11 Examples of How the Baldrige Excellence Framework Strengthens K-12 Schools

By Christine Schaefer

The first two U.S. public school districts to earn Baldrige Awards—the nation’s highest honor for U.S. organizations that achieve excellence—showed that role-model performance can be achieved in elementary and secondary education schools and systems of wide-ranging sizes, sites, and strategic challenges and advantages.

In fact, the 2001 Baldrige Award recipients are Chugach (Alaska) School District (see profile in this PDF) and Pearl River (NY) School District (see profile in this PDF) were hardly alike: The 22,000-square-mile Chugach district had 30 staff members serving 214 students, most of whom lived in remote areas accessible only by aircraft. In contrast, with 203 teachers, the suburban Pearl River School District, located 20 miles north of New York City, enrolled 2,500 kindergarten-through-12th-grade (K-12) students that year.

Over the next 15 years, six more Baldrige Award recipients in K-12 education would continue to reflect the diversity of the nation’s education system. Those organizations include a charter school that’s part of a public school district in California, a very large and ethnically diverse school district in Maryland, and suburban school districts in the states of Illinois, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.

Below you can find links to blogs about how leaders in those and other K-12 education organizations have used the Education Criteria for Performance Excellence (part of the Baldrige Excellence Framework) to help them effectively and efficiently provide a high-quality education to students today while addressing needs related to poverty and immigration.

Listed in order of publication date (with more recent blogs first), the following blogs describe merely a sampling of ways that such education organizations have benefitted from adopting a systems perspective and other core concepts of the Baldrige framework’s approach to managing for excellent performance.

1. What You Can Learn from a Baldrige Award-Winning School (March 23, 2017)

2. Want to Improve Education? Why Process Management Matters (February 23, 2017)

3. The Exceptional Student Focus of a 2015 Baldrige Award-Winning School (June 30, 2016)

4. A Rural School System Transforms Itself (Supported by the Baldrige Framework) (April 21, 2016)

5. Improving Education with Baldrige: Tips to Get Started (April 8, 2015)

6. Sustaining Educational Excellence Despite Challenges (March 3, 2015)

7. Tight Education Funding, Growing Student Needs: Where Baldrige Is Essential (April 2, 2014)

8. Value of the Organizational Profile to an Ever-Changing Organization (March 25, 2014)

9. Preparing Students for Future Jobs: Update from a 2010 Baldrige Award Winner (March 13, 2014)

10. Insights on Excellence from a Baldrige Education Leader  (June 18, 2013)

11.  A Large School District Shows the Way to Excellence (January 31, 2013)



The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program provides resources and services that support high performance by organizations involved in U.S. education at every level.

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Focus on the Baldrige Board of Overseers: Bennie Fowler

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

Like other federal programs, the Baldrige Program is overseen by an advisory committee whose members are appointed by a cabinet member of the Presidential administration; in our case, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. By charter, the Baldrige Board of Overseers is tasked with reviewing the work of the program and recommending improvements.

In an ongoing blog series, we are interviewing members of the Board of Overseers on their experiences, on the Baldrige Program and its products and services, and on the Baldrige approach to organizational improvement.

Bennie W. Fowler

Following is an interview of Baldrige Overseer Bennie W. Fowler, who is Group Vice President at the Ford Motor Company for Global Quality and New Model Launch.

What experiences led you to the role of Baldrige overseer?

Over the past 40 years, I have held positions that have encompassed international expansion, new product launches, turnaround, and restructuring. As Group Vice President of Global Quality and New Model Launch at Ford, a $165 billion company, I have successfully launched over 900 vehicle and powertrain programs while improving product quality around the world in 103 plants as far reaching as China, India, and Russia.

How do you see the Baldrige Excellence Framework as valuable to organizations in manufacturing?

Every manufacturing organization must have a compelling vision, comprehensive strategy, plan for what they want to become in the future, and relentless execution to the plan.   When you look at the Baldrige Excellence Framework, it focuses on the holistic nature of any organization that wants to deliver high-quality products and be productive at the same time. Sometimes people think that you have to do one or the other, but I know that you can do both. The framework allows organizations to learn how to improve by providing a set of professionals [Baldrige examiners] who can help you. They can come to your facility to assess how you are performing with the framework and work with you to improve your business results.

How do you apply Baldrige principles/concepts to your current work experience/employer?

When I think about Ford’s quality over the last 10 years, we’ve gone from last place in the industry to the number-one full-line manufacturer. Our philosophy has been about understanding what the customers want, reviewing our requirements and engineering standards, and working on improving every day.

When you think of Baldrige principles and concepts, this is the ideology that’s being taught. Know the direction you want to head; what you’re trying to accomplish; have a plan, execute, and follow up. And that’s basically the methodology that we have been using at Ford to really transform our business. We have over 100 manufacturing locations on six continents around the world managing 5,000 suppliers in 60 countries. In almost every region, we’ve made over a 50% improvement in our quality metrics supported by the Ford Quality Operating System.  The Baldrige Framework includes similar operating principles as the Ford Quality Operation System.

The charter of the Board of Overseers says the overseers shall make suggestions for the improvement of Baldrige and act as an advisory committee for the program. As an overseer, what would you like the community/stakeholders to know about the Baldrige Program and its award and other products?

The Board of Overseers’ mission from the Secretary of Commerce is to help U.S. industries to achieve high quality and high productivity. What I would like organizations to know is whether you are facing challenges in your organization or if you just want to get better, the Baldrige Framework can help. We have a variety of products and services that you can take advantage of to make your business better.

What encouragement/advice would you give U.S. organizations thinking about applying for the Baldrige Award or using another one of the Baldrige Program’s products or services?

For any product/service that we provide, the philosophy is that leadership teams train themselves in the use of the Baldrige Framework and then apply their business. The Baldrige Framework is great, very sound, and is built on continuous improvement principles. If you learn, teach, and apply the framework, then the result will be great success.

For interviews of other Baldrige Program Overseers, see the following: Dr. Reatha Clark King, Rulon Stacey.

Posted in Baldrige Award Process, Baldrige Award Recipients, Baldrige Criteria, Business, Leadership, Manufacturing, Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management, Performance Results | Leave a comment

12 Examples of How Baldrige Executive Fellows Are Leading Innovation

By Christine Schaefer

Do you remember reading here a few years ago about the manufacturing company that, drawing on the Baldrige Excellence Framework, initiated a strategy to engage senior leaders of competitor companies to share ideas and benchmark performance so they could all improve? As executives of more than 18 defense contractors of the U.S. Department of Defense got involved, their collaboration helped improve the entire supply chain for the U.S. military.

Did you know about the medical school professor’s proposed framework to better address U.S. population health today using a systems approach? Her Baldrige-based framework would “drive a strategic outcomes-oriented, rather than action-oriented, approach by creating an evidence-based, national reporting dashboard,” she stated.

What about the university administrator who—with the ultimate aim of improving the value of current and future college degrees—focused on aligning students’ learning in and outside classes on campus to workforce development needs identified by potential employers? He worked with faculty members to create a scorecard to evaluate the curriculum and map all curricular activities and co-curricular experiences to seven institutional learning outcomes; that work led to nearly 500 changes in the curriculum in just one year.

Below you can find links to those stories on BLOGRIGE: the Official Baldrige Blog, as well as more interview-based blogs on the ground-breaking work of Baldrige Executive Fellows. Listed in order of publication date, the following blogs describe merely a sampling of the innovative ideas put into action by leaders from a variety of sectors who have participated in the annual Baldrige Fellows program.

1. Inspiring Executives–On the Plant Floor and in Other Safe Spaces
(Peter Pronovost, Johns Hopkins Medicine)

2. Why and How AARP Uses the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence
(Jo Ann Jenkins, AARP, Washington, DC)

3. Boiling the Ocean: How a Manufacturer Leveraged the Criteria to Improve its Supply Chain
(John Varley, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control)

4. Boosting Workforce Engagement (from the Bottom Up)
(Steffani Webb, University of Kansas Medical Center)

5. Creating an Organizational Scorecard for the United States Golf Association
(Rand Jerris, United States Golf Association)

6. A Baldrige Fellow Engages Employees via a “Galactic Communication Strategy”
(Steven Kravet, Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, MD)

7. First-of-Its-Kind Innovation Hub Envisions—and Prototypes—the Future of Health Care
(Richard Davis, Sibley Memorial Hospital, Washington, DC)

8. Bringing a Systems Approach to U.S. Population Health
(Julie Kapp, University of Missouri School of Medicine, MO)

9. A Baldrige Fellow’s Plan to Make University Degrees More Valuable
(Timothy Mottet, Colorado State University–Pueblo, CO) 

10. Leveraging Baldrige to Build a Value-Based Service Organization
Cindy B
o, Nemours Children’s Health System, Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, DE)

11. A Doctor Who Launched an Innovative Surgery Center during His Baldrige Fellowship
(Brett Simon, Josie Robertson Surgery Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering, NY)

12. Engaging Physicians in Changing Organizations: A Baldrige Fellow’s Systems Approach
(Eric Moll, Mason General Hospital & Family of Clinics, WA)

As you can see, since the inception in 2010 of the prestigious, yearlong leadership program, Baldrige Executive Fellows have been effectively using their cross-sector learning from each other as well as leaders of the role-model organizations they visit to improve and innovate the organizations that employ them in wide-ranging states and sectors of the U.S. economy.








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Engaging Physicians in Changing Organizations: A Baldrige Fellow’s Systems Approach

Posted by Christine Schaefer

As a U.S. health care executive, Eric Moll has observed firsthand what he describes as the “massive shifts in health care delivery and payment” occurring throughout the nation in recent years. When Moll became a Baldrige Executive Fellow in 2015, he had already gained insights on organizational change through use of process improvement methods.

“Physicians are obviously key stakeholders and decision makers within the delivery of health care,” said Moll, chief executive officer of Mason General Hospital & Family of Clinics in Shelton, Washington. “From our Lean journey, we learned that engaging people who are doing the work is critical to improvement.”

“It was important,” he added, “that we develop a new approach to provider governance (leadership) and strategy so that providers were directly part of our transformation efforts.”

head shot

Eric Moll

Moll soon applied some of his learning from the yearlong Baldrige Fellows program to help create such an approach. He made the aim of his capstone project to establish “a systems approach to engage physicians in helping Mason General Hospital & Family of Clinics achieve our mission and vision,” he explained.

I recently asked Moll to share more information about this physician engagement initiative for the benefit of other health care leaders and organizations facing similar challenges. Following are his responses to my questions.

  • What were some milestones of your project, and how did learning with and from other Baldrige Fellows enhance your project?

For provider governance, major milestones were (1) gaining consensus on developing a medical staff governance model that included both the hospital and ambulatory clinic-based providers and (2) launching a dyad management model in which a physician leader is paired with a service-line director, ideally to make consensus-based decisions regarding the operations of a service line.

For strategy, we completely revamped our strategic planning process, borrowing heavily from past Baldrige Award recipients such as Ritz-Carlton [Hotel Company, LLC], Lockheed Martin [Missiles and Fire Control], Hill Country Memorial, and Advocate Good Samaritan [Hospital].

Previously, we had what I would describe as an episodic approach to strategic planning, meaning we would create a process to develop a strategic plan every few years. The Baldrige Fellows experience showed me a better approach that was a continuous process, ensuring that our strategy would be agile and flexible. This addressed a major concern I had about our past approach to strategy—relevancy. Also, the new approach to strategy created two-way engagement with our provider stakeholders during the strategic planning process. Physician leaders became part of the team to develop our goals, strategic objectives, and measures of success.

Borrowing an idea from Advocate Good Samaritan, we have developed a Strategic A3 process that creates a deliberate emphasis on planning before developing the action plans for strategic initiatives. We go through a lot of pencils and erasers because we know if we do it right, we will rewrite the reason for action in box 1 at least four or five times as we spend time working through the root cause in box 4. This process has been extremely valuable in helping us focus our action plans.

Honestly, before I started the Baldrige Fellows program I didn’t really know what an A3 was. I kept hearing other Baldrige Fellows referencing A3s during some of our open discussions, and they became really excited when Pattie Skriba [vice president, business excellence] of Advocate Good Samaritan presented to our group. That enthusiasm got my attention, and I tried to learn as much as I could from Pattie.

Baldrige Fellows from other industries were doing some pretty innovative stuff around customer and employee engagement. They were very open with me in sharing their companies’ best practices, which I incorporated into how we measure results and use those results for strategic planning and performance evaluations.

  • How will changes you’ve led improve your organization for the long term? Could you please describe any results or impacts so far of your project?

The biggest impact so far is improved focus and execution. In the first year of using the new strategic planning process, we committed to 14 strategic initiatives. By the end of that year, we had achieved our measures of success for less than a third of our goals.

The next year we had nine strategic initiatives and improved our success rate to nearly two-thirds of our measures of success. This year, we have seven strategic initiatives and feel even more confident in our ability to execute on the most important things.

We are learning through experience something that I think is obvious to most people: you can achieve more when you focus on less. The problem in health care is that it is incredibly difficult to focus when everything seems important.

  • What were your key learnings from the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program?

The mantra throughout the program was “learn by doing.” The faculty pushed us to get beyond theory and concept. Personally, I loved this focus on action, even though at times it was uncomfortable when I had not attained mastery of the concepts.

Action should not be confused with activity. Part of the action was tied to developing a clear approach. I learned that deeply understanding the reason for an action to solve a problem was an iterative process through which the more time spent on the front end, the higher the likelihood of success.

As my [organization’s leadership] team spent more time thinking through the reason for [problem-solving] action, we were surprised how often our initial understanding of the issue became materially modified. This was initially fairly humbling and even frustrating for some of my senior leaders, but it made us more effective in our planning and execution.


I gained a better appreciation for the critical role that leadership plays in organizations in order to achieve breakthrough performance. It’s easy to focus on the charismatic leader, but the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program provided many examples of how a systematic approach to leadership is most effective. Intuitively we may know this, but understanding how to do this had been a barrier for me.

The Baldrige Fellows program linked the framework provided in the leadership category to examples from Baldrige Award recipient organizations. This allowed me to incorporate those examples into my own organization. For example, leveraging processes from Lockheed Martin, we developed a process linking leadership focus on action with measures of success that we track and review on a monthly basis within our leadership team. We then communicate progress and results to our key stakeholders. This has improved our focus, accountability, and communication.


  • Would you please describe the value of the Baldrige Excellence Framework to health care organizations today?

Health care is a very complex industry. The Baldrige Excellence Framework is a great way to gain a better understanding of an organization’s strengths and opportunities for improvement. Because of the complexity in health care, we have many important processes or approaches that are unwritten or informal, creating a likelihood for variability or confusion. The Baldrige Excellence Framework helps organize and formalize these processes around areas such as work systems, strategy, and knowledge management to better engage the leadership and key stakeholders.

At its essence, the Baldrige Excellence Framework is a series of related questions that drive an organization to the heart of success. Every question is relevant and straightforward.  For me—and I know I’m not alone—it was an eye opener to discover how many questions in the Baldrige Excellence Framework I could not answer clearly, let alone have confidence that everyone in my organization would have the same response.

The Baldrige Excellence Framework can show the way toward true excellence, but each organization will still have to do the heavy lifting of determining the answers to the questions. I love that the Baldrige Excellence Framework does not provide the answers because quite frankly each health care community and culture is unique. You need to find the answers that work for your organization. In a way, Baldrige is the solution because it gives you a systems approach for asking the most relevant questions.

Posted in Baldrige Criteria, Health Care, Leadership, Strategic Planning | Tagged | 1 Comment

Ethics: Is the Onus on Business?

Posted by Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon

I recently read the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer Global Report. This study, in its 17th cycle in 2017,  consisted of an online survey of over 33,000 respondents in 28 countries  during the months of November and December, 2016. The study findings, summarized as “an implosion of trust,” found that two-thirds of the countries surveyed are now “distrusters” of key institutions, up from just over half in 2016. Let me share some of the underlying data with you.

Global trust in business is now at 52%, with the U.S. general population’s trust in business at 58%. CEO credibility is at 37% globally and 38% in the U.S. The global value for CEO credibility declined 12 points in the most recent study. Trust in government is at 41% globally and declined by one point in this study. NGOs were less trusted than business in 11 of the 28 countries, with the trust in business and NGOs being equal (58%) in the U.S. Trust in the media was at 43% globally, with it being distrusted in 82% of the countries, including the U.S.

Globally, people rated a person like themselves equally credible to technical and academic experts (each at 60%) and more credible than business leaders (37%, as previously stated) and government officials (29%). Among those uncertain about whether the system is failing, business was more trusted than NGOs, media, and government. This led the study’s authors to conclude that business, as the one institution that retains some trust among the skeptical, needs to play the role of filling the void in global governance and acting in the best interest of both shareholders and society.

Among the attributes that build trust in a company, people rated integrity and engagement with customers and employees the most important (at 56% each), with current performance at 39% and 40% , respectively. Most important for integrity was ethical business practices.

These trust data are in agreement with a study published in Harvard Business Review in 2016, Sunnie Giles studied 195 leaders in over 30 global organizations, asking participants to identify the 15 most important leadership competencies from a list of 74 competencies. The top leadership  competency was “has high ethical and moral standards.”

In my recent Insights column, I noted the disappearance of ethics and social responsibility as a top CEO issue from my 2015 analysis to my 2017 analysis.  I speculated that these past two years may have seen a growing operational focus on ensuring ethics and social responsibility as good business practice, so that the strategic focus for CEOs has declined. Given the global decline of 12 points in CEO credibility from 2016 to 2017 in the Edelman study. I wonder now if this decline parallels the lack of CEO focus on this important topic based on the studies summarized in my Insights column, rendering my initial speculation unduly optimistic.

The results of all these studies strengthened my belief in the strength of the Baldrige Excellence Framework. There are 11 questions total in the Leadership category of the Baldrige Excellence Builder. Six of those 11 questions are:

  1.  How do your senior leaders set the organization’s vision and values?
  2. How do senior leaders’ actions demonstrate their commitment to legal and ethical behavior?
  3. How does your organization ensure responsible governance?
  4. How do you address and anticipate legal, regulatory, and community concerns with your products and services?
  5. How do you ensure ethical behavior in all interactions?
  6. How do you consider societal well-being and benefit as part of your strategy and daily operations?

These questions provide compelling evidence of the important role leaders in all sectors play in guiding and ensuring ethical behavior locally and globally. We all have a role in encouraging and supporting that behavior.

Posted in Baldrige Criteria, Business, Leadership, Nonprofit, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments