige examiners have expressed:

  1. Professional Development: Baldrige Program training has received high marks from participants, while also receiving high external rankings, including first-place recognition for the past two years among government-provided leadership development programs
  2. Networking: Baldrige examiners look forward to opportunities to learn from and connect with peers from around the country on the Board of Examiners, both during spring training in large groups and in teams during the summertime award process.
  3. Patriotic Duty: At the heart of service, there is often a noble sentiment: Baldrige examiners value the experience of helping U.S. organizations, and the economy at large, to improve performance and achieve greatness that can be sustained for years to come."Uncle Sam Needs Baldrige"

For these reasons and more, please consider applying to become a Baldrige examiner. The online application for the 2016 Board of Examiners will be open from November 23, 2015, through January 7, 2016.

If you have been a Baldrige examiner before, please share what you have found rewarding and encourage others to take advantage of this opportunity to both learn and serve.

Posted in Baldrige Examiners | 5 Comments

The Boss and the Innovator

Posted by Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon

I feel like I should start this blog post with something like: “An innovator and a boss walk into a bar…” But, I don’t have a punch line to follow it, so I will stick to the facts.

I recently read a blog post entitled, Think Like an Author, Not an Owner. I felt the story should be more accurately cast as thinking like an innovator and a boss and that it allowed me to make boss and innovatoran important point that is emphasized in the Baldrige Excellence Framework.

You have probably never heard of Oswald The Lucky Rabbit; at least I had not. Oswald was the 1920’s creation of Walt Disney and Ubbe Iwerks (Disney’s star graphic artist). Oswald was owned by Universal Studios. After Oswald became a success, the Universal executives told Disney to cut their costs and increase productivity or Universal would hire  (“steal”) Disney’s best animators.

Disney and Iwerks kept their animators, left Oswald to Universal, and went on to create Mickey Mouse and the first full-length animated film, Snow White. Disney invested all his money and borrowed money in addition to create the film and achieve one of his visions.

In an interesting twist of fate, when John Lassater and Ed Catmull wanted to create  the first computer-animated film they were unable to get the support they needed at Disney so they founded Pixar and created Toy Story. However, Disney owned the rights to the characters. Pixar went on to create Monsters Inc and Finding Nemo, which had no Disney characters. When Disney subsequently realized the creative ingenuity at Pixar, it merged with Pixar and Lassater now heads Disney’s animation division.

In both these instances, first at Universal and then at Disney, the leaders thought only like bosses, who were looking at immediate income and short-term expenses. They did not focus on the potential for breakthrough innovation (ironic in Disney’s case with Pixar), weighing what intelligent risks to take for the long-term success and growth of their companies. Innovators are not motivated by a short-term focus that stifles their creativity. They need encouragement and a supportive environment and will reward their organizations handsomely.

This brings us to a focus of the Baldrige framework for several years now: the role of visionary leaders in creating an environment that supports innovation and living a value of managing for innovation. These leaders have an organizational process for seeking strategic opportunities and pursuing those that are intelligent risks. They balance short-term needs and long-term success. They motivate all employees to think outside the box. Their organizations constantly scan the environment for opportunities that arise from inside and outside their industry. A practice in another industry, when adapted, could be an innovation in your industry.

Innovation results from a supportive environment and intelligent risk taking. The leader has to start by first providing the supportive environment!

Posted in Baldrige Criteria, Leadership, Strategic Planning, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 6 Comments

CEOs’ Top 4 Challenges and Baldrige Are a Perfect Match

The Conference Board’s CEO Challenge 2015—Creating Opportunity Out of Adversity: Building Innovative, People-Driven Organizations asked CEOs, presidents, and chairs of businesses across the globe to identify their most critical challenges. (Harry Hertz discussed this study—and four other studies on topic areas getting attention from senior executives—in this column.)

The top four challenges involved human capital, innovation, customer relationships, and operational excellence. If these are your challenges, too, here’s how the Baldrige core values and the Criteria for Performance Excellence (both found within the Baldrige Excellence Framework) can help you deal with them.

Challenge 1: Human Capital

CEOs’ human capital challenges:

  • Improving performance management
  • Providing employee training and development
  • Enhancing the effectiveness of senior management
  • Raising employee engagement

The Criteria for Performance Excellence address

  • Making sure you have an effective and efficient performance management system (item 5.2)
  • Providing a learning and development system that develops leaders and meets employees’ and the organization’s needs (item 5.2)
  • Making sure you communicate and motivate the workforce and foster a culture that promotes open communication, high performance, and an engaged workforce (items 1.1 and 5.2)

As the core value of valuing people (people are more than  “capital”) says, “An organization’s success depends on an engaged workforce that benefits from meaningful work, clear organizational direction, the opportunity to learn, and accountability for performance.”

Challenge 2: Innovation

CEO’s challenges around innovation:

  • Creating a culture of innovation
  • Engaging in strategic alliances
  • Finding and engaging talent for innovation
  • Applying new technologies

The Criteria address

  • Creating an environment for innovation and intelligent risk taking (item 1.1)
  • Stimulating innovation and incorporating it into strategy, including aligning workforce needs with strategy (item 2.1)
  • The need to manage for innovation—and make sure day-to-day work processes meet requirements around new technology (item 6.1)

Managing for innovation is another Baldrige core value: “Innovation requires a supportive environment, a process for identifying strategic opportunities, and the pursuit of intelligent risks.”

Challenge 3: Customer Relationships

CEO’s challenges in this area:

  • Engaging personally with key customers
  • Enhancing the quality of products and services
  • Developing a customer-centric culture
  • Bringing products and services to market more quickly

The Criteria address

  • Making sure you, as a leader, listen to and communicate frankly with your key customers (item 1.1)
  • Listening to, interacting with, and observing customers (item 3.1)
  • Adapting product and service offerings to exceed customers’ expectations (item 3.1)
  • Creating a workforce culture that delivers a consistently positive customer experience and fosters customer engagement (item 1.1)
  • Identifying and adapting offerings for new markets (item 3.2)
  • Incorporating cycle time, productivity, and efficiency and effectiveness into work processes (item 6.2)

Customer-focused excellence (a Baldrige core value ) is “a strategic concept. It is directed toward customer acquisition, retention, and loyalty; stronger brand recognition; market share gain; and growth.”

Challenge 4: Operational Excellence

The challenges:

  • Raising employee engagement to drive productivity
  • Seeking better alignment between strategy, objectives, and organizational capabilities
  • Improving organizational ability/flexibility
  • Redesigning business processes

The Baldrige Criteria address

  • Identifying, responding to, and assessing the drivers of workforce engagement (item 5.1)
  • Taking a systems perspective (a core value)—aligning all functions with your organization’s mission and vision and managing those functions as a unified whole
  • The need for organizational agility and operational flexibility in planning (items 2.1 and 2.2)
  • Determining process requirements, designing effective and efficient processes, and improving those processes regularly (item 6.1)

And it’s the systems perspective (another core value) that ties it all together: “Successfully managing overall organizational performance requires realization of your organization as a system with interdependent operations.”

Your organization probably has additional challenges specific to your environment. Whatever they are, the likelihood is high that the Baldrige systems perspective will help you address them.

Posted in Baldrige Criteria, Business, Education, Health Care, Manufacturing, Nonprofit, Small Business | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

“The Baldrige Framework Is … [Choose a Metaphor]”

By Christine Schaefer

As we’ve interviewed organizational leaders in every sector of the U.S. economy for this Baldrige Program blog in recent years, we’ve heard a variety of metaphors testifying to the value of the Baldrige Excellence Framework. I’m listing a sampling below.

Please share your own creative, catchy addition to this collection. (You’re always invited to comment here on Blogrige.)

“… a very comprehensive but still simple approach linking together all the important aspects of management and leadership and operations” (Stephanie Webb, Kansas University Medical Center Vice Chancellor for Administration, Baldrige Executive Fellow; see the original blog at

“… the key to winning results and world-class excellence” (Ken Schiller, President, Co-Owner, and Founder, K&N Management; see the original blog at

“… a SMAC recipe: a specific, methodical, and consistent leadership approach … a powerful set of mechanisms for disciplined people engaged in disciplined thought and taking disciplined action to create great organizations that produce exceptional results” (Jim Collins, Author or Coauthor, Good to Great, Built to Last, How the Mighty Fall, Great by Choice; see the original blog at

“… the plastic thingy that helps you hold together a six-pack of beer” [in relation to other improvement tools and plans and priorities for work processes] (John Dreyzehner, Tennessee Commissioner of Health; see the original blog at

“… the blueprint of a building, with ISO used for specific systems within the building such as electrical and air conditioning systems” (Ron Schulingkamp, Loyola University New Orleans Assistant Professor; Fluor Federal Petroleum Operations, LLC, Health Care Consultant; see the original blog at

“… a well-organized road map to performance excellence” (Michael Garvey, M-7 Technologies President and CEO; see the original blog at

“… a cure for many business strategies and critical sustainability decisions. … the cure for the stability of our organization.” (Kris Diemer, Du Fresne Manufacturing Vice President of Human Development; see the original blog at

“… a map that will show the organization where . . . Six Sigma, Lean, and other tools should be deployed. . . . If an organization deploys [such tools] without an overall map as Baldrige, it would be like taking a trip in a car but not having a map to know the way.” (Gene O’Dell, American Hospital Association Vice President for Strategic Planning and Performance Excellence; see the original blog at

“… the rudder for the education sector in that stormy sea. It empowers organizations to address their reason for being by maintaining focus and discipline to achieve student success.” (Fonda Vera, Richland College Executive Dean of Planning, Research, Effectiveness, and Development; see the original blog at

“… the lens by which we inform all of our improvement efforts” (Leslie Bonar, Schertz Elementary School Assistant Principal; see the original blog at

“… a trim tab, the small rudder-like mechanism at the top of rudders (ships) or leading edges of ailerons or stabilizers (aircraft) that make it easier for the pilot (the senior leaders) to maneuver the vehicle (the organization) against the physical forces that buffet it (the environment)” (Barry Johnson, Knowledge Engineers Principal; see the original blog at

What is your favorite metaphor for the Baldrige framework for performance excellence?


Posted in Baldrige Criteria, Uncategorized | Tagged | 12 Comments