A Government Program That Has Withstood the Test of Time

Too often in government, new initiatives and programs are introduced that are embraced by the few and dismissed by the many who often conclude that “this too shall pass.” One of the few programs that have withstood the test of time (26 years) is the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program.

In his April 2014 post “Insights on the road to performance excellence,” Dr. Harry Hertz, Director Emeritus of the Baldrige Program, shares the knowledge he has gained over the past 20 years from organizations that have successfully applied the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence. Those organizations represent a diversity of industries, including the private sector, government, education and healthcare.

The Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence may be among the closest things we have in the United States to a common language and proven methodology for assessing and improving organizational performance within and across industries. I would like to think the U.S. Founding Fathers would have embraced the Baldrige concept as a method for helping to ensure that the political system they built would be continually improved in pursuit of their aim for a more perfect union.

Performance excellence is synonymous with quality, which is achieved through actions that are both effective and efficient. In the federal government, the Federal Managers Financial Integrity Act (FMFIA) requires that agencies conduct an annual assessment and provide written assurance that they are efficiently and effectively utilizing all assigned resources. Consequently, applying the Baldrige criteria in support of the annual Statement of Assurance (SoA) could be considered an innovation. It is also a way to meet the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requirement for conducting an entity (organizational) level assessment.

Real Fear of Change

A major barrier to improving organizational performance is the fear of change. The key responsibility of ethical and courageous leaders has always been to lead others to do the right things. Part of this responsibility includes helping to mitigate the effects from adverse policies, practices and conditions.

Application of the Baldrige criteria separates the leaders from the managers. By definition, an effective leader would lead others to:

  • Continually improve performance
  • Accept the risks associated with implementing a method that embraces more accountability as well as transparency
  • Introduce a higher standard of organizational performance

Overcoming organizational inertia and resistance to change is certainly not an easy task. Signing up for the Baldrige program email updates, reviewing Blogrige postings and partnering with leadership in the Baldrige network can help leaders gain insight on successful implementation strategies.

How Will We Know If the Changes Are Resulting in Real Improvements?

An often asked question is, “How will we know if the changes we are implementing are resulting in real improvements?” To answer this question, organizations need to periodically perform assessments and get other types of feedback. As mentioned previously, you can use the Baldrige criteria to perform organizational level assessments.

In addition to the Baldrige criteria assessment scores, another source of feedback on improvement in organizational performance is captured in trends from the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. Trends seen in 2003 through 2013 can be reviewed on the Best Places to Work website.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) is yet another source of valid feedback. The ACSI is recognized as a valid metric for assessing and improving customer satisfaction.The Federal Consulting Group (FCG) is a federal agency and an executive agent that supports the administration of the ACSI in the federal government. In addition to providing support for the ACSI, the FCG provides consulting and executive coaching services.

A Way Ahead

In the United States, the government’s role in society continues to expand at the same time budgets are being reduced through sequestration. And citizens debate the role of government but yet expect that their tax dollars be used as effectively and efficiently as possible. So, why not try a new and proven approach to assess and improve the government’s organizational performance?

A common refrain is that change must start at the top. In the United States, the “top” is the American citizen who may also happen to be a government employee.

As a citizen, you can learn more about the Baldrige criteria and support the criteria’s application in government, education and healthcare.

If you are a citizen who is also a government employee, you can lead the effort to apply the Baldrige criteria within your organization. Positive change can start with you.

© 2016 Timothy J. Clark. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Timothy J. Clark.

About the Author

Timothy J. Clark, is the author of Success Through Quality, Support Guide for the Journey to Continuous Improvement. He retired from the federal government with over 30 years of service. He is also a former enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army and retired at the rank of Colonel with over 30 years of combined service in the U.S Army National Guard and Army Reserve.

He is currently the Director of the Deming Application Network that supports leaders in transitioning to the application of better methods that will immediately result in higher levels of performance.

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  1. mandinka says:

    Name the last recipient?

    • The Master says:

      The 2013 Baldrige Award recipients—listed with their category—are:

      Pewaukee School District, Pewaukee, Wis. (education)

      Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano, Plano, Texas (health care)

      Sutter Davis Hospital, Davis, Calif. (health care)

      Guess they don’t have newspapers where you live.

  2. CarolF says:

    This concept works in many countries, it is too bad that the US Government hasn’t taken it to heart. They like the numbers on performance but forget the human factors that must be figured in! It was the model for the first NPR benchmarking report. If the recommendations been followed, a better performance and happier employees would be the result. As it is, lying with performance numbers is the rule rather than the exception.

  3. DevilDoc1 says:

    Outstanding article! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this very relevant program that can prove very beneficial if leveraged appropriately. It is a no-brainer. We now just need leaders to leverage accordingly. Timothy – thank you for this post, and thank you for your service to our great nation!

  4. 04sting says:

    OMG. Laughable.

    • DevilDoc1 says:

      The Baldrige Program isn’t a laughable matter. It is worthy enough for an honest review – and it may surprise even the most jaded.


      • 04sting says:

        I did some work on atmospheric research for NIST back in the 70s in Boulder. While I think that there has been interesting work done there, the concept has morphed into an “off the tracks” deal. Sorry.
        As an example, I would point to much of the Health Care documents that have been produced which are basically admin. docs. – generic in the extreme.

  5. Davesandbrook says:

    It works, it is low cost, and saves the taxpayers money in the long run.

    This means obama and the dims in congress will cancel the program.