Posted by Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon
Can you imagine a community in which business, education, health care, and government are using Baldrige to improve? Wouldn’t you love to live in that community, not to mention work, educate your children, and receive health care in that community? Well that’s the goal in Columbia, Missouri and they are committed.
I just returned from two fabulous days in Columbia. My host was Larry Potterfield, CEO of MidwayUSA, a 2009 Baldrige Award recipient. The purpose of my visit was to meet with and address the newly formed Columbia Baldrige Performance Excellence Group (BPEG), Larry’s brainchild. The Group is the first of its kind and has the goal of making Columbia a “community of excellence” through use of the Baldrige Criteria. This takes the concept of excellence to a new level, beyond the great accomplishments of Coral Springs, FL, a Baldrige Award recipient that has built a governmental “community of excellence.” It’s a brilliant idea and Larry (and I) would love to see the concept replicated around the United States. The Columbia BPEG is affiliated with the Excellence in Missouri Foundation. What a winning combination: organizations use the Baldrige Criteria to improve themselves and their community, the BPEG supports the state program and brings them award applicants, the state program can grow and better support its state improvement activities, and maybe even bring some more Baldrige Award role models to the community and the state.
How do I know the people of Columbia are serious about their intentions? I met with the city manager, the superintendent of schools, the Board of Education chair, business leaders, University of Missouri deans, a newspaper representative, and many other enthusiastic people. Eighty-five people came to lunch to talk about Baldrige, their organizations, and a community of excellence.
What did they want to hear from me: What are the key ingredients to improving using the Baldrige Criteria? The first part is easy. It starts with leadership commitment. Senior leaders need to set the vision, personally demonstrate desired behaviors, communicate, and empower their colleagues. They need to lead strategic planning and oversee execution of the plan. They need to stick with it and not waver. The second key component is measurement and results. It is about achieving results and you only know how well you are doing if you have actionable measures.
They asked about the Baldrige concept of integration. We talked about a community where not only every organization is high performing, but the community members have a vision whereby they can jointly set some key goals for the community as a whole and work on them together. Goals like reducing a defined community health risk or reducing absenteeism at work and schools or improving employment skills of young people.
I was pumped when I left Columbia. Would I like to live in a community of excellence? You bet I would. How about you? Are you willing to take the challenge to follow Larry Potterfield’s leadership example with other leaders in your community?