The Baldrige criteria are insufficient

November 9, 2018 by ahmed

Originally posted by Harry Herts on Blogrige

For people who have known me for years, you probably never thought you would hear me say, “The Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence are an insufficient guide for achieving improvement and, hopefully, excellence.” But the statement is true and it is not a new epiphany for me. The Criteria ask how your organization accomplishes everything it needs to do and define what that “everything” is. How has a simple meaning in most contexts: a description of your approach or method. But that is not the full meaning of how, when you are characterizing an organizational process. The full meaning is revealed when the Criteria are combined with the Baldrige Scoring Guidelines which add dimensionality to how. Then the picture is both sufficient and all-encompassing.

Before continuing the explanation, let me provide context by explaining why I am writing this blog…

My Email Exchange
I recently had a very thoughtful email exchange with Bob Scanlon, a long-time Baldrige examiner, senior examiner, and alumni examiner. The basic topic was new and improved process adoption in an organization, process standardization throughout the organization, and adoption of benchmarked processes in large, geographically dispersed organizations (and smaller ones, as well). The basic problem is that well-defined processes are not uniformly and effectively deployed throughout the organization, and improvements are frequently localized or reinvented at multiple places in an organization. Knowledge transfer is poor and a lot of rework or inefficiencies occur. Bob’s thought-provoking question was, are new how questions needed in the criteria to address these issues?

The Meaning of How
After giving Bob’s question some thought, my answer was “no.” We do not need new Criteria questions to address these issues. The answer lies in responding to the existing process questions and understanding the meaning of how, which the Baldrige Glossary of Key Terms defines as:

The systems and processes that your organization uses to achieve its mission requirements. You should include information on approach (methods and measures), deployment, learning, and integration.

Approach (A), Deployment(D), Learning (L), and Integration (I) or ADLI are the four dimensions of the Baldrige process item scoring guidelines. The proper answer to a how question requires information on the approach, including

  • measures of effectiveness and efficiency
  • deployment of the approach to relevant work units throughout the organization
  • learning through cycles of evaluation and improvement, innovation, and sharing with all relevant work units
  • integration by aligning the approach with organizational needs and harmonizing plans, processes, information, resource decisions, actions, and analyses to support organization-wide goals

The ADLI dimensions are described in detail in the Baldrige Scoring Guidelines. Organizational maturity, by way of a score, is measured by progress in achieving these four ADLI dimensions. However, the ADLI dimensions are not merely a scoring companion to the Baldrige Criteria; they provide the defining characteristics of the word how. The Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence are insufficient if one does not understand the meaning of how and its role in defining process excellence. This meaning and role in performance excellence is described in the Scoring Guidelines. Therefore, they should be used as an integral part of Criteria implementation, even if your organization is not trying to score your level of performance.

The questions posed in Bob Scanlon’s email are addressed by the deployment and learning dimensions of responding to how.

The next logical question might be, “Are the Scoring Guidelines also important in answering the results questions in the Criteria?”

What about Results?
The same concept of Criteria and Scoring Guidelines complementarity applies to the meaning of what, when asking what are your results. What are your results has a simple meaning in most contexts: tell me your level of performance. To understand the full meaning of what when describing results, organizations should look at the scoring dimensions for results: Levels (Le), Trends (T), Comparisons (C), and Integration (I), or LeTCI (Let’s see our progress). The proper answer to a results question requires information about the

  • level of current performance
  • trend in your performance over time (Are you getting better, worse, or staying the same?)
  • comparison of your organization’s performance to that of competitors, or other similar organizations, or, possibly, best-in-class performance
  • integration, the extent to which your results measures address important performance requirements relating to products, customers, markets, processes, action plans, and organization-wide goals

Systems Perspective
When your organization defines and standardizes a process, do you truly define how it will be accomplished? When your organization assesses its results, do you truly measure what has been accomplished? ADLI and LeTCI complement the Baldrige Criteria and permit the systems perspective.

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