Performance Excellence Process
Baldrige Workshops
Global Insights Archive
Begin with the End (of the Process) in Mind
Craig A. Anderson
August 2008

It may be self-evident, but if you write your state or national Baldrige Award
application focused on the requirements of your primary customer, the Award
Examiner, you will receive a higher score and better feedback. More importantly,
you will uncover critical gaps and weaknesses sooner rather than later,
accelerating improvement, reducing waste, and delivering higher quality products
and services to your customers. A win-win all around.

So how do you write a reader-focused application? Simple. Begin by filling out the
same independent review worksheet that the Examiner will be using to review and
score your application. This way you get to the heart of the process, and gain a
first-hand understanding of the process from the inside-out. The Independent
Review Worksheet, available to all online at the
Examiner Learning Resource
Center, the heart of Baldrige in practice. Data entered into this worksheet is used
to score the application and develop the feedback report. Go to pages 10 and 11,
which are repeated for each of the Items scored during the review.  On page 10,
note the four columns beginning with the word "evidence".

Reflect on that word for a moment. Evidence. There is no glossary definition of
evidence in the 2008 Criteria. In fact, the word evidence only occurs five times in
the entire Criteria booklet. Yet now, in the independent review worksheet,
evidence is specifically asked for 48 times (12 Process Items x 4 questions). This
means that Examiners will pick up their pens, literally or figuratively, a minimum of
48 times to put some specific information in the box. Conservatively, with 2-3
approaches in place for each Item under review, Examiners will assess evidence
well over 100 times. If no evidence is apparent from the information in the
application, the comment in the box is simply, "N/A" or "no evidence". Guess how
many times "no evidence" can show up in the worksheet before the applicant slips
out of consideration for a possible award? As always with Baldrige, the correct
answer is, "it depends", but trust us that you do not want to end up with worksheet
riddled with "no evidence" determinations.

The review worksheet asks for four types of evidence: Evidence that approach is
systematic; Evidence of extent of deployment of approach; Evidence of systematic
improvements to approach; and Evidence of alignment and integration. These four
questions, based on the ADLI framework, are the "secret sauce" of the Baldrige
Performance Excellence Criteria. ADLI elevates organizational learning and
integration into core management obligations. Other information is captured on
this worksheet as well, but we will stay focused on the evidence questions right
now: get these right and the application will write itself. End up with gaps, and no
amount of writing will put you into a competitive position. Turn to the scoring table
on page 11. Note that each ADLI dimension is scored separately. There is no
place to hide.  

Some final thoughts on writing with the end in mind. Award Examiners are
volunteers; reviewing applications is something we do after our "real" work gets
done. By taking a stab at completing the independent review worksheet before
you start endless cycles of writing and rewriting your application, you will have a
clear vision of where the evidence gaps are. You will be able to cut through clutter
and focus on what matters. Strunk and White's admonition to "omit needless
words" is never more true than in this context. Make every word count. Think clearly
and your writing will follow.