Beyond Accreditation: Business School Council Takes Baldrige to “Next Level”

By Christine Schaefer

The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) has long used the Baldrige Excellence Framework as the backbone of its accreditation standards, criteria, and review process for the organizations it serves.

As ACBSP President and CEO Jeffrey Alderman wrote in a Spring 2017 ACBSP newsletter, “Our accreditation standards and criteria follow the ‘Baldrige model.’ While our accreditation focuses on recognizing teaching excellence and determining student learning outcomes through continuous improvement, it is the framework of Baldrige that gives our accreditation its impact for quality.”shaking hands

In the same column, Alderman outlined his council’s plans for “taking Baldrige to the next level” through an enhanced relationship with the Alliance for Performance Excellence—the nonprofit network of regional and state-level Baldrige-based award programs across the nation that is a key partner of the federal Baldrige Performance Excellence Program.

Describing the new arrangement, Alderman wrote, “the Alliance will develop a membership and participation model to permit ACBSP to assist the Alliance in promoting performance excellence approaches as well as Baldrige and Baldrige-related awards to member organizations of ACBSP throughout the world.”

ACBSP members will benefit, according to Alderman, “by instituting a standard framework of quality management oriented for business school programs extending beyond current ACBSP accreditation.” He also stated that application of the Baldrige framework “may extend beyond credit-bearing business programs to areas such as training and corporate universities to the extent that ACBSP is permitted by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.”

ACBSP also has accepted an invitation to join the Alliance. “What this means,” explained Alderman, “is that ACBSP will be working to develop opportunities for interested institutions for going beyond accreditation in pursuit of total performance excellence.”

So will business schools and programs find that implementing the Baldrige framework to improve their organizations is worth the effort? Alderman apparently anticipated that question, and he answered it this way: “Studies have found that investing in quality and performance excellence pays off in markedly increased productivity, satisfied stakeholders, and dramatically improved results.”

If any organizations have doubts about the value and return on such an investment, we hope they will talk to leaders of the latest Baldrige Award recipients!

Posted in Baldrige Criteria, Baldrige Events, Baldrige News, Baldrige State & Local Programs, Education | Leave a comment

Lots of Activity, No Progress

Posted by Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon

I recently read an HBR blog entitled, “How Aligned Is Your Organization?” The authors attributed a lack of internal organizational alignment to four reasons. The last, and I thought very important one, was that activity is mistaken for progress. Measurement of activity rather than progress is a common problem in organizations. Frequently, it starts with a desire to measure and manage by fact, and the easiest measures to begin with are activity measures. Activity measurement is not wrong, if you are measuring the right activities. In this blog post, I want to explore activity measurement and the achievement of progress.

Activity is undertaken with the intent of producing results. And the direct results of activity are generally easy to measure (e.g., widgets produced, calls answered, time spent). Activity alone generally relates to operations and the results generally answer a question that begins with “What did you do?” You may have made twice as many widgets in half the time. You may have answered twice as many calls in only 120% of the time it previously took to answer half that number of calls. However, what you did may not yield results that relate to progress. Activity alone does not get at progress.

In the Baldrige Excellence Framework, Results are scored on four factors. The first three are: levels, trends, and comparisons. You can measure all three of these factors for the activities described above and be very proud of your accomplishments. So what is missing?

What if all the widgets were defective? What if all the calls answered did not resolve the callers’ issues? “Positive” activity, but no progress. The activities were measures of output, but not outcomes. The outcomes, which are measures of progress, were negative. Furthermore, the widgets may not have had the features that customers want. And with the heavy focus on widget production, the company may have missed that a replacement product was coming from another industry (e.g. digital imaging and ink replacing film and processing chemicals).

All the customer calls you answered may have been due to poor guidance your organization provided at the start, requiring the need for further information.

The activity measures perfectly answered the “What did you do?” question, but did not address the important questions of how well you did it, why you did it, and how important those activities are. To answer those questions we need more information about organizational context, strategy, leadership vision, and customer desires or needs. We need a systems perspective. We need an integrated set of questions and not just questions about level of activity, no matter how positive that activity’s results may be. The activity you are measuring may not even be an important activity to measure. The Baldrige Excellence Framework provides this systems perspective, through an integrated set of questions that cause thought about key organizational linkages.

So how do quality improvement tools fit into this whole equation? They fit in very well, if applied to the right processes. Otherwise we could spend time on PDCA  cycles or having Kaizen blitzes on unimportant processes, wasting people’s time and organizational resources, both of which are precious. These tools display their great value when applied to important problems. They need to be used with the good of the organization in mind, with a focus on processes that contribute to progress. We can then link the activity measures to not only output, but to the outcomes that will sustain the organization going forward.

Finally, let me return to Baldrige Results factors. As stated previously, three are: levels, trends, and comparisons. The fourth and vital factor is integration. Are you measuring the results that are important to customers, strategy, financial success, and employee loyalty? And to emphasize the importance of integration, it is the only results factor that is also used as a scoring factor for processes. It is the measure of an aligned and integrated organization. It is the measure of systems thinking on the part of the organization. It is what moves our organizations from activity measurement, to measuring the right activities, to measuring critical outcomes, to achieving progress.

How is your organization performing on its integration factors?

Posted in Baldrige Criteria, Business, Customer Focus, Leadership, Manufacturing, Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management, Operations Focus, Performance Results, Strategic Planning, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

Learning from a Restaurant Business Studied by Harvard Students

By Christine Schaefer

Two years ago we wrote here about Pal’s Business Excellence Institute (Pal’s BEI) to highlight the role of the Kingsport, Tennessee-based small business as a training offshoot of the Baldrige Award-winning restaurant chain Pal’s Sudden Service.

Launched 17 years ago by Pal’s Sudden Service CEO Thom Crosby and David McClaskey, Pal’s BEI is a “systematic mechanism to convey the essence of performance excellence for leaders of all types of businesses,” said McClaskey, who continues to serve as president of Pal’s BEI today. “The mission of Pal’s BEI is to inspire, enable, and support leaders to create extraordinary organizations through operational excellence.”

“Pal’s Sudden Service has 400 percent more repeat business than well-known global competitors and a rate of employee turnover that is half the average for the restaurant industry,” McClaskey also said recently. “This level of performance was obtained and sustained by using the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence [part of the Baldrige Excellence Framework]. We wanted to have a way for other organizations to learn about Pal’s Sudden Service’s world-class performance in a way that enabled them to readily apply their learning to their organizations.”

Following are more excerpts from my recent interview of McClaskey, together with Pal’s BEI Vice President David Jones, to learn the latest on their organization’s work.

  1. In 2015, you said you were providing training for more than 700 customers from around the world at your Tennessee facility annually and reaching thousands more through roles as conference speakers and workshop leaders. At that time, you also stated that about half of your trainees were from restaurants and the other half represented wide-ranging sectors and sizes of organizations. Is that still the case?


Today the client base is about 60 percent from restaurants, with 40 percent from every other kind of organization, from schools and health care organizations to doctors’ practices. In addition, Pal’s Sudden Service has grown to operate 29 stores in Tennessee as well as southwestern Virginia.

It amazes people that Pal’s would have an institute that mainly trains leaders outside of Pal’s Sudden Service on the business’s world-class performance-excellence practices—and that 40 percent of all whom we train are outside the restaurant industry. It shows how universal the principles incorporated within the Baldrige framework are.

Ninety percent of Pal’s BEI training class participants rate our training “5” (top box) on a scale of 1 to 5 in post-training evaluations, with the rest giving ratings of “4.” … Although we are getting a 4.9 average satisfaction score (out of a maximum of 5.0), we are striving to have everybody give us the top-box rating. That’s what the Baldrige continuous-improvement process instills in us: … We are never going to stop trying to get 100 percent satisfaction for every class.

Photo of training room

David McClaskey (right) teaches a course at Pal’s BEI Training Center.



  1. Two years ago, you also said that since 2012, 100 percent of those that attended your training had used in their own organizations one or more practices they learned in your classes within four weeks.


That’s still true today.


The most frequently implemented takeaway from our classes is Pal’s new-employee orientation process. What we hear from folks is that it creates a much more positive workplace culture, and they see the result within 30 days.

training room with four women at table

David Jones teaches another group of students at Pal’s BEI Training Center.

  1. Your organization received the top-level award for excellence from the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence (TNCPE) in 2015, an achievement based on an evaluation against the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. Would you please describe how your organization has benefited both from using the Baldrige framework and participating in the TNCPE assessment process?


There have been 24 winners in 24 years for TNCPE’s top-level award. We were by far the smallest company to have won it, with only three team members. The next-smallest company had 51 employees. That shows that a business of any size can benefit from using the Baldrige framework.

photo of 3 with TNCPE award

The three team members of Pal’s BEI proudly display the top-level TNCPE excellence award their business earned in 2015. From left to right: Katie Wood, director of marketing and administration; David Jones, vice president; and David McClaskey, president.


There are two major benefits of using the Baldrige framework and assessment process: The first is that whole idea of the mission, vision, and values. … It helps us stay laser-focused on what’s most important for us: creating classes and consulting that result in attendees using what they learned to create value for their own customers.

The second major benefit is having a process for continually and systematically improving the organization. We are always using Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) process improvement methodology to check that everything we do is meeting the objectives 100 percent of the time. If there’s any gap, we close the gap using the PDCA process. This process provides a relentless engine. … to keep providing huge value in running the business every day.

  1. Pal’s Sudden Service and Pal’s BEI have together been the subject of a case study for Harvard Business School, and innovations of the restaurant business have garnered the attention of national media (e.g., see this video clip of an interview with CEO Crosby last September). Please share more information about that.


In early 2016, three Harvard University professors spent a day and half at Pal’s Sudden Service, touring multiple stores, talking to senior leaders and employees at every level, and attending part of our “Achieving World-Class Results” (AWCR) class, which is open to the public and taught twice per month at Pal’s BEI. The visit was arranged around days the AWCR class was being taught. It helped to give them an integrated picture of Pal’s Sudden Service’s world-class systems.

The professors then wrote a case study on Pal’s, and last August the Harvard School of Business began using it in its curriculum.

What sparked the professors’ interest was reading about Pal’s Sudden Service on the Harvard Business Review blog.


That blog [] was the most-read Harvard University blog ever for the online site.

  1. What other key points would you like to share?


Our training is very relatable because the business of Pal’s Sudden Service is hamburgers and hotdogs. … By seeing role-model practices at work in a business they can understand, they can more easily apply what they learn in their organizations.

We aren’t teaching theory; our classes always include tours for participants to observe best practices firsthand and have conversations with the leaders of the restaurant business.


We don’t teach anything that Pal’s Sudden Service doesn’t practice. This is not a theory class but, rather, a proven practice class. Clients get to see an organization that is highly rated in all seven categories of the Baldrige Criteria. That really turns them on and engages them in the process. They get a really good, holistic picture of what Baldrige is. It is such a beautiful thing to see all seven Baldrige categories integrated and firing at the same time.

A lot of people are trying to figure out how to inspire and engage their organization’s leaders to use the Baldrige framework. Our training is a mechanism for getting leaders to pursue use of the Baldrige framework because they see the huge business impact.


Baldrige is still very much in use by Pal’s Sudden Service. Thom Crosby uses the Baldrige framework every year to conduct an assessment to keep the organization performing at world-class levels.

Posted in Baldrige Award Recipients, Baldrige Criteria, Baldrige State & Local Programs, Small Business, Workforce Focus | Tagged | 4 Comments

What Brings More Insight: the Answers or the Questions?

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

What if you were asked to speak on a topic for which you had no expertise? Would you turn down the assignment because you felt that audience members were already experts and you didn’t have answers for them?

Now, consider what if you had the right questions for them–questions they could ponder to lead them to deeper understanding and insights within their own contexts? What if your focus was not on the right answers but on the right questions?

In a Business Week article, Jim Collins talks about being invited to West Point to talk to Army generals, CEOs, and social sector leaders about the topic of America. He writes that he hesitated before talking to the crowd, but then he recalled what his mentor told him about effective teaching: “Don’t try to come up with the right answers; focus on coming up with good questions.”

Collins came up with a potentially provocative question that led to an intense debate for which audience members agreed or disagreed based on their own contexts. One audience member pondering the first question even turned the debate back to Collins, saying his organization had some success but “how would you know” the measure of that success and if it was sustainable?

Asking the right questions, including “How do you know?”, is at the very heart of the Baldrige Excellence Framework and its Criteria. The Criteria include questions that can be adapted to different types of businesses and organizations, twisted and turned to bring real meaning and insights through answers that can be actionable for that organization or that person in his/her own situation.

The questions in the Criteria help you explore how an organization is accomplishing its mission and key objectives in seven critical areas: leadership; strategy; customers; measurement, analysis, and knowledge management; workforce; operations; and results.

The Baldrige framework leads organizations to evaluate their processes and results along set dimensions. There are questions for an organization’s processes:

  • Approach: How do you accomplish your organization’s work? How effective are your key approaches?
  • Deployment: How consistently are your key processes used in relevant parts of your organization?
  • Learning: How well have you evaluated and improved your key approaches? How well have improvements been shared within your organization?
  • Integration: How well do your approaches align with your current and future organizational needs? How well are processes and operations harmonized across your organization?

And for its results:

  • Levels: What is your current performance?
  • Trends: Are the results improving, staying the same, or getting worse?
  • Comparisons: How does your performance compare with that of other organizations, or with benchmarks or industry leaders?
  • Integration: Are you tracking results that are important to your organization and that consider the expectations and needs of your key stakeholders? Are you using the results in decision making?

As you answer the Criteria questions and assess your responses, organizations will identify strengths and gaps—first within the Criteria categories and then among them. As they continue, organizations will begin to define the best ways to build on strengths, close gaps, and innovate.

The Baldrige framework and its Criteria do not prescribe how an organization should structure itself or its operations (i.e., there are no right answers). Instead, the framework functions more as a mentoring/teaching tool.

So if you or your organization don’t quite have all the answers yet, take a look at the Baldrige Excellence Framework and its Criteria for those “good questions.” And, since this is Collins, consider if the questions in the Baldrige Criteria might help your organization go from good to great.

Note: We thank Baldrige examiners Denise Haynes and Doug Serrano for sharing the idea for this blog, as they observed that they have long referred to using the Baldrige framework as “Management by Asking Really Good Questions.” We always welcome readers’ suggestions for future blog topics and thoughts in relation to the Baldrige framework.  

Posted in Baldrige Award Process, Baldrige Criteria, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Baldrige Fellow’s Plan to Make University Degrees More Valuable

By Christine Schaefer

Dr. Timothy Mottet, provost at Northwest Missouri State University for the past three years, will begin serving as president of Colorado State University–Pueblo in July. For both universities, the capstone project Mottet developed as a 2016–2017 Baldrige Executive Fellow is likely to benefit students for years to come.


head shot

Timothy Mottet

In implementing the project at Northwest Missouri State over the past year, Mottet laid the groundwork to ensure that the university’s curriculum, as well as wide-ranging co-curricular activities, map to the current and future workforce needs identified by potential employers—with the ultimate aim of increasing the value of a college degree.

To find out more about his innovative work in higher education, I recently interviewed Mottet. Following are excerpts from the conversation.


  1. What issues inspired your capstone project, and how did you address them?

I examined more closely two problems in higher education: first, the criticism that higher education is out of touch with workforce development needs; second, the criticism around the amount of learning that college students acquire while in college.

We developed an annual scorecard to evaluate curriculum and how well the curriculum is serving our students. Faculty members answer ten questions by providing evidence in the form of empirical data, and they then award their academic degree program a grade of “A,” “B,” “C,” “D,” or “F.” Based on the grade, the faculty develop five recommendations to enhance the curriculum over a set period of time. We have a process in place to ensure that they take action on those recommendations.

Usually if an academic program is found not to be adding value, it is eliminated. But the difference is [with this approach] we are holding all faculty harmless. We are trying to take the fear out of their evaluating themselves with a grade. What I’ve learned is that if you do process improvement, you’ve got to take the fear out of the process. Also, I want this to be driven from the faculty side, rather than by the administration.

  1. What were the milestones of implementing your project?

As an institution, over a series of meetings with a variety of faculty members, we identified seven institutional learning outcomes. The state of Missouri has guidelines that helped shape these outcomes. I’m very proud of the fact that the faculty valued leadership and teamwork to the point that they identified them as institutional learning priorities.

We’ve been mapping all curricular activities and co-curricular experiences (e.g., belonging to a fraternity or a sorority) to the seven outcomes. We recognized that there’s a lot of co-curricular learning, and we wanted to ensure that such learning is aligned with curricular learning outcomes.

The next step is to measure the outcomes. It’s important to us that all students who graduate with degrees from our institution have confidence that they’ve met the seven learning outcomes because that’s part of our social compact with their potential employers.

Every time we met with the employers who are hiring our graduates, we had conversations that pushed us to think more carefully about our curriculum and how we are engaging our students in the learning process. The Baldrige Criteria [part of the Baldrige Excellence Framework] helped us shape and frame the conversations.

scorecard sample showing curriculars, co-curriculars, and seven outcomes

Aligning Curricular (Blue) and Co-Curricular (Red) Activities to Develop Seven Institutional Outcomes (Green). Courtesy of Timothy Mottet


  1. How do you see this project improving your organization?

My overall vision is to increase the value of a higher-education degree.

I personally believe that curriculum has a shelf life. Knowledge is developed at a rapid speed today, so the curriculum must be constantly revised in order to remain current and relevant.

  1. Could you please describe any results so far and projected impacts?

The bottom-line impacts include a lot of changes, but ultimately the impacts will be students’ decisions to attend the university because they see that we take learning and curriculum seriously and employers’ decisions to seek out our graduates as new hires because they see our institution as adding value to our students’ learning.

Throughout the past 12 months, the faculty has generated close to 500 changes to the curriculum. Fifty of those changes have been significant changes, for example, adding new degree programs. Through the scorecard process, the faculty identified a gap and then filled it with a new degree program that maps to employer needs.

One example of how the scorecard is enhancing the curriculum is what we are seeing in our School of Agricultural Sciences. We’ve added a new emphasis area in agricultural literacy and advocacy. That new curricular development was the result of industry representatives [providing input through the professional advisory boards of Northwest Missouri State’s schools] helping us think through curricular changes.

  1. Beyond your capstone, what were your key learnings from the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program?

For me personally, I saw more clearly what I didn’t know. My own professional development gap analysis became clear after working alongside 25 incredibly talented executive fellows.

I also learned that there is a similarity in problems across industries and types of organizations. We all share problems related to people, process, and culture. Getting out of your industry and seeing how someone in another industry has solved the same problem was most beneficial to me.

  1. Could you please share high-level insights you gained from delving into the Baldrige Excellence Framework (including the Education Criteria for Performance Excellence) during the Fellows sessions that you can use in leading a university?

The Baldrige framework criterion around the customer (category 3)—the voice-of-the-customer concept—is quite grounding. I think that can get lost. For me, “Are we meeting the needs of students?” is the key question.

Overall, Baldrige has given me a new operating system … that has allowed me to look at complex organizations with a different lens.

  1. Could you please describe the benefits you see of the Baldrige Excellence Framework to higher education today?

I think it’s invaluable to overlay the Criteria in relation to your current organizational chart. If you don’t see the alignment, then there’s a gap that I think is very important.

The Criteria will show you what’s missing from your organizational chart or your processes. And I think that’s probably a painful observation for many in higher education.

Posted in Baldrige Criteria, Baldrige Events, Education | Tagged | 3 Comments