2009 Excellence in Government Conference:
Who is Missing from This Party?
Are large scale system failures becoming more common, or are we just getting
better at finding them? But does it matter? Look at the impact on all of us: broken
financial and regulatory systems, inefficient health care systems, failing
educational systems (only 71% of American eighth grade students graduate 4
years later with a high school diploma), accelerated job losses through off-shoring
and industrial failures... we not only CAN do better, we MUST do better.
Which brings us to the 2009 Excellence in Government Conference held in
Washington, DC, on October 5, 2009. Reviewing the online agenda, amidst
announcements that "experts are studying what is required for success in federal
programs" and "the administration is focusing on technology to transform the
federal government", we found the following statement:
"The Obama administration issued a mandate for agencies to achieve a high
A mandate? This seems to imply that there are organizations out there that do
NOT want a high performing workforce.
We have a different view. A "high performing workforce" does not take a
"mandate". It takes knowledge, theory, discipline, and a system designed for
This is not a Democratic or Republican criticism. Every incoming administration
mandates a new approach to performance management across the federal
government and its 2.2 million employees.
We have done enough work in the public sector to understand the strengths and
weaknesses of the systems and the people who work in these systems.
Which brings us to the central question: Where is Baldrige? Why are we about to
embark on yet another cycle of "new" management initiatives when the federal
government already has within it direct access to arguably the world's finest
performance excellence system, the Baldrige Criteria for Performance
Excellence? At the same time that world-class companies and government
agencies around the world are achieving transcendent success through the
Baldrige System, here in Washington, DC, Baldrige is a no-show at a conference
ostensibly dedicated to excellence in government.
Interestingly, as we are writing this newsletter, the following announcement came
into our inbox from the Arabian Business News:
"Using the Baldrige criteria, organizations assess their management systems to
identify the strengths of their systems and the opportunities for improvement. This
assessment, evaluation, and improvement process helps them embed the
Baldrige core values in their cultures, leading to excellent results... We are about
building better organizations and ensuring those organizations are prepared to go
forward on the global stage. We envision the Middle East and North Africa region
as a center of excellence that the rest of the world sets their standards by, not the
other way around.”
Were only this vision shared within our own government.
The lesson is clear. We in the Baldrige community are on our own. But we already
know that. We will patiently ride out the "mandates" and "new" initiatives and stay
focused on doing the best possible job we can every day, enlightened and
empowered by the knowledge that a Baldrige-type process is not the easiest path
to take, but it is the only enduring method for achieving long-term results that