A key difference between a Baldrige Award recipient and most other organizations is the degree of alignment it achieves: The alignment of people, processes, plans, actions, and decisions with the purpose of the organization.
Alignment is important because you cannot have an effective system without it. All organizations are systems whether or not they are managed as systems. If divisions, departments, and groups act without regard for their impact and reliance on the larger system, they may optimize their performance but they will suboptimize the system. As W. Edwards Deming said, “management of a system…requires knowledge of the interrelationships between all the subprocesses within the system and of everybody that works in it.”
It also requires knowledge of what you want to align the system with. Some world-class organizations align with their mission and vision. Others align with the value proposition that provides a competitive advantage. Ideally, the mission, vision, and value proposition also align to focus everyone on what must happen for your organization to succeed.
The Baldrige Criteria promote alignment: An organization scores in the 50-65% range by having aligned approaches. The Strategic Planning Category asks how your strategic planning process addresses long-term sustainability and how your strategic objectives address your strategic challenges and advantages, opportunities for innovation, and core competencies. It then asks how you develop and deploy action plans throughout the organization to achieve these objectives and how your action plan measurement system reinforces organizational alignment.
Alignment is a key step toward the ultimate goal of integration. As the Criteria state, “Effective integration goes beyond alignment and is achieved when the individual components of a performance management system operate as a fully interconnected unit.”
To develop aligned and integrated approaches assess your management system using the Baldrige Criteria and act on the opportunities for improvement the assessment reveals. That’s how Baldrige Award recipients moved from firefighting mode to robust, repeatable processes aligned with the purpose of their organizations.