Performance Excellence Process
Baldrige Workshops
Global Insights Archive
Article from Global Insights
July 2004

Yesterday we wrapped up our first-stage review of an applicant company that is
pursuing the 2004 Baldrige National Quality Award. Applicants that pass the first-
stage independent review will then enter a second-stage consensus review process,
after which site visits and, perhaps, a National Quality Award may follow. Needless
to say, the entire process is handled with complete integrity and confidentiality. Email
is not even permitted for any aspect of the collaborative assessment process for fear
that the identity of an applicant could be compromised. The few companies that win
the top award, of course, “come out of the closet” and indeed are obligated to share
their “secrets” with thousands of their closest friends at the Awards Ceremony,
Sharing Conferences, etc.

As impressive as it is to hear the stories from the Award winners, it is equally
impressive, and humbling, in reviewing applications each year, to gain insights into a
level of performance excellence that is still (unfortunately) rare. What are these
insights? What does performance excellence at the highest levels look like? Let me
share a couple of observations on what excellent organizations are doing today.

Process Orientation
Excellent organizations think long and hard about how they do what they do. A strong
applicant will usually present a chart of 20 to 30 of its major value creating (customer-
focused) and support (internally-focused) work processes. These charts will define
each process very specifically in terms of how it contributes to the mission, what
resources and inputs it requires, what triggers it, who performs it, how it is measured
and managed, and how it is improved over time. More “blocking and tackling” than
“profound”, yet this process discipline over time creates an extremely agile and lean
organization that has no wasted motion, because everything is done for a purpose.

Multiple Customer Listening Posts
Excellent organizations work tenaciously to understand their customers better than
anybody else. A strong applicant will list 15 to 20 “listening posts” (e.g., councils,
roundtables, advisory groups, dealer conferences, vendor conferences, customer
visits, surveys) used to collect customer data for analysis and action. Not
surprisingly, these organizations manage this customer listening process like any
other process (see above!), ensuring consistency and accountability for
performance. Data is not collected unless it can be used; if it is collected it will be

Professional Development for a Purpose
Excellent organizations view training and development as a key strategic challenge,
and they respond accordingly. It is typical for a strong applicant to draw a clear line
between the details in the strategic plan and the employee professional development
process (see Process Orientation above!). For example, a recent applicant
presented a conceptual map that defined the specific employee development
implications (e.g., sales training, IT training, etc.) of every major action in its strategic
plan. This applicant’s view was that employee development was a major strategic
lever for competitive success.

Of course, these examples only scratch the surface; there is a lot more that is
possible when you make an organizational commitment to performance excellence
the Baldrige way!