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.
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:
- Out of all the information in the Organizational Profile, what are the most critical factors that impact the success and sustainability of your organization?
- 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.
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.