Google Earth as Baldrige Metaphor:
Make Sure You are Looking at the Right Continent
Craig A. Anderson
Like many others, we are big fans of Google Earth, the amazing software that lets
you "visit" any place in the world electronically. Those of you who use this
technology know what we are talking about.
As powerful as Google Earth is, however, it will not be much help if you are looking
at the wrong continent. Sure, you can rapidly drill down from somewhere in low
earth orbit to a skyscraper height view of your destination, but you always must
begin with the proper aim. Otherwise, at the end of your descent you will be a
LONG way from where you wanted to be, and, most importantly, you will not know it
as long as you remain where you ended up. It is only when you have the
overarching, high-level perspective that you can chart the right course.
Which brings us to Baldrige, because this is the same principle that applies to
organizations: start off in the wrong strategic direction and you could end up way
off course. You will end up having the right answers to the wrong questions. You will
try to change things without seeing how the big picture fits together. Examples
abound: performance management systems implemented without an
understanding of how performance is achieved; customer and employee surveys
deployed without a system for analyzing and acting upon survey results; employee
training programs started without a process to change the work system to
accommodate the new capabilities, etc.
As leaders it is your job to make sure you are looking at the right continent.
Baldrige can help in two ways. First, the focus on self assessment helps you avoid
becoming trapped by what you think you know. There are no shortcuts.
Performance Excellence requires intelligent methods deployed consistently across
your organization. A tweak here and there will disappoint and frustrate you and
your team. Baldrige will constantly challenge your assumptions about how things
work by asking you tough questions about every part of your organization.
Second, the Baldrige focus on using data to support analysis and decision making
allows you to recalibrate your performance on an ongoing basis. Define your aim,
identify your performance indicators, and measure your results. This is not
"paralysis by analysis"; instead, this is determining that you are doing things for a
pragmatic reason, and that you are confident enough to collect data that will give
you feedback on how you are doing. Done well, performance measurement
becomes a powerful tool for translating your intent into concrete actions across
your organization; your commitment is to make sure that your intent reflects a
mature, systematic understanding of what it will take to achieve true performance
The bottom line: be smart in 2007. Get the strategic direction right, use data, and
develop a systematic, disciplined process for achieving results. This is not the
easiest way to results; it is the only way.