Everyone wants to have a great organization with ever-improving performance. But, as Dr. Deming used to say, “by what method?”
Leaders seem to have an insatiable appetite for new management fads and initiatives. And yet, there is seemingly little progress toward creating the performance they desire. I once worked with an organization that apparently had never seen an initiative they didn’t like. They just couldn’t seem to say “No” to new ideas. I stopped counting at 50 major initiatives. It was a large global company, but the number of initiatives was so large that no one person in the organization really understood what they were all doing and if some were at cross purposes. Unfortunately, most organizations wander around aimlessly in “Improvement Land” without a “map.”
Those that eventually find a map, such as the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence (CPE), begin to make progress toward excellence. Some eventually achieve their goal of sustainable excellence (Scenario #1). But all too often you are wasting time and money until you find the map. For those that find the CPE map earlier in their journey and use it effectively experience a much faster “trip” to sustainable high performance (Scenario #2). So, the sooner you find and apply the Baldrige CPE the better!
Unfortunately, many who attempt to apply the CPE get frustrated with the slow incremental process of full-blown organization assessments, award applications, feedback, “fixing” opportunities for improvement, and then full-blown assessment again…. While this approach can be a useful and effective “learning process” as many organizations have demonstrated, many to most organizations that attempt to use the CPE “drop out” and never reach their goal of performance excellence. In fact, the success rate is less than 10% of the applicants for the National-level Baldrige award have been recognized with the award. Not to mention those organizations that tried to use the criteria but never applied for a national award. Given that a wide variety of organizations have successfully used the non-prescriptive CPE, the problem is not with the criteria.
If the Baldrige CPE are not working for you, then you are doing it wrong!
While the award process is an incredibly valuable process, the real value from the feedback comes once you have solid systems in place that you can fully describe in the application. Good news! There is an even better way to use the CPE in the early stages of finding your way out of the “jungle.” An Align then Design Approach to using the CPE enables you to “jump” from where you are to an aligned and integrated system. It allows you to “skip the line” of incremental cycles of improvement from no systematic approach to basic approach to aligned approach to integrated approach in one step. There is simply no reason to go through multiple cycles of feedback from an award process to get to a solid, systematic system that is aligned and integrated. Now, once you have a systematic approach that is aligned and integrated it still isn’t perfect and will need further development and refinement. That is where the award process and feedback on the systems become incredibly valuable to reaching the goal of performance excellence. So, the point here is first to design the best systems you can. Then, describing them in the award application will be easy, and the feedback from the examiners will be even more valuable and easy to understand (Scenario #3).
The Baldrige CPE are an effective tool that can help any organization create sustainable value for multiple stakeholders. There are other effective models such as EFQM and some organizations create their own custom systems model. Regardless of which model you choose or create, the most effective and efficient way to use any systems model is to take an Align and Design Approach.
Enjoy the journey,