Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How Does Baldrige Help?


The Malcolm Baldrige Performance Excellence program is now 25 years old. Or should I say young? I have been using the MBNQA criteria for almost 15 years now and haven’t stopped being amazed by the possibilities it offers. How simple could things get? Here is a list of questions that if addressed can put any organization on the path of better performance.

Why does the Baldrige criteria work? This is a question I have often been asked and I have attempted to answer as well. It’s a tough question. One can argue that if you don’t want to use something like Baldrige you are likely to come up with such questions. I used to see this question as a ‘blocker’ but have learnt to see deeper in the last 10 years of so.

People ask this question because it is indeed difficult to comprehend how a list of questions can put us on the path of excellence. Especially, if you haven’t tried the list yet. Here is my take on why the questions work.

These are some really tough questions. Let’s face it. All of us don’t like being asked tough question. And the higher we rise in organizations, the tougher it is to face tough questions. People around us know we don’t like being asked tough questions and they stop asking these questions. And soon, no one asks these questions. We all know that ‘someone’ has to ask these questions. The Baldrige criteria are inanimate and don’t mind a frown when you are in a spot on a question.

Large companies are complex and need someone to show them the inter-connections. Large companies have large departments. These departments are sometime kingdoms. It does not take much to lose connection with reality. The Baldrige criteria shows the inter-connections between departments and seeks answers. Eg. HR and Strategy tend to drift away in organization. The Baldrige asks questions which arrest this drift.

Emphasis on results. Pursuit of excellence sometimes becomes just that. A pursuit! Without frequent milestones, no journey will take us to our destination. The Baldrige criteria has a significant focus on result and also emphasizes a cause-effect relation for effort and result. This helps in maintaining a balance between effort and results. As we all know results are what finally matters.

Lastly, excellence will not be achieved with one part of the organization doing well. It has to be a team game and the Baldrige Criteria helps immensely in this aspect. Its focus on all round development of all processes is unique. Other certifications/standards/guidelines do not offer this systemic approach to excellence.

If you have been using the Baldrige criteria, congratulations and keep the faith. If you haven’t been, what are you waiting for? 

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