Ten Reasons Small Businesses Benefit from the Baldrige Criteria, Part I

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

Note: This blog is the first in a three-part series on how small businesses are benefiting from using the Baldrige Criteria.

In the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, small business owners are finding a tool to make their businesses stronger and more sustainable and to manage their resources as effectively and efficiently as possible.

From architectural and executive search firms, to car dealerships, animal shelters, health care associations, and other types of businesses, the Criteria are being used by small businesses most often for

  1. strategic planning,
  2. agility,
  3. profitability,
  4. sustainability,
  5. alignment using a systems approach,
  6. growth,
  7. job creation,
  8. prioritization of improvements,
  9. measurement of data, and
  10. development of leadership skills.

This blog addresses the first four reasons.

Strategic Planning

One of the greatest opportunities for small businesses is using the Baldrige Criteria to look beyond tactical planning to consider strategic planning, said Donna Douglas, vice chair for strategy at the United States Senate Productivity and Quality Award (SPQA), a Baldrige-based program that, among other services, mentors small businesses in its region.

“With no exceptions, the opportunity to use the Baldrige Criteria as a strategic plan was something that each one of those small businesses [being mentored] embraced,” said Janice Garfield, SPQA board chair. “Very few of them had a strategic plan. They had a business plan, but they did not have a strategic plan that was holistic and showed them how to measure what was relevant and important in terms of what they wanted to do. In every instance, helping organizations plan and align key performance measures with what they were all about and where they wanted to go was what our mentors and application of the Baldrige Criteria brought to those small businesses.”

Cindy Milrany, chief financial officer and chief administrative officer for Baldrige Award-winning small business Freese and Nichols, said when the engineering and architectural firm started using the Baldrige Criteria, it was challenged by changing client needs and the ability to anticipate those changes and respond quickly.

“If you asked folks before we got into doing Baldrige, were we doing strategic planning, they would have said absolutely yes,” Milrany explained. “We were pretty good with planning, but we were really poor at execution. [Since using the Criteria], our planning processes are much, much better, but our deployment of the Strategic Plan is a whole different world.”

Milrany said Freese and Nichols’s strategic planning process today includes specific deployment of actions to the sales team, operations team, and corporate support groups. “For every action on the Strategic Plan for the year, . . . we develop complete action sheets that give background on what the planning team was thinking about, what steps are anticipated, what outcomes are looked for, and what we will use to measure effectiveness.”

Agility, Profitability, and Sustainability

Remaining agile in the face of changing regulations and industries is hard, but some small businesses find that focusing on the questions in the Criteria helps them to anticipate blind spots and react quickly.

Staff members at Freese and Nichols look at balanced scorecard results four times a year during management meetings; if results are not going in the anticipated direction, changes can be made.

“Before Baldrige, we were a good company; after Baldrige we’re a great company,” said Milrany. From the standpoint of sustainability, the small business is now looking to the future, even convening a Futures Committee to look at issues that might impact its environment and its clients’ environments, so that workforce members are prepared to deal with changes.

Don Chalmers Ford, a Baldrige-based Quality New Mexico Zia Award for Performance Excellence recipient, has been using the Baldrige Criteria for 15 years “to increase our probability of success,” said Lee Butler, director of performance excellence. “Using the model helped us come out of the 2008 financial crisis quicker than our competition. Once you’ve . . . decided to use the model and not waiver, [it] provides a disciplined approach to the key systems we need to be successful.”

“American businesses can no longer afford inefficiencies,” said Kenneth Cohen, PhD, president of The Synergy Organization, an evidence-based executive search and assessment firm that he founded in 1988. (Synergy, which has been recognized twice by the Baldrige-based Pennsylvania Keystone Alliance for Performance Excellence, is the founding sponsor of the Harry S. Hertz Leadership Award.) “Recognizing that it always costs less to do things right the first time, the Baldrige Criteria have proven to be an incredibly cost-effective solution to the multiple, complex challenges confronting health care executives.”

Cohen added, “What I like most about the Baldrige Criteria as a small business owner is that they offer an incredible amount of value, innovation, and proven ways to help me think and act most effectively and to provide maximum benefit and value for our clients. . . . Actively listening to what our clients want and then ensuring that they are consistently amazed and delighted with our results has driven the growth of our company in ways I never would have anticipated over 25 years ago.”

Deborah Bowen, CEO of the American Health Care Association, which received the Bronze Award for Commitment to Excellence from Baldrige-based Illinois Performance Excellence, writes that the Baldrige Criteria are an “established framework for improvement and innovation.” Working with the Baldrige Criteria, the association’s staff members are “clearly defining and articulating our systems and embedding cycles of continuous learning, improvement, and innovation in every part of our organization,” Bowen wrote in Healthcare Executive magazine.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tips from Baldrige Award-Winning Health Care Organizations

Posted by Christine Schaefer

The following have been compiled from interviews of presenters at the Baldrige Program’s 26th Annual Quest for Excellence® conference.

How to Foster Physician Leadership:

  • Appoint a physician champion who is a trusted peer to recruit physicians within the organization to invest in leadership training.
  • Emphasize a mission of improving patient care and the increased personal effectiveness of the leadership-trained individual to make a positive difference.
  • Have physicians see that previously trained physicians behave differently and have demonstrated success and recognition as a result of their training.

These tips are from Dr. Brian Condit, director of the Physician Leadership Institute at North Mississippi Health Services (2012 Baldrige Award recipient, health care). Read the complete interview at http://nistbaldrige.blogs.govdelivery.com/2014/03/04/a-physician-hothouse-for-innovation/.

How to Improve Processes Using the Baldrige Criteria and Magnet:

  • Focus on the concept that both the Baldrige Criteria and Magnet are based on evidence-based practice; they learn from each other.
  • Emphasize that both the Baldrige Criteria and Magnet are grounded in what is best for the patient, which creates purpose and pride in the workforce.
  • When developing committee structure, capitalize on your existing committees. Keep in mind that both the Baldrige Criteria and Magnet are based on a foundation of having structure, process, and outcomes; those three premises work together for both the Baldrige Criteria and Magnet.
  • Use one process improvement methodology when making improvements identified by the Baldrige Criteria and by Magnet; then involve nursing and non-nursing staff members in both to get the benefit of differing perspectives.
  • Crosswalk your responses in applications for both Magnet and the Baldrige Award. Crosswalks are cost-effective and are an additional way to identify best practices.

These tips are from Donna Poduska, chief nursing officer, and Priscilla Nuwash, system director for performance excellence, at University of Colorado Health (which now encompasses Poudre Valley Health System, 2008 Baldrige Award recipient, health care). Read the complete interview at http://nistbaldrige.blogs.govdelivery.com/2014/02/20/whats-more-dispensable-magnet-or-baldrige/.

How to Partner with a Competitor to Achieve Clinical Integration:

  • Build a foundation of trust and open communication.
  • Start with a common goal and shared vision and work from there.
  • Bring in a nonbiased third party to help with facilitation and building the infrastructure.Schneck employees

These tips are from Tammy Dye, vice president of clinical services and chief quality officer, and Suki Wright, director of organizational excellence and innovation, at Schneck Medical Center, 2011 Baldrige Award recipient, health care). Read the complete interview at http://nistbaldrige.blogs.govdelivery.com/2014/04/01/for-the-good-of-the-community/.

How to Use Lean Methodology to Address the Baldrige Criteria:

  • Use Kanban (Lean scheduling system) or 2-bin system (Lean inventory control system) as a systematic approach to controlling the costs of supplies in response to Criteria item 6.2, which asks how organizations control the costs of operations).
  • Use visual management to ensure that the day-to-day operation of work processes meet requirements and lead to the in-process measures used to control and improve those processes (Criteria item, 6.1b).
  • Standard work, a foundational concept of Lean, is a simple, written description of the safest, highest-quality, most-efficient way known to perform a task or achieve an outcome. Use standard work in both clinical and nonclinical areas for deploying key processes, in order to reduce variability from caregiver to caregiver.

These tips are from Pattie Skriba, vice president of business excellenceat Advocate Good Samaritan (2010 Baldrige Award recipient, health care). Read the complete interview at http://nistbaldrige.blogs.govdelivery.com/2014/04/03/Got-MUDA-無駄/.

How to Benefit from the Voice of the Customer:

  • Foster a shared relationship between the customer and organization.
  • Provide customers with feedback opportunities before and after their health care visits and even after hours.
  • Create more than one way to listen to customers, for example, utilizing technology to improve how to listen.

These tips are from Crystal Lewis, improvement specialist at Southcentral Foundation (2011 Baldrige Award recipient, health care). Read the complete interview at http://nistbaldrige.blogs.govdelivery.com/2014/03/20/listening-and-customer-satisfaction/.

Editor’s Note: The first blog in this series features tips from Baldrige Award-winning businesses, and the next will feature tips from Baldrige Award-winning organizations in the education sector; all are based on interviews of presenters at this year’s Quest for Excellence conference.

Posted in Baldrige Award Recipients, Baldrige Events, Health Care | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Start Quickly in Just One Area, In this Case, Workforce Management

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

As evidence of ways that frameworks can be used for planning and continuous improvement, a recently posted paper “Using the Baldrige Criteria for Observatory Strategic and Operations Planning” demonstrates how the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence were used to guide such planning—and quickly.

One of the paper’s authors, Nicole M. Radziwill, a member of ASQ’s Influential Voices, said that while at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), she and her colleagues were tasked by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to prepare a workforce management plan. 

Such a task, she said, “was definitely going to require us to dig deep and reflect on how we were managing our workforce, both at the operational level and in service of our strategic priorities. Unfortunately, none of us had ever done this before, so we were pretty much clueless as to what elements such a report would require, and what sorts of questions we might have to answer to ensure that we were approaching the question of workforce management strategically. The NSF wasn’t really able to provide guidance to us other than ‘you should use best practices from business and industry.’ Fortunately, because I had been involved in the quality community for several years, I knew that the Baldrige Criteria might help us accomplish our goal. And it did!”

Radziwill and her colleagues used Criteria questions from category 5, Workforce Focus, as well as questions from the Organizational Profile, to guide their planning.

“This helped us construct the initial draft in an intense week, rather than the weeks or months it might have taken if we didn’t have the Criteria to guide us,” she said.

The main point is that you don’t need to use or implement all sections of the Baldrige Criteria for it to yield immediate tangible value for your organization,” added Radziwill, “consider applying the sections when you need them in your continuous improvement journey.”

The paper’s conclusion was that “The Baldrige Criteria helped provide the National Radio Astronomy Observatory with a template to rapidly launch the development of a Workforce Management Plan. . . .  The major benefit provided by the Baldrige Criteria was that NRAO was able to quickly understand the requirements for a Workforce Management Plan. From this knowledge, senior leaders were able to formulate the right questions to ask staff and other senior leaders, and from these results pull together existing and new material into a cohesive approach and document that satisfied the needs of the funding agency.”

Similarly, questions in other categories of the Baldrige Criteria—leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis, and knowledge management; operations focus; and results—might provide tools to promote productivity in other areas of an organization’s overall operations and planning.

Where would you start?

Side note: Congratulations to ASQ on winning the Wisconsin Forward Award this year. As a policy, we try not to call out organizations who are on the Baldrige journey and/or use the Baldrige Criteria unless they win the Baldrige Award, but as a Baldrige Program partner, ASQ is not eligible for the Baldrige Award.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tips from Baldrige Award-Winning Businesses

Posted by Christine Schaefer

The following have been compiled from interviews of presenters at the Baldrige Program’s 26th Annual Quest for Excellence® conference.

How to Get Started Using the Baldrige Framework:

  • Communicate: Make sure you have the support of senior leadership and employees. Instigating organizational change is not a one-person challenge, and the only way to truly sustain change and excellence is if everyone is on the same page.
  • Share/steal: The Baldrige community is so generous and open; take advantage of conferences and best-practice sessions. If you’re struggling in a certain area, it’s likely that other organizations have been down the same path and come out on the other side. There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel when so many great leaders and organizations are eager to share their stories with you.
  • Keep going: It’s a journey, and one that will take you longer than you might expect. The Baldrige framework is not about an award or a temporary fix. It’s about lasting, continuous improvement and a systematic framework for excellence. You will never “master” the Criteria. Instead, you can use it every year, every month, every day, to ensure that your organization is striving for excellence in every aspect.

These tips are from Kelsey May, general counsel of MESA (2006 and 2012 Baldrige Award recipient, small business). Read the complete interview at http://nistbaldrige.blogs.govdelivery.com/2014/03/19/growing-by-leaps-and-baldrige/.

How to Build a Customer-Focused Strategy:customer service desk graphic

  • Don’t treat continuous improvement, Lean, or another improvement strategy as an add-on to your current operations or a “bolt-on accessory.” Integrate improvement with your culture and how you do business.
  • Build ownership for your strategy among the workforce. This means that you have to get people’s buy-in, but understand that some things are non-negotiable, such as safety, health, morals, and ethics.
  • Work on a “demand-pull” approach of people wanting your products, rather than a “supply-push” approach.
  • Don’t focus on efficient measures (these are noble, but you can wind up with lousy measures); instead, try for effective measures that are focused, do what they are supposed to do and are not overburdened with too many different purposes.

These tips are from Ken Dean, vice president/director of quality systems with the Customer Development Group of Nestlé Purina PetCare Company (2010 Baldrige Award recipient, manufacturing). Read the complete interview at http://nistbaldrige.blogs.govdelivery.com/2014/03/26/what-could-you-discover-about-your-customer-strategy/.

How to Manage Organizational Change:

  • Shrink the change to effect change.
  • Build on your “bright spots” (people, processes) to effect change.
  • Understand that information is not necessarily the key to change; the key is not only to inform but also to demonstrate the change and ensure understanding through accountability checks.
  • Innovate to sustain the change. To achieve different results, you have to do things a different way. Thinking of new ways to conduct value-added processes is key to growth.

These tips are from Jan Englert, RN, principal of quality and safety at Premier (2006 Baldrige Award recipient, service business). Read the complete interview at http://nistbaldrige.blogs.govdelivery.com/2014/03/18/expect-change-be-innovative-and-steer-the-elephant/.

How to Align an Organization and Manage Performance for Improvement/Change:

  • Consider these three key accelerants to the organizational alignment needed for an improvement journey: (1) Highest-ranking officers who are personally committed to steering the journey, (2) senior executives who hold leaders accountable for metric-based performance outcomes through a performance management and evaluation system, and (3) senior teams who provide their leaders with the skills needed to maximize their own potential by providing mandatory, quarterly leadership training.
  • Address chronically low-performing members of the team to prevent negative impacts on the culture of the organization, and reward successes of high-performing individuals so that you don’t miss out on the opportunity to maximize the potential of the lifeblood of the organization: the solid performers who need mentoring and coaching. A key work process for high-performing organizations includes a consistently practiced, fair, documented, and objective series of discussions with high, solid, and low performers to sustain the momentum for the arduous journey of cultural transformation.

These tips are from Craig Deao, member of the senior executive team of Studer Group (2010 Baldrige Award recipient, small business). Read the complete interview at http://nistbaldrige.blogs.govdelivery.com/2014/03/27/changing-culture-insights-from-a-2010-baldrige-award-winner/.


Editor’s Note: The next two blogs in this series will feature tips from Baldrige Award recipients in the health care and education sectors, respectively, based on interviews of presenters at the Quest for Excellence conference this year.

Posted in Baldrige Award Recipients, Baldrige Events, Business, Manufacturing, Small Business | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Baldrige Proves Inspirational for Small Business Owner

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

For veterinarian Dr. Rona Shapiro, running a small business can be challenging.

dog 1“Many times, I’m the person pushing the broom, and being the veterinarian, and answering the phone. We all work very hard. . . . Running my own business—sometimes it tends to run you and you don’t run it.”

Then Shapiro began using the self-assessment tools that are a good starting point for the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence.

“When I started working with the Baldrige Criteria, I felt a light bulb switch on. [The Criteria framework] really gives me guidance as a business owner. . . . What Baldrige has done is it’s given me tools to feel like I know how to be a better leader. It has helped me understand what I need to do to lead my organization. . . . For the first time since owning a business, I feel confident in making decisions.”

Shapiro’s business started in 1986, but after a year of practice, the founders realized that their original business model needed to be modified to sustain the quality of life of the veterinarian, including finding time to sleep. Another animal hospital and a 24-hour Animal Emergency Center were added to the Ohio practice, along with additional staff members. The three animal hospitals, staffed by 48 employees, now care for about 18,000 pets per year, and each hospital has a competitor animal hospital within a mile.

dog 2According to Dr. Shapiro, when she first read about the Baldrige Criteria online, she felt overwhelmed.

“Many companies have entire work groups, and all they do is human resources, or all they focus on is leadership,” she said. “As a small business owner, I am the workforce. I am the cage cleaner. I am the CEO. I wear many hats. It always seemed a little overwhelming to try and consider incorporating the Criteria in my company because I’m busy.”

For Shapiro, the Baldrige Criteria-based Are We Making Progress? survey proved the easiest way to begin and quickly identify areas to improve. She gave the survey to her staff members to learn how they thought the organization was doing.

“Using the results from that questionnaire gave us guidance on what we needed to do to make things better,” said Dr. Shapiro. “It was very clear once we got results that the animal hospitals [within the practice] had different problem areas to focus on.”

The next step for the small business owner was to write an Organizational Profile. Shapiro said she needed to figure out “how did we get here? What’s important to us? What are we accomplishing, and what sets us apart from others? . . . When I started writing the Organizational Profile, it started to make things much easier. . . . Writing the Organizational Profile helped me identify who I am. I never really verbalized it. When I know what we want, it makes it really easy to figure out solutions to problems.”

Shapiro said the veterinarian practice always had a mission statement, but after writing the Organizational Profile, she changed the mission based on having a better understanding of what the organization wanted to achieve. She shared the mission with workforce members, ensuring that everyone was in agreement.

“Now that we have alignment in the workforce, it makes it really easy to use our mission, vision, and values in everything we do. Identifying how they relate to every aspect of our work, how we interact with each other, how we care for each other, even when we are doing evaluations, every statement ties back to our mission, vision, and values. [The Baldrige Criteria have] just made it really easy to do that.”

Using Criteria principles to build alignment and consistency in the small business has alsoCat led to clarity for Shapiro as a leader. Because every decision is aligned with the organization’s mission, vision, and values, she said she finds it easier to manage the workforce.

“Every decision I make, I go back to the Organizational Profile,” said Shapiro. “It gives me clarity. . . . It helps me identify how we can become excellent, what are our stumbling blocks to that.” She gave the example of the Criteria making difficult employee conversations easier; employees can now be reminded of when their interactions may not be in alignment with the agreed-to mission, vision, and values.

Through writing an Organizational Profile, the small business identified one of its core competencies as making the patient experience as positive as possible, especially for fearful animals. Shapiro and her staff started building on that core competency by explaining to pet owners what staff were doing and why, and teaching the owners what they can do at home to reduce their pets’ stress and anxiety, thus reducing illness. Shapiro said such sharing has been very well received and enriched relationships with customers.

Baldrige also inspired benchmarking initiatives with other veterinarian hospitals outside of the service area, Shapiro said. Her practice is now in communication with similar practices to discuss ideas, software, challenges, and other issues–finding ways to help each other.

Shapiro has even introduced the Baldrige Criteria to the board of her veterinary fraternity alumni group, helping the board write a mission and vision. “This hopefully will help align our disenfranchised alumni with the very important work we do to help young, future veterinarians. Baldrige is truly inspirational,” she said.

In addition, Shapiro recently attended a conference sponsored by the Partnership for Excellence, her local Baldrige-based program that is part of the Alliance for Performance Excellence. “The biggest thing that I took away from [the conference] is that the Baldrige community is very generous. They embraced me. Everybody really wants to help you achieve excellence,” she said. From the conference, Shapiro said she learned how to coach for a culture of excellence and about the things that limit organizations from becoming excellent.

“Everything we’ve done [with the Baldrige Criteria] has made our organization a happier place to work. We’ve identified what’s really important to us,” added Shapiro. “Even though there is a lot to do, I’m totally not frustrated with the process because the little bit I have done has given me so much clarity. . . . [Baldrige] has already helped us so much. . . .  I’m inspired by it.”

Editor’s Note: The subject of this story is a relative of a Baldrige staff member. The Baldrige Program welcomes similar story ideas about people who have seen results from using the Criteria; however, the program cannot promise that it can use every idea.  Feel free to comment here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment