Posted by Christine Schaefer
The 2012 Baldrige Award process is now well under way. That means the time is ripe to thank the approximately 450-member-strong corps of volunteers known as examiners. As I consider the enormous contributions of these smart, hard-working volunteers, I’d like to repeat a tribute I wrote last July. For now, I’ll just reprint this one-line kudo:
If you’re an examiner, here’s to you–cheers to you!
It’s clear to me that the Baldrige Program cannot thank examiners enough for the time and expertise they have been generously lending to our award process since 1988. Each of the thousands of examiners who have completed an evaluation of an organization for the Baldrige Award have donated an average of at least 100 hours per applicant (see slide 11 of the Award Process module)! That estimate does not include the days examiners spend in Baldrige training, on site visits, and/or participating in the award judging process. All that time and talent has been given to the fundamentally patriotic cause of helping American enterprises in every sector improve their performance.
Selected for their sector expertise and trained by the Baldrige Program every spring, examiners conduct their evaluations in teams led by seasoned peers. Individually and then together with their teams, they analyze the processes and results of U.S.-based organizations against the requirements of the Criteria for Performance Excellence. As this work progresses over a ten-week period each summer, examiners combine their individual analyses in draft scorebooks and then discuss and refine their findings during conference calls. Eventually, their insights are conveyed in feedback reports detailing each organization’s strengths and opportunities for improvement.
Clearly, the Baldrige Program is deeply indebted to its volunteer examiners. After all, throughout the program’s nearly 25-year history, over 90 percent of support, including in-kind contributions, has come from the private sector. And a large chunk of this support is the volunteer time of the members of the Board of Examiners.
Of course, the organizations that apply for the Baldrige Award and feedback on their performance are key beneficiaries of the examiners’ work. As Sister Mary Jean Ryan, FSM, CEO and chairman of the board of SSM Health Care (the first organization in the health care sector to receive the Baldrige Award) observed,
For us, Baldrige has provided the best consulting services we’ve ever received and the least expensive. Over the four years that we applied, we received more than 200 pages of feedback from highly trained, experienced, and professional examiners, who spent literally hundreds of hours with our application and on site visits.
Beyond such organizations, millions of U.S. citizens also might owe some appreciation to Baldrige examiners for their service. That’s because the benefits of the Baldrige Award process have a wide reach. The ultimate beneficiaries are the customers and other stakeholders of the American businesses and nonprofit organizations, large and small and in every sector, that have improved their operations and results using the Criteria for Performance Excellence. No wonder examiners say one reason they volunteer for the Baldrige Program is their sense that they are fulfilling a patriotic duty. Although evaluating a Baldrige Award applicant and writing feedback is not easy, let it never be said that the work is thankless. Consider this a salute to the entire 2012 Board of Examiners.