It’s a new year; time to plan, set goals, and determine where your business is going and how it will excel. Where will you go? What will you do? What will you focus on? Will your company branch out in new directions? How will you keep your customers happy? And what about your employees; where do they fall on the totem pole of prioritization? If your strategy is busting at the seams but lacking clear direction, perhaps it’s time to take a look at the Baldrige criteria.
“When you look at the Baldrige Criteria, what a great road map to say if you can do the things in all these categories and do them well, you’re going to be a well-run company.” – Robert F. Pence, President & CEO Freese and Nichols, Inc., 2010 Baldrige Award recipient
The Baldrige criteria for performance excellence are aimed at increasing the competitiveness of U.S. businesses. Some of the core values that are interspersed throughout the criteria include customer-driven excellence, a focus on the future, operational effectiveness, and managing for innovation. These values are tested throughout the seven criteria items: Leadership; Strategic Planning; Customer Focus; Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management; Workforce Focus; Operations Focus; Results. If you’re new to Baldrige, the Strategic Planning section is a great place to start.
So, your strategic plan is overflowing with initiatives in every which way, and the process of scaling down seems counterintuitive. The Baldrige criteria ask you to focus on development. Have you done any forecasting? How about projections? Do you share best practices with similar organizations? If you can answer those questions positively, then have you analyzed your organizations strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats? Sustainability is strategic, and without awareness of key customer groups, market segments, and competitors, sustainability is not possible. Your objectives therefore need to directly address the opportunities and threats, while taking advantage of strengths and addressing weaknesses. If that sentence read to you as “balancing act,” you read correctly.
Once your strategic plan has been developed, the challenge then becomes to implement it. Action items must be developed, meaning resources need to be allocated and plans need to be made for the workforce. How do you ensure that the key outcomes of your action plans can be sustained? What measures will you use to track the performance of your initiatives?
The criteria ask all these questions, and many more, to help get you on the right track to develop and launch a successful strategic plan. Many organizations apply for the Baldrige Award on the simple basis that they may be thoroughly audited by Examiners against the criteria, therefore gaining valuable insight for improvement. Some companies will outsource to a third-party that may have experience with the Baldrige program, so that they could do mock assessments and still be judged against the criteria without having to go through the application process. This is an excellent way to improve your organization’s performance and sustainability, especially if you are considering applying for the Baldrige Award in the future but don’t think your company is quite ready yet. Now is always the best time to start improving.