Hard Economic Times are Coming:
Stick with Baldrige to Stay in the Game
The danger is clear: hard economic times are coming. Fast. Thousands of
organizations will get washed away, some over a weekend. The competitive
landscape is shifting under our feet. The reality is that any waste and inefficiency in
your organization WILL be squeezed out, one way or the other. Your choice is to
either do the squeezing on your terms, keeping your future options open, or to
have someone else (competitors, customers, partners, regulators, etc.) do the
squeezing. The purpose of this newsletter is to inspire you to do the squeezing out
the right way, on your terms, using the holistic Baldrige framework and a lot of
We see four critical steps for organizations that want to survive to fight another day.
Step 1: Listen, Really Listen, to Your Employees
Your organization will be only as resilient as your workforce. You must engage
everyone in your organization to work together to survive the hard times. BAU
("business as usual") will not cut it. Period. We recommend that you begin by
conducting confidential 2-3 hour focus groups with all of your employees. The
facilitators should be managers from another department; for example, 2
managers from "department A" conduct the focus groups for "department B", and
vice versa. Any employee who does not feel comfortable participating in a focus
group should be given the chance to meet with the facilitators individually.
Structure the focus groups around the 7 Baldrige Performance Categories.
Introduce the Category, e.g., Leadership, and ask simply, "How do we get better in
this area, fast?" Keep it moving, hit big themes, and make sure that everyone
around the table gets a say.
Step 2: Anchor Yourself with Key Themes
When the focus groups and meetings are completed, convene a one-day
workgroup with all facilitators to organize the feedback into actionable themes.
Summarize the most important 3 to 5 key themes in each Baldrige Category and
determine which are the most important to focus on. Communicate to your
workforce and make it clear that it will take a full team effort to achieve results. The
key themes will serve as a consistent anchor for your efforts going forward.
Step 3: Build the Implementation Engine
Set up a cross-functional transformation team to serve as the implementation
engine. Involve the managers who conducted the focus groups, but go beyond that
and include key staff at all levels of the organization. Label the effort to give it form
as well as substance, e.g., "Our 90-Day Plan to Ensure our Survival Project"
(tongue in cheek, but you get the idea). Stress the need to move quickly and
systematically; the well-tested Baldrige framework makes both of these possible.
Describe clearly the current (unacceptable) state and the desired future (survival)
state in each Baldrige Performance Category; leave no ambiguity in the minds of
employees what will be required to pull through the hard times. Invest everyone in
the solution. Authorize the cross-functional team to bust every protocol, guideline,
regulation, cultural barrier, business practice, etc., that is a potential threat to
survival. No BAU. Period.
Step 4: Execute Relentlessly
The entire organization must be involved in the transition from BAU to Survival. The
key is to maintain a disciplined, systematic approach to this effort; in many cases,
this will test your organization as it has never been tested before. This is no time to
"go wobbly" -- fortunately, the integrated Baldrige framework by definition will
guide (force!) you to approach your work systematically and thoughtfully. With
strong leadership and a dedicated commitment from employees across your
organization, there is no doubt that you can build the resilience and capacity to not
only survive the hard times, but thrive in the better times that will follow. Good luck.