Maintaining Long-Term Employee Relationships

Posted by Christine Schaefer

When Freese and Nichols Inc. won the Baldrige Award in 2010, the Texas-based small business boasted a strong ability to build long-term relationships with its employees. The 120-year-old engineering and architecture firm has averaged below-industry turnover rates for more than ten years.

Today the company counts more than 525 experienced professionals, technical experts, and support personnel working from 14 offices in Texas and North Carolina. Its systematic approach to providing robust opportunities for employees’ professional development includes career ladders for every discipline. The approach also provides for individual performance and short- and longer-term career development goals for every employee.

Freese and Nichols Long-Term Employee Engagement Results

Courtesy of Freese and Nichols Inc. Used with permission.

All practices are embedded in a companywide culture that is both family-oriented and innovation-oriented. The strong workforce focus has yielded consistently high satisfaction and engagement levels on employee surveys. It has also garnered outside recognition for the firm’s industry-best results in recent years.

Cindy Milrany, chief financial officer and chief administrative officer, recently shared these key reasons why Freese and Nichols values and cultivates long-term employee relationships:

  • They enable the firm to retain organizational knowledge.
  • They enhance the firm’s ability to maintain long‐term relationships with clients.
  • They make it possible to minimize recruiting and training costs.
  • They maintain the company’s culture as the firm grows.

“I urge other small businesses to learn the value of using the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence,” said Milrany. “Freese and Nichols uses the framework to focus improvements needed to drive our vision ‘to be the firm of choice for clients and employees.’”

Those who attend the Baldrige Regional Conference in Los Angeles on September 8 and 9 will gain the opportunity to learn more about Freese and Nichols’ approaches to retaining employees. Milrany will present a morning session September 9 on maintaining long-term employee relationships; she will also facilitate a preconference workshop on September 8. Download the full schedule (PDF) of presentations and register soon.

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

It’s Time to Focus on Stratovation

Posted by Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon

I have always been fascinated by new words. A few years ago Larry Potterfield, the Founder and CEO of Baldrige Award recipient MidwayUSA shared one of his “words”: voluntold. Voluntold is helping people innovative strategyunderstand the wisdom of doing something that Larry thinks is good for the company (and them). Very recently I read a blog post by Gerry Sandusky (not the former Penn State coach) in which he used the term probortunity. Probortunity is the unity between problems and opportunity, i.e. looking at ways to turn problems into opportunities.

So with the folks at Merriam-Webster probably looking askance at me, let me propose stratovation, the important unification of strategy and innovation. You might first say, “Aren’t they the same?” The answer to that question is clearly “no.” But should there be greater unity between them? I believe the answer is clearly “yes.” Let’s look at the differences between these concepts and why the need for greater commingling of the two.

Not all strategy is innovative and not all innovations are strategic. According to the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, strategy is about your organization’s approach to the future. Strategy might be built around new partnerships, revenue growth, divestitures, and new products or core competencies. Innovation involves adopting an idea, process, technology, product, or business model that is either new or new to its proposed application.

Good strategy should be about clarity in direction; it is marching orders for the organization. Good innovation is about possibility; efforts are full of uncertainty and a significant number are likely to fail. Detecting failures early is the key so that resources can be re-prioritized. As pointed out in a DigitalTonto blog, strategy is a logic chain that results in one set of choices rather than another. Innovation is about experimentation, multiple choices, and trying things out. Without strategy you lack direction. Without innovation you risk losing relevance as an organization.

So where does stratovation fit in? As product and technology cycles are becoming increasingly shorter, it is important to have ongoing innovation efforts to feed organizational strategy. Both successes and failures in innovation efforts can feed strategy and help in setting clear direction. Organizations need a focused stratovation process, a mechanism for encouraging innovation and making sure outcomes of innovation efforts are hardwired to the strategic planning and thinking of the organization. Senior leaders need to set the climate for innovation and make sure there is the hardwired linkage to strategy setting. All workforce members are possible contributors to innovation. Senior leaders need to prioritize resources so that high potential innovations have the resources needed for exploration. It takes a proactive focus on stratovation for ongoing organizational success.

So, how is your organization set for stratovation?


Posted in Baldrige Award Recipients, Baldrige Criteria, Leadership, Operations Focus, Strategic Planning, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Budget Cuts? Baldrige Can (Still) Improve Your Schools

Posted by Christine Schaefer

A new case study offered by ASQ this summer describes ongoing improvements in a public school district that has seen growing poverty and decreased funding in recent years. The Iredell-Statesville Schools (I-SS), located in southwestern North Carolina, earned the Baldrige Award for systemwide excellence in 2008. With 21,231 students today, I-SS has maintained its strong focus on student achievement despite significant budget cuts that have eliminated more than 300 positions in recent years.

For example, the case study notes that through educators’ analysis of data on student learning and improvements in instruction, an I-SS elementary school serving a very high-poverty population (90 percent of students receive subsidized school meals) boosted reading proficiency among first graders from a rate of 62 percent in 2011-2012 to a rate of 82 percent in 2013-2014. What’s more, the principal of the school reported that students in five of the site’s six grade levels were performing at or above the previous year’s proficiency levels by the midpoint of the 2013-2014 school year.

I-SS has surmounted financial and other crushing challenges before. Its turnaround story in the years preceding its 2008 Baldrige Award (shared in Baldrige 20/20, pp. 68-72) showed the promise of the Baldrige Education Criteria for Performance Excellence to improve the performance of public school systems in good times or bad.

Dr. Melanie Taylor, I-SS’s deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction, authored the July 2014 ASQ case study. At the Baldrige Program’s Quest for Excellence® Conference in April 2014, Taylor presented on using the Baldrige management framework to improve the efficiency of district operations and the effectiveness of school instructional programs (see graphic below). For Taylor’s tips for other educational leaders who are new to the Baldrige approach to systemwide improvement, read the pre-conference interview.

Courtesy of Iredell-Statesville Schools

Courtesy of Iredell-Statesville Schools


Courtesy of Iredell-Statesville Schools




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Congratulations on 35 Years


Dr. Joseph Juran receives a certificate of appreciation for his Baldrige support from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Robert A. Mosbacher.

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

Prior to the passage of the 1987 congressional act that created the Baldrige Award, “father of quality” Dr. Joseph Juran testified in front of Congress:

[The United States'] loss of quality leadership has already cost us millions of jobs and tens of billions of dollars in trade balances. To get out of this crisis, we must create our own quality revolution. It would be useful to our economy to establish a prize which would earn national recognition as evidence of high attainment in quality.

By the mid-1990s, the U.S. economy did boom. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate averaged just 5.7 percent. In addition, the stock market returned 18 percent a year for the decade, and the federal government ran some surpluses. The World Bank reported that there were four straight years of GDP growth above 4 percent, which hadn’t happened since the 1960s. I’m no economist, so I am certainly not prepared to argue what happened in the 1990s, good or bad (e.g., CNN Money notes the “multi-billion-dollar accounting improprieties” of the decade), to bring about such a boom, but thinking about Juran’s notion of a “quality revolution” made me think about what he would say if he was reading the news today?

Dr. Juran was part of the first board that nominated Baldrige Award recipients and gave advice to the Baldrige Program; the board included quality experts, business and industry leaders, and labor and public policy experts, among them Meredith Fernstrom of American Express Company, Armand Feigenbaum of General Systems Company, Douglas Fraser of the United Auto Workers, Bradley Gale of the PIMS/Strategic Planning Institute, David Garvin of Harvard Business School, Thomas Murrin of Westinghouse, Lionel Olmer of the Department of Commerce (international trade), and Elmer Staats (the former Comptroller General of the United States) of the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Dr. Juran was a particularly vocal advocate for the Baldrige program, and this year, the institute he founded (now called Juran Global) turns 35 years old. According to its website, “Our belief is that the United States needs the Baldrige Award process and framework to help assure our country remains competitive around the globe for decades to come.”

So to Dr. Juran, Juran CEO Joe DeFeo, and the institute, the Baldrige Program congratulates you for 35 years!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A New Model for Excellence in South Africa

Posted by Christine Schaefer

On August 1, the South African company Business Assessment Services (BAS)—acting on behalf of the new South African Excellence Foundation (SAEF)—publicly launched the latest South African Excellence Model (SAEMXIII™). The nonprofit SAEF will use the model as a basis for business assessment and development services for organizations in South Africa.

The Baldrige Program has long participated in a global excellence council, and the Baldrige Award and Criteria for Performance Excellence have long been emulated in countries around the world. So it is not surprising that BAS CEO Ed van den Heever gives partial credit to both the Baldrige Program and the Fundação Nacional da Qualidade (FNQ) of Brazil for inspiring the new SAEM.

I recently asked van den Heever—developer of the SAEMXIII and co-author of the previous SAEM1997 standards model—to share more information about the history of organizational excellence initiatives in his country. Following are his responses.

Tell us about your background and experience with the Baldrige Award and national program?

I have great admiration for the leader role of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA) program. I also have fond memories of (retired Baldrige program director) Dr. Harry Hertz—a great man! My support for MBNQA goes back to the mid-1990s when I attended a Baldrige examiner course in South Africa conducted by Dr. Richard Chua of Juran Institute Incorporated (JII).

Ed van den Heever photo
Ed van den Heever

A year earlier, the Council for Scientific Industrial Research (CSIR) of South Africa had opted to go the Baldrige Award route. I had the great fortune, coming from the private sector, to join as an executive facilitator of CSIR Total Quality Management for four years. That role included exposing the CSIR Management Team to Baldrige examiner training. After 1995 examiner training in South Africa was presented by Dr. Chua of JII, I conducted the remainder of the Baldrige examiner sessions in 1996 and 1997. As lead examiner, I facilitated Baldrige Award-based assessments in 10 CSIR business units at the same time and publishing the consolidated findings.

In 1996, the CSIR and the South Africa Quality Institute (SAQI) agreed to launch a South African Criteria model (SAEM1997) and a foundation. I was appointed as the inaugural CEO of the former South African Excellence Foundation, which was formally launched in August 1997 as a not-for-profit company with ten sponsors.

How is the SAEMXIII model similar to the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence?

Besides the SAEM1997, the Baldrige Criteria revisions of 2006, 2008, and 2010 had a direct impact on the road ahead [toward the SAEMXIII]. However, involvement with BHPBilliton in Australia in 2008 and exposure to the FNQ Model in 2013 greatly impacted the final outcome.

Among similarities, the SAEMXIII has merged the SAEM1997 Results Criteria (7–11) into a single criterion 7 (similar to the Baldrige Criteria and FNQ model). Also, similar to the Baldrige Criteria process evaluation factors of ADLI (Approach, Deployment, Learning, Integration), SAEMXIII uses PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) elements for scoring of processes. And similar to the Baldrige Criteria results evaluation factors of LeTCI (Levels, Trends, Comparisons, and Integration), SAEMXIII uses RTCK (Results/Targets/Comparative/Key performance indicator match) elements for scoring of results.

The Baldrige Criteria largely dictated the selection and qualification of Criteria guidelines, key characteristics, and Criteria description. Globally the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program led the way in this area.

How have the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence and the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) helped inspire the development or updates to the SAEM?

For the SAEM1997 (11 Criteria model), the EFQM (1997), consisting of nine Criteria, formed the basic framework. The EFQM Model had gaps that needed focus for application in a developing country such as South Africa. Revisions included adding Baldrige Criteria-based categories on customer focus and supplier focus.

The SAEM1997 was adapted for application in large (Level 1), medium (Level 2), and small (Level 3) companies or organizations. Organizations could opt for Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3, using 100 percent, 50 percent, or 25 percent of the Criteria content, respectively. The related South African Excellence Foundation (SAEF) Awards process was accordingly structured.

A classic case is that Mercedes-Benz SA opted to start at Level 3, then moved to Level 2 (in-house only) in final preparation for their Level 1 Application—culminating in winning the 2000 SAEF Award.

A downfall of SAEM1997 is that it was never updated! Although the model was classic by U.S. and European standards, South African companies could not reach the expected heights at the time. Unfortunately, the original SAEF last issued awards in 2002 and was liquidated by creditors in 2004.

Tell us about the BAS’s services and the kinds of organizations benefitting from those offerings in your country today?

With a specialty in operational excellence, BAS offers an SAEMXIII-based toolkit and guides that were developed to facilitate the Management System of Operational Excellence (MSOE), which is concordant with ISO 9004:2010. The materials offered include training materials and case studies on governance excellence and operational excellence, as well as framework, criteria, and assessment guidelines. The toolkit fits the private sector (large/medium/small businesses) and the public sector (national/provincial/local government).

Other offerings include cost of quality training, training based on the MSOE Toolkit, and SAEMXII Assessor Training.

Users include the Eastern Cape Provincial Government (nine departments), the Department of Transport (Eastern Cape Government, winner of the 2009 Public Sector Innovation Award), SA Revenue Services (call centers), Tsebo Cleaning Services (South Africa) Ltd., Arwyp Private Hospital Ltd., and Border Cricket (South Africa) East London.

What’s next for excellence in South Africa?

This year we will finalize the launch of the SAEMXIII. In 2014 we also plan to find a not-for-profit company to house the intellectual property. And we plan to facilitate funding for SAEF outside governmental control (similar to the Baldrige Foundation) and promote the new SAEF on November 13, 2014, World Quality Day. We also plan to rejoin the Global Excellence Model Council. In 2015, we plan to relaunch the South African Excellence Awards!

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