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Baldrige Trainees Prepared to Advance Excellence in All Sectors

May 21, 2014

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Participants in the recent 2014 Baldrige Examiner Preparation course expressed appreciation for the enriched learning and cross-sector fellowship they experienced in and outside their classrooms. "Never have I attended a more valuable training," said Tony Seifred, quality systems manager at Smyth Companies. "Everyone was so sincerely focused on MY learning. What an incredible group of people. I am so grateful for the experience!" As a new Baldrige examiner, Seifred participated in the annual training for the first time last month. "It was intense and exhausting, but well worth the effort!" agreed Pam Raymond, another new examiner who serves as IT program project manager at Boeing. "Thank you for the wonderful learning experience this past week! Great people and a great mission," wrote Elizabeth Knudsen, manager of Enterprise Patient Experience Advisory Services at Press Ganey Associates.

Bridget Dewees, a Baldrige examiner for several years who directs institutional effectiveness assessments for an education organization, shared the following story to explain why Baldrige examiner training "is on the top of my list for ‘real’ professional development!"

I was just starting out as the director of quality for a higher education organization and needed relevant experience—a colleague pointed me in the Baldrige direction. It has changed my perspective on assessment, continuous improvement, and organizational development.

The return on investment for my organization was huge! It was an inexpensive way to learn tactics and techniques for implementing quality and over the years I built a network of quality professionals that I still call on as needed.

Similarly, Jim Beckham, a veteran Baldrige examiner who first attended training as a new examiner in 1996, described the "true $ ROI" of Baldrige examiner training with this story of a former employer:

When I was with Dana, the corporation started an internal Baldrige assessment program where the cost of an application was sending three people to be trained as examiners, who would then examine other divisions’ applications. … In addition, we required that any new person promoted to one of our sub-business unit management teams would attend an annual three-day self-assessment, along with other representatives of each sub-business unit, where they would learn and use the [Baldrige Criteria] to evaluate our organization.

The benefit was that three and half years later, we received the Baldrige award. And of course the true ROI was having more business, and more repeat business, from our customers.

Such feedback affirms the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program’s first-place ranking last month among government and military organizations in the annual Leadership 500 Excellence Awards for leadership development programs; the Baldrige Program’s training offerings include Baldrige examiner training and the Baldrige Executive Fellows program. Both training programs help the Baldrige Program (part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology [NIST]) to achieve its mission to improve the competitiveness and performance of organizations in every sector.

Participants’ feedback on the annual training has long underscored the benefits not only for the organizations that receive assessment services from the Baldrige Program, but also for organizations employing Baldrige examiners. The training prepares participants to evaluate any organization against the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence in order to help it improve its performance. Of the benefits for training participants’ employers, returning examiner Kathryn LeRoy noted,

I always learn and develop a deeper understanding of the Criteria during these sessions. The ROI [return on investment] for the organizations for whom I have worked has always been bringing back to the team new insights and examples from other organizations both within and outside our sector.

LeRoy, a management consultant who first joined the Baldrige Program’s Board of Examiners in 2010, also stressed the benefit for employer organizations of Baldrige trainees’ interactions with colleagues in varied organizations and sectors:

Equally important to the training are the network opportunities that often result in continued discussion to support our organization’s efforts. I now have colleagues across the United States and abroad who continually add value to my learning and that of the organization.

The three-day Baldrige examiner training course uses a peer-learning model in which highly experienced Baldrige examiners facilitate their colleagues’ learning in each classroom. During the course, insights are shared on all aspects of organizational leadership and assessment, with both experienced and new examiners developing new competencies and perspectives on best practices across all sectors of the U.S. economy.

The training model also uses a case study about a fictitious applicant for the Baldrige Award. Use of the case study enables participants to practice assessing an organization against the Baldrige Criteria by analyzing the processes and results data in its Baldrige Award application and drafting valuable feedback comments that will help the organization improve its performance. The 2014 case study features a K-12 school district based in Ohio that had previously received its Baldrige-based state award. The 2014 training curriculum also provided for intensive focus and discussions about the 2013–2014 Criteria to ensure participants’ understanding of Criteria requirements and concepts.

The first three weeks of 2014 training took place at the NIST campus that houses the national Baldrige Program in Gaithersburg, Maryland. In addition, last week 26 national examiners attended a pilot training experience in San Diego, California, which was hosted by the California Awards for Performance Excellence, a state-level Baldrige program.

With annual training completed, 374 Baldrige examiners join the elite group of trained evaluators who are prepared to (1) help organizations in every sector of the U.S. economy improve their performance using the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence and (2) identify national role-model organizations and best practices during the 2014 Baldrige Award process.

Each year, members of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners are competitively selected through an application process that begins the previous fall. The names, states, and organizations of the current board of examiners are listed each year on the Baldrige website.

This summer, graduates of 2014 Baldrige examiner training will begin assignments supporting the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and Baldrige Collaborative Assessment. In the latter form of assessment, a group of Baldrige examiners comes to an organization to provide a confidential evaluation that is not part of the Baldrige Award process. For both kinds of assessments, Baldrige examiners use their spring training to evaluate organizations’ performance using the framework provided by the seven categories of the 2013–2014 Criteria for Performance Excellence (Leadership; Strategic Planning; Customer Focus; Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management; Workforce Focus; Operations Focus; and Results). Working collaboratively, the Baldrige examiner teams each produce a feedback report that conveys an organization’s strengths and opportunities for improvement.

For the third consecutive year, tuition-based slots at Baldrige examiner training were made available to visitors. The alternative offering, known as the Baldrige Examiner Training Experience, enables participants to learn alongside Baldrige examiners in training classes without completing an assignment after training or accessing any proprietary data of Baldrige Award applicants. Forty-six participants took advantage of this opportunity during the first three weeks of 2014 training. International participants came from the Philippines (Philippine Quality Award), India (Tata), and Qatar (Department of Institutional Research and Planning).