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Surviving the Baldrige Consensus Review:
Guidelines for Successful Applicants
by Craig A. Anderson
September 2006

Although the most immediate feeling upon wrapping up our Baldrige Examination
Team's stage two consensus call (after midnight) was relief, the more profound
and persistent meaning that I will take from this experience was that teamwork
trumps individuality. For twelve hours, I and five fellow Examiners, none of whom I
have met in person, scattered across the United States from Georgia to Idaho,  
reviewed, analyzed, discussed, and scored the confidential Award application of a
health care applicant for the 2006 Baldrige National Quality Award. Teamwork
really makes a difference; thanks to everyone's contributions we prepared a
scorebook that was far better than any of us individually had prepared during our
stage one independent reviews.

OK, but enough about us. This newsletter, as always, is about YOU, and how the
Baldrige Performance Excellence System can help you reach your most important
personal and organizational goals. As many of you are involved with organizations
that are either currently using, or contemplating using, the Baldrige system to
improve and, perhaps, compete for state- or national-level performance excellence
awards, I would like to share several key learnings that came out of the consensus
meeting that may help your planning and implementation activities.

Show Evidence of Learning
If you do not demonstrate clear evidence of organizational learning in all key areas,
you will not score well. Period. Examiners have embraced the
Approach-Deployment-Learning-Integration scoring rubric, and based on the way
the scoring tables are developed, even if you have outstanding approaches and
deployments of key processes, you simply will not receive anything close to a
winning score without showing how you learn and improve in each area. This is a
good thing; one of the reasons the Baldrige system has become a global standard
is that it focuses on agility and innovation, and the assessment process now fully
reflects that focus.

Follow Through on Strategic Challenges
We touched on this point in last month's newsletter but it bears repeating: you must
show clear alignment and follow-through on ALL of your most important strategic
challenges. You must tell us HOW you identified these strategic challenges, and
WHAT you are doing about them across your organization: Leadership, Strategic
Planning, Measurement, Results, etc. Nothing will undercut your application
quicker than leaving key challenges dangling in the air--if something is important to
your success, deal with it, aggressively and openly!

Everything Matters
Yes, some Items "matter" more than others in terms of possible points under the
Baldrige scoring system. But do NOT ignore or put forth a less than excellent effort
in these areas. In reviewing applications, it is not just about numbers. Examiners
are looking for
Role Model Organizations. Role Models simply cannot have
gaps that will embarrass the Program or themselves. Show gaps, forget about an
Award. Everything is important, even those 25 point (out of 1000 total points) Items.

Show Relevant Results
Stick to the Criteria all the way through the application. The Criteria can be your
best friend in preparing a competitive application (and, more importantly, building
an excellent organization), as they lay out a clear expectation for performance
excellence. This is true for Results Items as well as Process Items. If the Criteria
ask for results data "segmented by product and service types and groups" (Item
7.5, Organizational Effectiveness Outcomes), then segment your data! If you are
asked to show how your results "compare with the performance of your
competitors and other organizations providing similar products and services" (Item
7.1, Product and Service Outcomes), then you better have comparative data,
regardless of how strong your results are in your own mind.  

The bottom line for applicants is to never lose sight of the fact that the Stage 2
Consensus Review is designed to scrutinize, through a disciplined, facilitated
process, EVERY significant bit of data in your application. You will have no
advocates in this meeting other than the clarity, precision, and honesty of the
information you have included in your application. Don't give Examiners any
reasons to question your ability to serve as a
Role Model for Baldrige
Performance Excellence
, and you will do just fine. Above all, keep the "big
picture" in mind: your commitment to the Baldrige system, regardless of whether
you ever compete for, or even win, an award, will make you a smarter, more agile,
more competitive organization, ready to achieve and sustain superior
performance and results for your employees, customers, stakeholders, and