Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey
Before Baldrige, every three to five years, the strategic planning staff at 2011 Baldrige Award recipient Southcentral Foundation (SCF) went to a locked room, opened up a dense binder from the last planning cycle, and noted what good stuff was stored in there. Then a new binder would be created and locked away. Michelle Tierney, SCF VP of organizational development and innovation, said we began to wonder whether there may be something different that we can do.
Then SCF began reading and implementing the Baldrige strategic planning category within the Criteria for Performance Excellence, adapting it to what worked best for the nonprofit health care organization.
Now SCF integrates its strategic planning with other processes annually and gathers input from a lot more participants (including the voice of its Alaska Native and American Indian customer-owners spread across 100,000 square miles, including 45,000 customers who live in 55 remote villages accessible only by plane) that can be used to plan for health care needs. Planning also now includes an innovative Web-based tool and the complete engagement of staff. “Every employee can say this is how my work, how what I do, impacts the mission and vision,” said Sharon Fenn, SCF improvement advisor.
Tierney said SCF staff learned from the Criteria and benchmarking Baldrige Award recipients that a continuous cycle would work better for them. SCF staff followed the Criteria to guide the new planning; for example, they asked themselves Criteria questions:
Who are the key participants?
How does your process identify potential blind spots?
How do you determine your core competencies, strategic challenges, and strategic advantages?
How does your strategic planning process address short- and long-term time horizons?
With the Criteria as a guide, SCF linked part of each employee’s personal development plan to the strategic plan, set direction based on corporate and leaders’ goals to ensure that it stayed on track with the mission and vision, and developed a Strategic Input Document of about 20 pages that replaced the dense binders and could be shared with all employees on the intranet.
Fenn said SCF is very “intentional about getting feedback from all levels” by asking employees, “did we miss anything?” in answer to the Criteria question about blind spots. In addition, subject matter experts help create a narrative that is used to gather input across and outside the organization through conferences, listening posts, and other gatherings. Fenn said the “how do you know?”-type questions in the Criteria helped SCF ensure its planning was efficient and effective.
The audience listening to the strategic planning presentation at the 24th Annual Quest for Excellence Conference seemed most intrigued by the Web-based tool SCF created to help organize planning. Fenn said previously the strategic plan consisted of multiple Excel worksheets with limited linkages that looked different and became a printing nightmare. Guided by the Criteria questions under “How do you implement your strategy?” SCF staff created an Annual Planning Tool that included all workforce plans and associated corporate initiatives accessible by all employees and easily searched by person, department, and committee. Fenn said the tool “can show all the work being done in the organization with just a few clicks.”
This is how one organization used the Baldrige Criteria to overhaul and make more effective its strategic planning process. How might the Criteria help improve your strategic planning?