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Dawn Bailey

Health Care

When Accountability Systems Meet Strategic Planning

More insights on how Baldrige Award recipients lead

Published: Monday, August 25, 2014 - 07:45

In a recent column, I shared insights from the 2013 Baldrige Award recipients’ leaders as they fielded questions related to their journeys to excellence. There was so much thoughtful reflection that it couldn’t fit into just one column.

More answers to questions follow:

How did you convey to colleagues that your organization was on a continuous improvement journey?

“We’re getting great results. We’re changing; we’re growing; we’re improving year over year. That’s energizing.... I don’t know what CEOs say to their workforce when they are working very hard and not getting results and not improving.... The results speak for themselves. There is something about putting this [Baldrige] framework in place that works.”
Sutter Davis Hospital (SDH) CEO Janet Wagner

“We received a wonderful award, but that doesn’t stop the journey.... The journey is around a continuation of excellence.... Each child deserves to get better and to learn and to grow. So is ‘good,’ good enough for those children, or do they deserve better than that? Every time I see a data wall, it reminds me—it’s not good enough. It has to get better, because those kids deserve it.”
Pewaukee School District (PWD) Human Resources Director Susan Muenter

What was the breakthrough moment for you during your Baldrige journey? In other words, what was the “ah ha” moment when you knew you were on the right path?
• When we started to see data as active (e.g., at PWD, the use of dashboards focused the district on measuring processes, not just on measuring an event after the fact; departments started to use data on monthly or quarterly bases to look at improvements and to ensure that no child was lagging behind).
• When accountability systems came into the strategic planning process.
• When employees started talking about a process or initiative and taking responsibility for it.
• When a Baldrige feedback report challenged us to define our core competency (e.g., when a multidisciplinary team at SDH set out to define “the Sutter Davis Difference,” team members had to define themselves as an organization: We care for each other, we care for patients, and we care for the community).
• When you realize that your mission really is something that people understand (e.g., at PWD, a lunch lady wanting to make lunchtime a wonderful experience for students, some of whom have said that it’s the best part of their day).

What advice would you give other organizations to stay on their continuous improvement journeys?
• Stay the course, and know that results don’t improve without improving processes.
• Continue to build more systems and utilize the Baldrige framework.
• Keep stepping because with every step you take, you continue to improve.
• Build ideas and innovations in a multitude of places.
• Keep your eye on the “why” of continuous improvement—whether it’s for a child or patient or customer. Then learn “how” through the Baldrige Criteria.
• Don’t quit. Leaders don’t quit. Without a valid leader, the team doesn’t have anywhere to go. Leadership is discipline, accountability, and staying the course.

If you have the opportunity to be a Baldrige Award recipient again, what’s a future trend that you may be asked about?
• Healthcare: Patient safety (still), especially across the continuum of care.
• Education: More personalized instruction with fewer resources. Being more efficient with resources (e.g., people, money, and time). Having more flexibility in school schedules, with more technology and opportunity in high schools to replace some but not all of the face-to-face time.

First published Aug. 5, 2014, on Blogrige.


About The Author

Dawn Bailey’s picture

Dawn Bailey

Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 25 years of experience (18 years at the Baldrige Program) working on publications and education teams. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.