Five Ways to Provide the Best Assessment Possible

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

How can you provide the best assessment possible?

First, you need to understand what/whom you are assessing. For the Baldrige Program, in alignment with its mission, that means understanding the organization being assessed, either for a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award or simply for feedback to help an organization be more competitive and sustainable.

Based on the voice of the customer, the program has made several recent improvements and added offerings to help ensure that Baldrige Award applicants and other participating organizations get the best feedback possible. And, in some cases, the improvements are intended specifically to help Baldrige examiners better understand the applicant organizations they are assessing, including their business models; their relationships with parent organizations; and the impact of their size or sector.

Organizational Profile

The first aspect of conducting a value-added Baldrige assessment is understanding the Organizational Profile, which is the Criteria preface within the Baldrige Excellence Framework. The Organizational Profile sets the context for an assessment because it asks thoughtful questions that explore the unique aspects of an organization, including about its environment, relationships, competition, strategic context, and performance improvement system. The Organizational Profile is not scored by examiners during an award assessment; instead, it is used to help examiners understand what is important to the organization. In fact, for many organizations, completing an Organizational Profile is their first self-assessment.

Independent Review Calls

An example of a recent improvement are Independent Review calls that occur at the very beginning of the Baldrige Award assessment process. Each Baldrige Award application is assigned to a team of examiners. The team leader calls the applicant organization’s official contact point to ask some very specific questions:

  1. Out of all the information in the Organizational Profile, what are the most critical factors that impact the success and sustainability of your organization?
  2. Is there anything you consider unusual about your environment or business model that you think might be difficult for the examiner team to understand?

These questions allow the organization to explain and clarify what it feels the examiner team needs to understand for its assessment. The team leader may also ask other clarifying questions that arose after the team read the organization’s Baldrige application.

Just-in-Time Training

To be part of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners, examiners must complete two to three days of training (an extra day is added for new and senior/alumni examiners), prework, and online training modules (as appropriate to their experience level). Examiners also may receive just-in-time training based on the sector to which their applicant organization belongs or the size of the organization. For example, examiners assigned to applications from large organizations/systems may receive guidance concerning the evaluation of complex applicants—where the deployment and integration of processes and approaches often have unique challenges, where results typically vary across the organization, and where the reporting of segmented results may be difficult within a 50-page application limit. Similarly, examiners assigned to small applicants (500 or fewer employees) consider other aspects for a fair evaluation.

Baldrige Site Visit Experience and Baldrige Collaborative Assessment

Beyond the Baldrige Award process, the Baldrige Program offers more face-to-face assessments to give organizations immediate feedback and new insights. The Baldrige Site Visit Experience may be offered to organizations in the Baldrige Award process that do not score high enough to receive a traditional site visit. Instead, a team of examiners conducts the Baldrige Site Visit Experience, where, during a face-to-face assessment, examiners can share with the organization what evidence they are looking for, why they are looking for it (using tools like the Criteria and application to help the applicant understand the assessment), and how the evidence they find might impact Baldrige scoring.

The Baldrige Collaborative Assessment also includes a site visit, which is collaboratively planned with the examiner team and organization. Together, the team and organization identify key strengths and opportunities based on the Baldrige Criteria, with immediate feedback delivered while the examiners are still on-site. (Note: Although both the Baldrige Site Visit Experience and Baldrige Collaborative Assessment include on-site assessments and feedback, neither offers prescriptive guidance on next steps.)

How do you provide the best assessment possible? Getting to know an organization is something that the Baldrige Program and its examiners have been continuously improving for almost thirty years.

More information on the offerings above can be found on the Baldrige website. Please feel free to share other ideas you may have on how to provide the very best assessments and feedback.

Posted in Baldrige Award Process, Baldrige Criteria, Business, Customer Focus, Leadership, Performance Results, Small Business | 2 Comments

Baldrige Examiners as Ambassadors: Spotlight on Marlene Yanovsky

By Christine Schaefer

Seasoned Baldrige examiners often act as vocal advocates—sometimes giving formal presentations as “Baldrige ambassadors”—for the Baldrige Program.

Whether they work as management consultants or in wide-ranging professions within business, health care, education, or nonprofit organizations, Baldrige examiners find many opportunities to share the value of the Baldrige Excellence Framework (which includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence) to help organizations improve their leadership, planning, customer and employee engagement, knowledge and data management, operations, and more for long-term success.

head shot

Baldrige Examiner Marlene Yanovsky

As one example of a Baldrige volunteer’s formal engagement as an ambassador for the program, alumni examiner Marlene Yanovsky (who is employed as a consultant) earlier this year visited a graduate class at John Jay College in New York City at the request of the professor, Dr. Jeanne-Marie Col.

According to Yanovsky, students in Col’s class were pursuing a master’s degree in public administration. Most already held full-time jobs and planned to pursue employment in city administration. Essentially, their coursework was preparing them to be the next generation of public officials.

Col wanted her students to learn about the Baldrige Excellence Framework since she had recently read about it and found it relevant to both business and government administration in the United States as well as to her international work for the United Nations. “Even before knowing about the Baldrige framework,” said Yanovsky, “Dr. Col had been introducing the same ideas in her work for the United Nations of helping governments of emerging countries achieve sustainable-development goals.”

Reflecting on what she learned from visiting Col’s graduate class at John Jay College, Yanovsky said, “First of all, I found it interesting to learn that graduates of the school include the chief of police for New York City. There are a lot of very senior people who have attended the school.”

Yanovsky was pleased to help the students understand the value of using the Baldrige framework in their future public-sector work. She summed up her presentation this way: “I went over the history of the Baldrige Program, discussed the Baldrige Criteria format and the process that an organization goes through to submit an application for a Baldrige Award evaluation, and I went over the Baldrige framework and made it come to life using examples from Baldrige Award recipients.”

“We discussed organizational process extensively in relation to the Baldrige Criteria,” she continued. “And we talked about how organizations that use the Baldrige Criteria understand their customers’ requirements and, in addressing those requirements, achieve better results.”

Yanovsky made clear that she was also pleased by the engagement of the class in the presentation: “The students were very attentive and asked questions,” she recalled. “Some of their questions related to their current work lives and showed that they were trying to apply the Baldrige Criteria, for example, in regard to leadership.”

“I think this was their final year—many of them are scheduled to graduate this year and move into the public sector,” she added. “I hope the Baldrige framework is something they will continue to think about and, as they mature in their public-sector careers, that each of them will use the framework to support the performance of their organization.”

Beyond her John Jay College visit, Yanovsky said she often speaks informally to people she meets about the value of the Baldrige framework: “I just do it as part of my everyday life; I don’t realize that I’m serving as a Baldrige ambassador.”

“You don’t want to sit next to me on an airplane if you don’t want to hear about Baldrige,” she added, with a laugh, “especially when I get upgraded to business class and the person sitting next to me asks what I do for a living!”

Posted in Baldrige Criteria, Baldrige Examiners, Education, Nonprofit | Tagged | 3 Comments

Focus on the Baldrige Board of Overseers: Rulon Stacey

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

Like other federal programs, the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program is overseen by an advisory committee whose members are appointed by a cabinet member of the Presidential administration; in our case, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. By charter, the Baldrige Board of Overseers is tasked with reviewing the work of the program and recommending improvements.

In an ongoing blog series, we will be interviewing members of the Board of Overseers. In the interviews, they share their insights and perspectives on their experiences, on the Baldrige Program and its products and services, and on the Baldrige approach to organizational improvement.

Rulon Stacey

Following is an interview of Rulon Stacey, chair of the Baldrige Board of Overseers. Stacey is Managing Director at Navigant Consulting, Inc. Among other executive positions, fellowships, and board leaderships, he previously was chief executive officer of Poudre Valley Health System (now part of University of Colorado Health), which received the Baldrige Award in 2008.

What experiences led you to the role of Baldrige overseer?

I have been very active in Baldrige since 1996, when I was involved with SSM Health Care, the very first Baldrige Award recipient in health care.

In 2008, as CEO of Poudre Valley Health System, I received the call from the Secretary of Commerce that we had received the Baldrige Award. The first person I called was Sister Mary Jean Ryan (who served as president/CEO of SSM Health Care for 25 years and now is its board chair) and thanked her for getting me on the Baldrige path. I took knowledge of Baldrige with me to my next position in Fort Collins, CO, and shared it with the City of Fort Collins, which is a recent recipient of the Colorado Peak Award, the highest Baldrige-based award in the state’s award program. [Note: In 2016., the City of Fort Collins received recognition for its best practices in leadership from the national Baldrige Program.] It’s interesting to see the dominoes of how Baldrige excellence has spread. Today, employees in the City of Fort Collins are participating in the benefits of the Baldrige framework because Sister Mary Jean had the foresight to engage me in the program

I remain honored for the chance to be on the Baldrige Board of Overseers. For me, the Baldrige Excellence Framework remains the best framework for performance and improvement on earth.

How do you see the Baldrige Excellence Framework as valuable to organizations in the health care sector?

There are many reasons why the Baldrige Excellence Framework is valuable in health care. We in health care are being forced by society to simultaneously improve cost and quality. For years, we hid under the misnomer that cost and quality were independent events. If you drove up one, that would have a disadvantageous effect on the other. Now society is saying it wants both to get better at once.

The only way to make that happen and have a sustainable process is through use of the Criteria within the Baldrige Excellence Framework. It’s the only way. And organizations that use it will be able to simultaneously improve quality and decrease costs every time.

The other reason the Baldrige framework is crucial today is that pressure is being put on health care organizations like never before, and health care organizations find themselves having to join forces. The merger/acquisition rate continues to increase every year. Last year, we saw the highest rate in history. Baldrige, better than any other process, can help any organization, health care included, take an organization that used to consist of two or three independent entities and help them come together as one organization. The way you do that is you establish a vision, mission, and values for the whole organization; you engage everybody in driving toward that mission, vision, and values; and you go through a process to make sure that your employees understand why that works, what they’re trying to accomplish, and how their goals align with the organization. And no other process will allow two merged entities to come together as quickly or more efficiently as the Baldrige Criteria (within the framework).

How do you apply Baldrige principles/concepts in your current work?

Right now, in management consulting, I am working with organizations to do both that cost and quality push. Our organization works hard to drive costs out and overlay the Baldrige framework, which allows organizations to sustain improvement going forward. So now we go into organizations that have to drive millions of dollars out and share the Baldrige Excellence Framework to help them ensure that those costs don’t creep back up. It’s making a world of difference to health care organizations.

The charter of the Board of Overseers says the overseers shall make suggestions for the improvement of Baldrige and act as an advisory committee for the program. As an overseer, what would you like the community/stakeholders to know about the Baldrige Program and its award and other products?

Baldrige remains the best performance excellence framework on earth. We, the overseers, are so engaged in it, and we work so diligently with the judges. I can say with complete confidence that people should know that the Baldrige framework remains the best way to achieve and sustain organizational performance excellence.

What encouragement/advice would you give U.S. organizations thinking about applying for the Baldrige Award or using another one of the Baldrige Program’s products or services?

One of the questions I get a lot is how much does it cost to apply for the Baldrige Award, but the fact that organizations ask that question means they don’t understand. So, my first encouragement would be to please understand what it is. With the Baldrige process, whatever you’re doing now, you will be able to do for less money. Your expenses will go down. That will be the cost. Executive leadership, especially, needs to understand that you will be better off as an organization. You will produce whatever it is you produce at a higher quality and a lower cost if you follow the Baldrige process.

If an organization takes the time for Baldrige, it will learn and drive down costs. I would encourage people, especially CEOs, to become anxiously engaged to learn about Baldrige.

Do you have any reflections that you would like to share on chairing the Board of Overseers?

I feel like when I see the caliber of people who are on the Board of Overseers, or who serve as Baldrige judges or examiners, and I see the volunteer time they put in, it is the most unique thing I’ve ever seen in my career. We all volunteer for stuff, but it’s usually for our personal benefit or professional society. I’m so impressed with the caliber of people and the time they put in to volunteer for Baldrige, and it’s for nothing they are ever going to get other than knowing that they helped American commerce. I just think that it’s noble; I really do. And I think those people are noble, and I’ve enjoyed working with them.

Posted in Baldrige Award Process, Baldrige Award Recipients, Baldrige Criteria, Baldrige Examiners, Baldrige State & Local Programs, Health Care, Leadership, Performance Results | Leave a comment

What’s Up with Patriotic Volunteers and Satisfied Employees?

By Christine Schaefer

Did you know that a sense of patriotic duty has been shared by Baldrige examiners as a top reason they volunteer countless hours each summer to evaluate the performance of U.S. organizations applying for the Baldrige Award? What is it about the Baldrige Award process or the Baldrige Excellence Framework (which includes the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence) that inspires such patriotic engagement?

With our nation’s Independence Day approaching, I have been thinking about this question. Recalling survey data that associates higher salary satisfaction with use of the Baldrige framework, I see a connection.

To review, late last year increased employee satisfaction with salary emerged as another likely benefit for organizations that use the Baldrige framework. The source: data from ASQ’s annual salary survey of its member organizations. Those results—published in the December 2016 issue of ASQ’s Quality Progressshowed both higher satisfaction with salary and lower dissatisfaction with salary among employees of organizations that use the Baldrige Criteria. (In the excerpted table below, see the fourth row from the bottom, in particular.)

Given these results, people not familiar with the Baldrige framework might assume it requires that organizations pay high salaries. But that is not the case: the Criteria are non-prescriptive by design. So how exactly does an organization’s use of the Baldrige framework evidently lead to such results?

First, within the workforce-focused section of the Criteria known as category 5, there are questions addressing employee benefits and policies—which, of course, encompass monetary compensation for most organizations (except where workers are all volunteers). Specifically, the Criteria ask organizations (at 5.1b[2]), “How do you support your workforce via services, benefits, and policies?” In response to this question (which counts as an “overall requirement” in relation to scoring for a Baldrige assessment), organizations using the Criteria aim to have a systematic, well-deployed, integrated, and continuously improved process in place to address this area of performance.

But the beneficial impact of the framework on employees could be traced to more than a single or even a few Criteria questions. Other questions in the workforce-focused section of the Criteria ask organizations how they provide for employee performance management, learning and development, and career progression, all of which, if effectively addressed, would boost employee satisfaction.

What’s more, use of the Baldrige framework is an indicator of an organizational culture that fosters quality and excellence in all key areas. Baldrige Award recipients have credited the comprehensive framework with helping them create an organizational culture that cultivates high-performance work and an engaged workforce.

Speaking of organizational culture—rooted in mission, vision, and values—this is where I see the connection between the apparently high engagement of the Baldrige Program’s hard-working yet unpaid volunteers and the higher satisfaction with salary found among workers whose organizations use the Baldrige framework. I think that the satisfaction revealed in the ASQ survey data may have less to do with employees’ salary levels than with their commitment to their organizations’ aims and ideals. In a similar vein, the Baldrige Program has annually benefited from the free labor of hundreds of volunteer examiners at least in part because these unpaid workers believe they are fulfilling a patriotic duty in helping organizations in every sector of the U.S. economy improve their performance, ultimately strengthening the quality of life for millions of people.






Posted in Baldrige Criteria, Baldrige Examiners, Performance Results, Workforce Focus | 3 Comments

Do We Need National Standards for Organizational Excellence?

Posted by Dawn Marie Bailey

Every day, each one of us may come upon a standard of excellence that improves the quality in our own lives, and we may not even know it.

Here at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the oldest physical science lab in the United States, standards are the foundation of measurements so that U.S. companies can compete commercially and so that all of us can be kept safe from, for example, refrigerators not set at the appropriate temperature to safeguard our food and materials not appropriately fire retardant in our buildings. Standards can help raise the level of excellence across all industries and professions; for example, a recent article by a NIST scientist outlines his plans for standards of excellence for medical-alert service dogs to save more lives.

So, what does the Baldrige Excellence Framework (and its Criteria) have to do with standards? And, in today’s world, do we even need national standards of excellence for our organizations?

That question is best answered, I think, by going back to the Baldrige Program’s beginning and how it came to be associated with NIST. According to Curt Reimann, the first Baldrige Program director, in the 1980s, scientists at NIST (then called the National Bureau of Standards [NBS]) were working on an initiative called “Process and Quality Control,” which was proposing new and improved measurements and standards services for industry. (The next Baldrige director, Harry Hertz, was also involved in that scientific effort.) Reimann said that Capitol Hill staffers were aware that NBS was working on that quality initiative, and when the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, Public Law 100-107, was coming close to being signed (August 20, 1987), the NBS director was approached about his scientists managing the award and performance excellence criteria that would become the award’s application.

This time in history was also referenced in the article “A Look at Quality’s Past” that spoke of the dawn of “performance excellence” beginning with the Baldrige Excellence Framework—an organizational framework for improvement that could be used in any industry and was accompanied by a “prestigious award.”

Fast forward to 2015, when the Baldrige Program was honored for its compilation paper (contributors included Christine Schaefer, Harry Hertz, and Jacqueline Deschamps) “The Metrology of Organizational Performance: How Baldrige Standards Have Become the Common Language for Organizational Excellence Around the World.” The paper won third place in the World Standards Day competition sponsored by The Society for Standards Professionals.

In addition, in 2016, one of the first-place-winning-paper writers for World Standards Day was Baldrige Executive Fellow Julie M. Kapp, who has done additional research and writing on a Baldrige-based approach to U.S. population health.

So why do we need national standards for organizational excellence? I think that the results of Baldrige Award recipients that can be publicized because they won the award and the results of thousands of other organizations around the globe who use Baldrige resources make clear that standards for excellence are imperative in creating an organization that is successful now and in the future. A contributing factor to Baldrige recipients’ successes is their ability to use Baldrige resources to benchmark each other and learn across sectors, which is part of having a nonprescriptive criteria and the ability to share how winning organizations answered the criteria questions, as well as to share data. And it should be noted that being managed at NIST, part of an objective government partnership, allows the Baldrige standards (Criteria) to stay objective, not swayed by any one industry or contributor.

The standards represented through the Criteria’s thoughtful questions represent the very essence of leading an organization with efficiency and effectiveness, a customer focus, visionary leadership, workforce engagement, etc. The Baldrige framework remains the nation’s standard of excellence for organizations. As other standards, the framework and its Criteria make the world a better place for the customers/patients/students, workforce, and stakeholders who are part of those organizations’ Baldrige focus on excellence.

Posted in Baldrige Award Process, Baldrige Award Recipients, Baldrige Criteria, Baldrige News, Business, Customer Focus, Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management, Operations Focus, Performance Results, Uncategorized | 1 Comment