When Agility Is Painful (A Light-Hearted View of the Baldrige Core Values)

Posted by Christine Schaefer

“Remember, agility is one of our core values!”

That’s how a co-worker wrapped up the news of our organization’s planned migration to a new software suite for e-mail and other communication systems.

This is how some of us may have translated that message:

“Turbulence ahead!”

Sure enough, after the installation of the new computer programs, I hit a bump or two in navigating the different ways of communicating. But with the benefit of training resources and troubleshooting support, I soon made a successful migration. I suppose I would have been less comfortable learning to navigate the new systems if my view of the conversion wasn’t tempered by an appreciation of change as a constant in today’s organizations in every sector—and of employee flexibility as essential to high performance. Still, can any amount of emphasis on the value of agility—or any of the other ten Criteria core values—ever prepare employees to wholeheartedly, surefootedly embrace workplace changes that appear to be frontloaded with challenges?

To be sure, I consider agility both a professional and a personal core value. It recently helped me survive until the end of my first 90-minute Bikram yoga class. “I’m building agility,” I reminded myself, trying to pay scant attention to the indicators that I may have lost most of my body weight in sweat in the 105-degree room. “These people are agile,” I mused, shaking the simultaneous observation that the rectangular mats hosting preternaturally stretched bodies around me were spaced in a grid precisely like graves. Still, my commitment to agility paid off: for after the point at which my pores became, in effect, broken water mains, my muscles stopped arguing against their limits and my bones ceased to press painfully into my organs. I had reached a new level of agility: I had melted into a puddle on my mat. And since the towel I brought was too small to absorb me, fortunately, I’m now reconstituted and more agile than ever.

Such agility-testing experiences have led me to dream up some Dilbert-like scenarios in which the 11 performance-enhancing beliefs and behaviors that are foundational to the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence might be viewed in a new (unfavorable but humorous) light. Here are a few of those comical examples I consider safe enough to share publicly (you can test that assumption by coming back here to see if I’m ever allowed to blog again for the Baldrige Program):

Criteria Core Value/Concept                           When to Invoke It

Agility: When a manager expects that coming changes are going to rile the workforce

Visionary leadership: When a CEO appears to have made a series of short-term blunders

Customer-driven excellence: When a new policy is making employees’ jobs much harder (and at least one customer requested the change)

Managing for innovation: When a supervisor needs to pry a process away from a change-resistant lead who has long ensured its inefficiency

Management by fact: When the boss has solid data to support an unpopular decision

I’ll save the other six Baldrige core values for anyone who wishes to continue in a similar light-hearted vein: organizational and personal learning, valuing workforce members and partners, focus on the future, societal responsibility, focus on results and creating value, and systems perspective.

And to end this blog on a positive note—and one of the few completely serious things I’ve written so far—I remind you that these interrelated Baldrige core values are embedded in and demonstrated by high-performing organizations such as the Baldrige Award recipients. All kidding aside, these key concepts are, as described in the Criteria, “the foundation for integrating key performance and operational requirements within a results-oriented framework that creates a basis for action, feedback, and sustainability.”

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One Response to When Agility Is Painful (A Light-Hearted View of the Baldrige Core Values)

  1. Kay Kendall says:

    Fabulous! I can’t wait to see the creative examples others come up with for the remaining 6 core values.

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