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. One of the few programs that have withstood the test of time (26 years) is the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program.

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.

About the Author

Timothy J. Clark retired from the federal government with 35 years of service. He is a former enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army. He 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 a strategic analyst with the American Center for Quality Leadership and is active in economic and community development in a small rural county in Indiana.