By Christine Schaefer
Did you ever wonder who are the folks who judge applications for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award? What in their background brought them to this high honor, and what advice they may have for Baldrige Award applicants, potential applicants, and Baldrige examiners?
Since the 2016 Judges’ Panel of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award includes four new members, this blog continues last year’s series of interviews sharing panel members’ insights and perspectives on the award process, on their experiences, and on the Baldrige framework and approach to organizational improvement.
The primary role of the Judges’ Panel is to ensure the integrity of the Baldrige Award selection process. Based on a review of results of examiners’ scoring of written applications (the Independent and Consensus Review processes), judges vote on which applicants merit Site Visit Review (the third and final examination stage) to verify and clarify their performance levels in all seven categories of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. The judges also review reports from site visits to recommend to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce which organizations to name as U.S. role models—Baldrige Award recipients. No judge participates in any discussion of an organization for which he/she has a real or perceived conflict of interest. Judges serve for a period of three years.
Following is the interview of Major General John C. Harris, Jr., a first-year judge who is assistant adjutant general and commander of the Ohio Army National Guard.
1. What experiences led you to the role of Baldrige judge?
Over the years, I’ve participated in the Baldrige program through the Army Communities of Excellence Program and also as a Baldrige Executive Fellow. I firmly believe that our nation needs Baldrige to maintain a competitive edge in the global arena. Our economy is an important aspect of national security, and maintaining strong and competitive organizations in corporations as well as the nonprofit, government, and health care sectors is essential to our ability to continue all aspects of global leadership. Baldrige is the official national standard and should be embraced as such.
2. How do you see the Baldrige Excellence Framework (including the Criteria for Performance Excellence) as valuable to organizations in your sector/industry?
As military leaders, we often look at organizational performance through a short-term lens because our tenures as commanders and civilian managers are often limited to two or three years. As a result, we generally focus on what we can influence on our watch. Baldrige transcends that thinking and provides a framework that keeps leaders focused on the seven categories and “running the enterprise” as well as short-term results. While difficult to apply at lower levels of military organizations, the Baldrige Criteria are invaluable for senior leaders in order to avoid whiplashing organizations each time key leaders change.
3. How do you apply Baldrige principles/concepts to your current work experience/employer?
We use the Baldrige framework regularly to assess ourselves. It has become a part of our daily language; leaders at all levels of the organization understand it and employ the principles. We use a team approach to writing our application—an approach that allows us to bring mid-grade and junior leaders into the process to gain a deeper understanding of the principles to ensure that Baldrige is sustained by the next generation of leaders. We have been on the journey since 1999, and we are still gaining momentum.
4. As a judge, what are your hopes for the judging process? In other words, as a judge, what would you like to tell applicants and potential Baldrige Award applicants about the rigor of the process?
I’m honored to continue the rich tradition of selecting the very best organizations for the award. As a new judge, I have yet to experience the full judging cycle, but so far I’m blown away by the focus on preserving the integrity of the process and protecting the proprietary information of the applicants. I was most surprised by the rigorous screening process required for appointment as a judge; my top-secret security clearance didn’t spare me from a rigorous vetting process.
It’ s also pretty incredible watching [Baldrige Program Director] Bob Fangmeyer and the Baldrige team at work. There is no doubt that they are committed to sustaining the excellence of the selection process. Bob, along with our lead judge Laura Huston, have made it clear that they will tolerate nothing less than complete fairness and impartiality in the judging process.
5. What encouragement/advice would you give Baldrige examiners for their work in evaluating organizations as part of the Baldrige Award process?
I would tell them to remember the intent of the Baldrige process: to help organizations improve and excel. Examiners carry a heavy load; the intellectual capacity required to do the job is staggering. I believe, however, that the final product the teams produce needs to be easily understood by leaders at every level in order to be useful in a meaningful way. If we write feedback at the Ph.D. level (in terms of language used), it will only have value to a limited audience.
I would also thank them profusely for the countless hours of time and energy every examiner commits to make the process work. As a uniformed service member, I find that strangers regularly express their appreciation to me for service to my country. The work of the examiners is also an important service to our nation yet it is performed in near anonymity. Their work is difficult, important, and greatly appreciated.
See other blogs profiling members of the 2016 Judges’ Panel: Dr. Ken Davis, Michael Dockery, Dr. Greg Gibson, Miriam N. Kmetzo, Ken Schiller, Dr. John C. Timmerman, and Fonda Vera (with more to come soon).