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Jump Start Your Journey to Excellence:
Participate in Your State's Quality Award Program
by Craig A. Anderson
Article from Global Insights
November 2004

As our long-time readers know, we are big advocates of the many terrific
state-level quality award programs that are offered around the United States.
Virtually all of these state programs (in over 40 states at last count) are modeled
after the National Baldrige Award program and use the same Criteria and
Approach. And like the Baldrige program, the state programs offer an incredible
deal to eligible organizations: take the time (which can be considerable) to
complete an application and you will receive, free of charge (except for a nominal
application fee) a comprehensive analysis of how your organization measures up
against world class performance in everything you do. Yes, you heard right! At a
time when the price of everything else seems to be going through the roof, you can
have access to armies of trained experts who are willing to work as volunteers to
analyze and improve your organization. It seems crazy to me to even write these
words, but that is the case. There is no catch. I know, because I am one of those
volunteers.

This past week we had the chance to participate in a "consensus meeting" to
determine the fate of an applicant for Maryland's top prize, the Senate Productivity
Award, run by the terrific
University of Maryland Center for Quality and Productivity.
The applicant was a Baltimore-based company that provides services to the
corporate marketplace. The consensus meeting is the second stage in the award
process and brings together all the Examiners who conducted an initial
independent assessment of the application. In this case four Examiners
participated. Each of the four had analyzed and rated the applicant's performance
in the 19 different areas (called "Items" in Baldrige parlance) under examination.
To further prepare for the consensus meeting, each Examiner had been given lead
responsibility for several of the Items, which means that they consolidated and
summarized all the analyses for their Items.

A consensus meeting typically lasts all day, and this was no exception. The team
worked through each of the 19 Items, identifying the most important strengths and
opportunities for improvement, and scoring each Item based on performance
against the Criteria in terms of Approach, Deployment, Learning, and Integration.
No need to go into the bloody details of scoring; you can go to the National
Baldrige Program office to learn more,
http://www.baldrige.nist.gov.  The bottom
line in this case is that this particular applicant will not receive the top award, but
will receive one of the scaled awards (in Maryland, this means either a Gold,
Silver, or Bronze Award, or the infamous "Certificate of Participation", which
identifies an organization with multiple opportunities for improvement). And, most
importantly, the applicant will receive a detailed feedback report that essentially
captures the most important findings of the entire assessment team, and thus
provides a clear roadmap for systematic performance improvement. In addition,
Examiners will be available to discuss their analysis with managers and
employees of the applicant organization at the annual Awards Presentation
Banquet, which in Maryland will be held on March 14, 2005.

What we have described above is happening in states across the country. Track
down your state's quality program and take the first step toward applying; you will
soon learn what our clients already know; pursuing Baldrige Performance
Excellence is an effort that demands a lot, but gives back a lot more. Interested in
learning more? Please contact our President, Craig Anderson, at 301-309-8530,
or via email at
canderson@gpsinc.us.