A University That Uses Baldrige Approaches to Excel

Posted by Christine Schaefer

Fourteen years ago, the University of Wisconsin–Stout became the first (and to date, only) four-year university to receive the nation’s Baldrige Award. Using the Education Criteria for Performance Excellence as a framework to build and align processes, the organization  distinguished itself in part for its “Mission Driven, Market Smart” focus on educational programs supporting students’ future careers in industry and education.

As a result of such offerings and excellence in other areas too, 99 percent of employers surveyed rated UW–Stout graduates as well-prepared, the job placement rate for graduates was at or above 98 percent for the five years leading to UW–Stout’s Baldrige Award, and about 90 percent of alumni said they would attend the university again.

Since 2001, the university has been engaging the entire campus in the continued focus on performance excellence, according to Kay Schnur, director of enterprise information systems, and Kristi Krimpelbein, special assistant to the chancellor.

“Baldrige has become part of our culture,” said Schnur. “We ask for input from everyone, use it, and celebrate what it allows us to achieve.”

As an example of Baldrige Criteria-based practices, Schnur and Krimpelbein cited the university’s Strategic Planning Group. With approximately 35 members today, the group includes senior leaders and governance representatives.

UW-Stout Strategic Planning Group

UW-Stout Strategic Planning Group; photo used with permission.

Together they are responsible for identifying action items that will ensure the successful completion of the strategic plan. Since changes were made to the planning process years ago, the action items are fewer in number but higher in impact.

“During annual ‘You Said, We Did’ sessions held each January, we share actions taken based on feedback,” said Krimpelbein. “More than half of the workforce has attended these engagement-building sessions, which are held each January. We also celebrate accomplishments and recognize the individuals, teams, and groups behind them.”

Attend the Baldrige Regional Conference in Minneapolis on September 22 and 23 to learn more about the University of Wisconsin–Stout’s Baldrige journey and approaches to engage employees in performance excellence. Schnur and Krimpelbein will present an afternoon session September 23. Download the full schedule (PDF) of presentations and register soon.

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