Public Sector Baldrige Award Winners:
The New Frontier for Performance Excellence
Craig A. Anderson
In its 20th year, the Baldrige National Quality Award Program was finally, formally
extended to the public- and not-for-profit sectors of the economy as the City of
Coral Springs, Florida and the US Army's Armament Research, Development, and
Engineering Center (ARDEC) were selected among five national winners. This
may be a small step, indeed, for these two organizations that have already been
performing at a high level for years, but it is a huge step for those of us who believe
that any organization, private- or public-sector, can achieve world-class
performance levels by committing to a world-class management system.
Sharing knowledge across organizations (and borders) is what has always
differentiated the open source Baldrige system from other, more limited,
proprietary management improvement methodologies. Baldrige best practices
are there for the taking. Want proof? Coral Springs has established a special
webpage that lays out the history of its own journey, and includes the full
application that it submitted as part of the Award process.
This is Baldrige at its best. Here is a city that has spent 15 years testing and
improving its management systems and performance on behalf of its citizens, and
it has now culled out the essence of its success and put it on the web for anyone in
the world to access. All we need to do is have the sense to hop up on their
We see six take aways from Coral Springs that can help any organization improve:
No Instant Pudding, But...
Coral Springs committed itself to the Baldrige Performance Excellence system in
1994. There is no "instant pudding" in the pursuit of excellence. On the other hand,
within three years, in 1997, Coral Springs won the highly regarded Florida
Governor's Sterling Award. This is consistent with our observation of the 80-20 rule
in improvement: you can get 80% of the improvement in 20% of the time, and for
many of us, that would terrific.
There is no ambiguity about strategy in Coral Springs: the strategic plan, business
plan, budgets, and performance measures are integrated through a common use
of key indicators based on strategic priorities. These "key intended outcomes"
highlight areas of attention and are linked directly to organizational results.
Listen and Learn from Customers
Coral Springs employs over 20 documented methods of listening and learning to
its key customers: residents and businesses. This information enables targeted
segmentation of customer requirements, expectations, and satisfaction, and is
used as the basis for an integrated system (not program) that builds customer
relationships. Customer satisfaction is not a one-shot deal in Coral Springs.
Benchmark Against the Best
Coral Springs embraces the "flat earth" theme and is constantly seeking out best
in class benchmark partners regardless of location. Recent partners cited in Coral
Springs' Baldrige Award Application include the International City/County
Managers' Association Center for Performance Measurement, the American
Customer Satisfaction Index, and the Government Finance Officers Association of
the United States and Canada.
Conduct Rigorous Self-Assessments
Coral Springs has undergone seven Baldrige assessments during the past 15
years including Florida Sterling Award and Baldrige National Quality Award
processes and several internal assessments. Like we said earlier, there is no
instant pudding in this business; Coral Springs has worked hard for years to seek
out and address opportunities for improvement.
Coral Springs has identified 22 key work processes that it uses to deliver products
and services to its customers and stakeholders. For each process, Coral Springs
defines the customer requirements, how the requirements are determined, and
how performance is measured both in-process and in terms of customer
outcomes. Processes are managed relentlessly to achieve results, and
cross-functional teams using a standardized six-step problem-solving process
address variations. Nothing fancy here, just consistent delivery of the fundamentals
of process excellence, day in, day out.
It has been a pleasure for us to follow Coral Springs' journey to the Baldrige
National Quality Award, and we hope it encourages other organizations to follow.
The path to performance excellence may be well trodden in areas, but ultimately
each organization can achieve its own vision of success, if only the will exists to
take the first step.