So the secret is out that I am a member of the 2011 Malcolm Baldrige Board of Examiners. The journey started last year when I applied through the NIST site to be an examiner. I had been reading about Malcolm Baldrige through the American Society for Quality QP magazine. The more I read, the more I realized that this was the next evolutionary step in our Quality journey.  It took several months to get the application accepted and a background check with recommendations from our CEO (thanks Jeff!) and a customer (thanks Amy!).

It was in early April when I got my acceptance letter and that’s when the fun began. For a month prior to the weeklong training, all examiner candidates received workbooks and homework assignments to be completed before the start of the training. Just when I thought I was getting over the hump, I get to the training. You know how you’re told “be careful what you wish for, you may get it”; well I got it. The overachiever is an individual who is never satisfied with mediocrity, now I was in the room full of them. And what happens when you put a room full of overachievers together? You are no longer an overachiever, you’re just average!

Imagine being in a room where everyone can quote the standards and regulations as well as you. So what would make you so special? Rather than just quoting the standards and regulations, I found like-minded people willing to discuss the pros and cons of those standards and regulations without nodding off on you. And wouldn’t you know it, they are just like me – actually enjoyed their work, even when extra hours are frequently required.

The purpose of the board is to support and evaluate performance improvements of all types of organizations such as businesses, schools, hospitals and nonprofit organizations, including government agencies that are applying for the Baldrige award. So at this point, I was reviewing the reasons why I wanted to be an examiner. I figured we can improve our performance and achieve world-class results. I wanted to put six Sigma to work, in order to seek the most cost-effective value-added business audit available anywhere. I hope to take us to the next level of quality and clarify our strengths and weaknesses to move us forward. The only way to do this was to jump in at the deep end of the pool! And in the deep end, I was hoping for and found a way to accelerate improvement efforts, improve morale, gain an outside perspective, learn from doing the audits, and engage with those overachievers. Yep, it looks like I got what I wish for. But getting on board as a Baldrige Examiner is just a part of what it takes to achieve the highest quality. In my next blog, I will share with you what’s involved to be awarded this highest-level quality recognition.

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