Preeminent Tool for Performance Improvement
(Interview with Karen Trisko)
(Barry Neighbors Consulting, March 18, 2013
As an Aerospace and Defense Supply Chain consultant who has worked with companies to improve their sourcing metrics, or helped suppliers with their sales and performance improvements, I am always interested in tools and programs available to accomplish and perhaps accelerate this task. The Malcolm Baldrige Award is such a tool. The Baldrige Program was created in 1987 by congress. The goal of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Improvement Act of 1987 was to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. businesses. Today, the program oversees the nation's only Presidential award for performance excellence while offering criteria, assessments, tools, and a community for those dedicated to helping organizations improve.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Karen Trisko, President of Excelleration, Inc., who has extensive, 360-degree hands-on expertise in every aspect of Baldrige Performance Excellence. She has guided companies in all sectors to achieve greater profitability, cost reductions, customer satisfaction, and employee motivation through Performance Excellence and Continuous Process Improvement practices. She has helped over 20 organizations, including two of her own businesses, to earn Baldrige awards and successfully integrate the practices and values of Performance Excellence into their daily practices. Her specialties include Baldrige assessments and award application development, leadership systems, strategic planning, results measurement using the Balanced Scorecard and process metrics, and process management / improvement.
Me: Karen, can you tell me the top 3-4 reasons that a company might want to follow the Baldrige Criteria?
Karen: Sure – a company may be in trouble, it may be stuck at a plateau and unable to break through to a higher level of performance, or it might be doing great but needs to identify and overcome blind spots to get to the next level of high performance. The beauty of the Baldrige Criteria is that it’s a complete roadmap that continually shows executives the company’s strengths and the next opportunities for improvement, no matter how mature or immature the company is.
Me: What do you see as the most common misconception about the Baldrige Process?
Karen: Most people think it’s just about winning an Award. True – it’s great to have an award trophy, especially the National Baldrige Award for Performance Excellence, because it is difficult to attain due to its comprehensiveness and emphasis on results trends against competitors and comparisons. The best reason for using the Baldrige Process is to improve your company to get better and sustainable results. It’s funny, I’ve worked with companies where the top executive was insanely focused on earning the Baldrige Award, and it took them longer to improve than companies who used the Baldrige Award Criteria purely to improve. Another misconception is that Baldrige is only for large companies. If you run a company with 10 people or 100,000 people, isn’t it equally important to be successful? My smallest client had 7 employees, and we took the basic essence of the Baldrige Criteria to make that little organization highly focused on attaining its goals.
Me: There are many “Performance Improvement” strategies and tools out there such as LEAN, Six Sigma, TQM, etc., what makes the Baldrige different and can it co-exist with these other programs?
Karen: The Baldrige framework embraces those performance tools – it assumes that your company uses one or more of them for continuous improvement, because that’s fundamental for any business to survive and prosper. However, the Baldrige framework is an over-arching umbrella that transcends the traditional performance improvement methods that you cited, which mainly focus on design and production of products and services. Baldrige includes expectations that a company fully understand customer segment requirements and then build products and services to meet them. A company following the Baldrige roadmap must develop and consistently execute sound leadership processes, strategy and execution methods, business measurements, knowledge asset management, workforce effectiveness from recruiting to retention, and more. And it expects you to track key results based on your company’s long- and short-term goals, customer requirements, and process effectiveness. That’s why I say it’s comprehensive and complete. It’s not a quick fix – but rather a system for companies that tried quick fixes like process improvement methods and didn’t get where they needed to be. A company is a complex system, and to keep it in good health, you must address all the company’s components and processes.
Me: If I were to recommend the Baldrige Process to a client company, what do you feel are the most significant results that would be obtained?
Karen: The most significant results are better customer loyalty and repeat business, reduction in costly rework and mistakes, higher revenue and market share, more effective and focused employees, and improved bottom-line profit. To get the results, a company must fix “broken processes” and put in “missing processes” to better deliver value to customers.
Me: If a company has done no “continuous improvement” at all, are they still a prospect for this approach?
Karen: Absolutely! Companies have to start where they are. The Baldrige system can be taken in “tiers” – starting first with the basic requirements of the Baldrige Criteria to get a baseline reading. Then a company moves up to use more of the details of each Baldrige Criteria Category. The important thing is to get started. I would say that 98% of companies are immature and never come close to their true potential because they’ve never seen a real world-class company, like I have in my 20 years of examining Baldrige Award applicants. Maybe two percent of companies are mature and excellent. But how did they get there? They started using the Baldrige roadmap and stuck with it. They got help from someone who could shorten their learning and implementation time.
Me: Karen, thanks for your time and insight. If someone were interested improving performance using the Baldrige Criteria, what would be your recommendation?
Karen: They could start with an assessment. Occasionally I offer an online assessment to companies at no charge, just so they can“get their feet wet” and get a basic understanding of the types of things that should be going on in their company. They could participate in my Baldrige webinar to teach them the Criteria and how to evaluate their own company’s processes and results. They can schedule an in-house workshop to learn to write an application for the State’s Baldrige Award. Only companies that earn their State’s top Baldrige Award are eligible for the National Award for Performance Excellence – the ultimate prize. They should also attend State and national Baldrige Conferences to hear award-winning company executives speak about how the Baldrige system transformed the company’s results. But they MUST do SOMETHING different than they have in the past, for as Einstein said, “Insanity is doing more of the same but expecting a better result.”
(Karen Trisko can be reached at Karen@excellerate.biz)
(Barry Neighbors can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Barry Neighbors has extensive experience working with OEM's and A&D Suppliers on Supply Chain issues. Focused on developing a more efficient supply chain, or helping suppliers in their business development efforts.