Baldrige from Both Sides: An Interview

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

quality digestRecently, the publishers of Quality Digest conducted a live interview with Janet Wagner, CEO of Baldrige Award-winning Sutter Davis Hospital, and Bob Fangmeyer, director of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program.

The interview brought out some behind-the-scenes reflections and insights on the use of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, including why the Criteria are so suited to health care organizations but also to other organizations that have a strong sense of purpose and mission. Wagner also shared some “ah-ha” moments for the nonprofit, 48-bed acute care hospital.

Following are some highlights of questions discussed and answered.

Why are the Baldrige Criteria of such interest in the health care industry?

Wagner said she sees a natural link between hospitals who want to improve and sustain world-class results and use of the Baldrige Health Care Criteria.

“Baldrige offers a framework for sustainable results and a sustainable organization, and health care right now is in the news every day and our results are being looked at,” she said. “Consumers are getting smarter, so this framework offers a lot to a leadership team in terms of being successful and competitive.”

She added that the Baldrige Criteria offer questions in a framework format that allows leadership teams to self-assess their own organizations. “[The framework] leads to a path of focus for the leadership team and that has served us at Sutter Davis Hospital at staying on track, focused, and getting results.”

Fangmeyer acknowledged that health care organizations have three–often conflicting–goals: improving patient safety, improving health care outcomes, and reducing costs.

“It’s the application of our framework that lets organizations manage themselves from a systems perspective rather than sub-optimizing these areas,” he said. “Hospitals in particular have seen a lot of improvement in their outcomes.”

What about use of the Baldrige Criteria in other industries?

Fangmeyer said that organizations with a strong sense of purpose and mission tend to do better when applying an improvement strategy and are naturally more attracted to the Baldrige Criteria.

“The framework and processes of Baldrige help an organization stay focused and really achieve their goals and their mission. When you have that strong focus and strong sense of purpose, Baldrige really does fit well within the organization’s efforts,” he said.

What did you learn during your Baldrige journey?

Wagner said that year after year, Sutter Davis Hospital applied for Baldrige feedback at either state or national levels and “learned very quickly how to improve results, how to course correct, and then how to sustain results. And for me as a leader, I would say that’s probably one of the most important things. That framework, along with the site visits and the feedback, really focuses you on narrowing down and being able to prioritize those things, those behaviors, those systems, those processes that lead to consistent results. For us, [Baldrige] was a very good fit and energized us to do better.”

Wagner added that while learning to course correct rapidly was very valuable, one of the most beneficial parts of Sutter Davis Hospital’s journey was getting leadership team members comfortable in being transparent in getting and discussing results, and then having the Baldrige examiners come in and validate that they were on the right track.

Sutter Davis Hospital also sent staff members to examiner training, either at state or national levels,  giving them an opportunity to view management from different vantage points. “When we sent them to examiner training, they had to step back and look at the Criteria from a different view point and that was insightful,” Wagner said. Staff members learned “a different skill set, and this gave us a chance to look at our own organization without being defensive.”

Wagner said the biggest “ah-ha” moment for Sutter Davis leadership team members was when they learned the Baldrige “ADLI” and “LeTCI” approaches to reviewing processes that considered approach, deployment, integration, and learning and reviewing results that considered levels, trends, comparisons, and integration.

“When [leadership team members] started to look at mature results through the Baldrige process, we added some depth and breadth to our own results and how we trended results, correlated, and segmented them. . . . [This approach] really propelled them to a different level of leadership.”

What’s the value of a Baldrige journey?

“Oftentimes, leaders have blind shots that they don’t realize that they’re not paying enough attention to and that’s one thing that the Criteria do for organizations,” Fangmeyer said. “[The Criteria] help ensure that you are paying attention to all of those things that will [lead to] sustainability, that [lead to] outstanding results. . . . Having your leadership team review the Criteria questions really can open your eyes, even at a very basic, self-assessment level.”

Mike Richman, publisher of Quality Digest, added, “Baldrige has become a highly sought-after prize. Naturally for the winners, recognition as a world-class organization for performance excellence and quality is a great reward, but any organization that has ever pursued the Baldrige at the national level or even one of the many state quality awards based on the Baldrige Criteria will tell you that it’s the journey that counts. Organizations that take the lessons of continuous improvement to heart will reap the true rewards of that journey. Customers and the American economy in general are the ultimate beneficiaries.”

The complete 30-minute interview can be found on YouTube.

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