2011 Baldrige ExaminerIn my last blog I told you about how I became a Baldrige Examiner. Now I want to share some incredible ways by which you can gauge your company’s quality health. So let’s start off by understanding what these criteria are. Think of these as the mother lode for “quality nirvana,” a set of expectations, the way highly profitable and high quality companies run their businesses using a structured approach to performance improvement by changing the paradigm of performance management.

What is a paradigm? It is a way of thinking. Dr. Steven R. Covey (1) likens a paradigm to a map: it provides new ways of thinking so that we can get to where we are going and not get lost! We use the map to:

  • Deliver improving (non-stagnant) value to customers and stakeholders while contributing to organizational sustainability,
  • Improve organizational effectiveness and capabilities, and
  • Increase organizational and personal learning.

Way #1: Leadership

Ever wonder how leaders lead? Or how leaders both govern and fulfill their societal responsibilities? This first category examines how senior leaders’ personal actions guide and sustain the organization. But it doesn’t stop there; it looks for a governance system that drives towards fulfillment of legal, ethical and societal responsibilities in how it supports internal and external customers, as well as how it supports the key communities.

Way #2: Strategic and Action Planning, and Implementation of Plans

That’s a mouthful! This category takes the pulse of how your organization addresses strategic objectives and plans. And it doesn’t stop there: it examines how those plans are implemented and how quickly those plans are updated based on the circumstances. (You know the old adage, “there is only one constant: change!”)

Way #3: Customer Focus

You’ve heard about VOC (Voice of the Customer) for over a decade now. But how do you get it? We often think of customer satisfaction surveys, and that does give us an insight. But what about customer dissatisfaction? Or how do you listen to your current customers or potential customers or even your former customers? This is the nugget that gets you more information in order to improve and identify opportunities for innovation.

Way #4: Measurement, Analysis and Knowledge Management

Whoa, I know it sounds technical…and it is! But as Dr. Edward Deming(2) once quoted Lloyd S. Nelson as saying, “the most important figures that one needs for management are unknown or unknowable, but successful management must nevertheless take account of them.” This is where all of those Six Sigma trainings help you shine. It is more about what data you select to gather, analyze, manage and use as the basis for improvement rather than doing statistics for math’s sake.

Way #5: Work Force Focus

It’s cliché to say, “We love our people,” when they work 90 hrs a week at breakneck speed. The proof in the actions is to consistently assess workforce capability and capacity needs in order to build a work environment conducive to high performance and loyalty. You need to make sure that the workforce is developed so that it is aligned with the organization’s mission, strategy and action plans in a safe, secure and supportive environment.

Way #6: Operational Focus

This is where the rubber meets the road. How does your organization design, manage, improve its work systems and work processes, and prepare for emergencies?

Way #7: Results

We’re down to the bottom line! This is where you measure and analyze the data from Way #4 to see if you have addressed the product, the customer, your employees (and vendors), the leadership, and the reason you’re in business (e.g., the finances).

Here’s a picture (3) of what the map looks like from the 10K foot level:

Baldrige 7 Way Process

So there you have it, seven ways you can check to see if your company is healthy. To get the insight on the how to do this and to pick up a copy of the criteria, go to the NIST web site.

Works Quoted:
(1) Covey, S.R. (192). Principle Centered Leadership: Strategies for Personal and Professional Effectiveness. NY: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
(2) Deming, W. E. (2000). The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education – 2nd Edition. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
(3) adapatation from 2011–2012 Criteria for Performance Excellence: Business Nonprofit Criteria. MD: NIST, page iv- http://www.nist.gov/baldrige

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