Posted by Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon
For those who have read my Blogrige posts in the past, I am glad to be back. I am enjoying my retirement, including the opportunity to continue supporting the Baldrige Program, while my colleague, Bob Fangmeyer, has the privilege of leading and guiding the program. But this blog post is not about leading the Baldrige Program or retirement, it is about the process of retiring.
In hindsight, I wish retiring was a repeatable, “error-resistant” process. That is what I anticipated. But in reality, in government as elsewhere, it is a complex process, with multiple process hand-offs and many places for potential process failure. Let me give a few examples from my own experience. To start, I completed the necessary forms and then handed them in to a department that re-keys the information into an automated system. After re-keying, my address and salary were incorrect and an incorrect box was checked on the life insurance form. This caused some rework for the errors that were detected in the information I saw, but there were others that persisted. Some were detected later in the process, requiring more time-consuming and expensive rework. Other errors? I don’t know yet. But I do know there were errors in other parts of the process, that had nothing to do with the forms.
In subsequent processes other errors occured. Let me give a few additional examples. A check for the full value of my Thrift Savings Plan [401(k)], administered for the government by a major financial institution, was sent to an incorrect address for my new plan trustee. And yes, it was a check in the mail not an electronic funds transfer. Because of various regulations/policies the money was “lost’ for over a month. My retirement savings, gone!
I received my first net pension payment right on schedule and went to the payment website to see what the gross pay and deductions were, since this was an interim payment until my final pension is determined. The statement was already available on the web site for the next month, but there was none for the current month and the amounts did not agree. I sent a request for information and was informed it would take about thirty days for a reply. Let me quote from the eventual reply, “You may not be able to see this payment on line because this was an adjustment payment; however you should still be able to view it online.” Huh?
I use these examples (and there are quite a few more) because I know I am not unique, because I know my organization is not unique, and because the examples illustrate so many management system failures that great organizations using the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence avoid. Let me illustrate with just a few questions from the Criteria:
- How do you enable customers to seek information and support? How do you manage customer complaints?
- How do you…ensure the effective use of voice-of-the-customer and market data and information (including aggregated data on complaints) to build a more customer-focused culture and to support operational and strategic decision making?
- How do you make needed data and information available…to your workforce, suppliers…and customers?
- How do you design your…work processes to meet all key requirements? How does your day-to-day operation of work processes ensure that they meet key process requirements?
I will not go further with Baldrige Criteria questions seeking the results you achieve, trends over time, or how you compare to other organizations. You get the idea I am communicating.
In my mind, the considerations addressed in the questions above are obvious. Yet how many organizations and how many business processes do not address these basic questions? I am sure everyone has their own examples.
So please recommend the Baldrige Criteria to your stakeholders. And maybe next year will be the year for process leaning and improvement!