You have a job because you provide something that someone else needs. Could be external customers. Often it’s other departments in the organization. Maybe it’s your manager. Whoever your customers are, if you serve them well, you’re making your organization more effective and your contributions less dispensable.
First, a caveat: You can’t personalize Baldrige without a little learning and effort. Second caveat: The Baldrige model is not designed to prescribe an individual’s role, so we’re taking some liberties in doing so. We welcome your feedback on whether you think we’re on track.
As the Baldrige Criteria state, “performance and quality are judged by an organization’s customers.” Your performance and quality are judged by your customers. That being the case, you need to know who your customers are, what they require, and how you can meet and exceed those requirements.
Here are steps you can take to apply customer-driven excellence to your job:
- Identify your customers. Your boss is a customer. Coworkers are often customers. Other departments may be customers. Look at who gets the output of your work—they are your customers—then consider who is served when your work comes together with the work of others in the organization. Which external customers use the output of this work?
- Determine what each customer/customer group requires. Customer requirements fall into four categories: quality, delivery, cost, and service. Examples of customer requirements include accurate and complete (quality), on time (delivery), under budget (cost), and fully responsive to customer needs (service). Group your customers, internal and external, by what they require of you. Find out if your organization has identified the key requirements of your external customers. If you have more than three key customer groups, see if you can combine groups based on similar requirements. Once you have a list of requirements for each customer group, validate the list by discussing it with members of the customer group.
- Figure out how to measure your performance on their requirements. Once you know the requirements, the next step is to figure out how you can measure your performance on them. Some, such as accuracy and on-time delivery, are easy. Others, like responsiveness to customer needs, may require communication with your customers following delivery of your work.
- Establish communication mechanisms. You need to know what your customers require. Establish processes for two-way communication. Make it easy for your customers to ask questions, share their concerns, and describe exactly what they need.
- Set up a customer dashboard. Create your own customer dashboard using the measures you have identified for each customer group. Track performance on each measure and update your dashboard every month or quarter.
- Act on your dashboard. Once you have enough data to detect trends, identify areas where performance is not improving or is not at the level your customers expect. If improvement is within your control, act to close the gaps. If your organization has an improvement process such as a problem-solving process or PDCA, put it to work for you. If not, you will have to find a process you can use and learn how to use it.
Each of these steps may require knowledge you do not have, but it is knowledge you can acquire. Personalizing Baldrige means taking control of everything that is within your control, and that includes understanding who your customers are, what they require, and how you can best meet those requirements.