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by Kennedy Smith

On May 21, 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney and Commerce Secretary Don Evans presented three organizations with Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards in recognition of their performance excellence and quality achievements. Among the winners was Motorola Inc.’s Commercial, Government and Industrial Solutions Sector.

A leading supplier of two-way radio products and services, and integrated communications and information technology solutions, CGISS’s customers include fire, police and public service organizations.

In 2001, CGISS reported sales of almost $4 billion. Since 1999, the organization has experienced improved cash flow of more than 20 percent, vs. an average of 5 percent for the telecommunications industry. CGISS’s return on assets is 7 percent, compared to a negative average for other telecommunications organizations.

What follows is an interview with Robert L. Barnett, executive vice president reporting to the office of the chairman at Motorola Inc. He is the former president and CEO of CGISS, headquartered in Schaumburg, Illinois. This is the second of three interviews with a representative from each 2002 Baldrige Award winner. The first appeared in the July issue of Quality Digest.

QD: How is this branch of Motorola different from the one that won in 1988?

Barnett: The award in 1988 was for all of Motorola. At that point, Baldrige was primarily focused on the quality of the product as it came out of the factory. Six Sigma, an effort started by Motorola, was also underway. Since then, Baldrige has evolved, and now there are seven criteria that you have to address. So, although quality is one of the major metrics that runs through all of the criteria, the criteria by which the Baldrige is judged are what have really changed. Likewise, those have evolved at Motorola since 1988.

QD: How well do Six Sigma and the Baldrige process work together?

Barnett: Six Sigma helps you gauge quality in several different areas, not just in manufacturing. There are many different processes related to leadership, strategy and customers, and Six Sigma can be used in any of these categories to assess how well the process is working and what the business results are. We have an ongoing evaluation and improvement of processes to allow us to get better results.

QD: So the Baldrige journey for Motorola started years ago?

Barnett: Since 1988, we moved from a focus on quality to one of performance excellence. In 1999, we started asking, “How can we really go after performance excellence using the revised holistic view of Baldrige to address all these criteria plus ourbusiness results?”

QD: Would you say your experience has been more difficult this time around than it was in 1988?

Barnett: In terms of difficulty, there are more criteria by which to be evaluated, but each is a substantial movement forward for the organization. So, 1988 was a milestone for Motorola as it addressed quality. Now we’ve received the Baldrige using the new criteria, and it’s a milestone for Motorola in terms of performance excellence. We will continue to improve in areas that we know we need to improve as well as those noted in the feedback report from the Baldrige examiners.

QD: What results have you seen since you announced that you were going after the Baldrige?

Barnett: Our approach to writing this application was, “These are things that we do all the time.” Although it’s a 50-page application, putting it together--in all candor--was not that much of an effort. But, we had been using the Baldrige criteria for four years and assessing the operation, evaluating it, finding out where we could make improvements and making the improvements. So, when we got ready to write the application, we were dealing with things we’d been doing for years. The effort to keep doing these things over four years was substantial.

QD: How do you feel about the performance excellence criteria?

Barnett: Last year was the first time an education organization won. This year marks the first time a health care organization has won. But the criteria have been out there for a while. Although the criteria may be slightly different, the focus applies to performance excellence, whether it’s in health care, education or manufacturing. They apply to everyone.

What is ultimately going to be unique is how these businesses start to link. Motorola is going to be very interested in whether health care can move toward performance excellence. For us, health care is a huge expense. So if we can find health care that’s moving in that direction, there will be more focus on customers, we’ll be more efficient and we’ll have higher quality. All of these things will help drive the overall nature of competition.

QD: Do you predict that Baldrige criteria will become more difficult as more companies apply?

Barnett: I think the criteria will continue to evolve. For example, one of the areas that’s not specifically written in the 2002 criteria but will be in 2003 criteria deals with ethics. Examiners want to know that if you’re judged worthy to win the award, you won’t show up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal because of unethical practices. That would be very damaging.

Ethics has always been a piece of the Baldrige criteria, but now it really captures things that have happened recently in various businesses. The criteria basically asks: “Is what you’re saying really true? Are your accounting records really what they say they are?” Because of this addition to the criteria, the bar gets raised. You can’t win the award unless you’re strong in all areas of business.

QD: How important is the feedback report?

Barnett: The feedback helped us understand areas where we’re strong and some areas where the examiners said, “We understand exactly what you’re doing, but we suggest that you move in a different direction.”

One of the suggestions I thought was interesting is our work with communities. Motorola is involved in schools, the United Way, hospitals and a number of other community projects. Communities are one of our key stakeholders. But, the examiners said: “It isn’t clear to us how this fits in strategically. If a community is a target group, how does that flow through your strategy?” We were doing lots of things in the community and making a difference, but we hadn’t tied that as strategically important. That was an “ah ha” moment for me in terms of thinking about what we should be doing for each of our stakeholders.

QD: What’s been the most challenging aspect of the Baldrige journey?

Barnett: Staying with it when other immediate crises may have come up. We’d say, “Yes, that’s important, but does it make sense to attack this issue using Baldrige criteria?” Another challenge is making people believe that Baldrige is the way to do it. If you really understand that Baldrige is a sound way to run a business, the award is almost free. During the examination, a lot of people at Motorola said they finally understood how their pieces tied together with other areas of the business.

QD: What advice do you give to people who really want to do this but don’t know where to start?

Barnett: It comes down to leadership. You must sustain the effort through good and bad; never take your eye off the ball. Everybody struggles sometimes, and that’s when you look to leadership.

QD: Tell our readers about your site visit.

Barnett: During the site visit, you have to talk about the things that you do, namely the things you put in your application. But you should also be able to talk about other things you’re doing. It’s hard to write in 50 pages everything 14,000 people do all year long. What was interesting is that our feedback says, “Compared to scoring categories during the consensus review, the site visit findings would have resulted in scoring increase in categories 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.” We were very excited about that. Now we’re working on areas where we can make performance improvement. We’ve got about four or five substantial projects that we’re working on that will make us even better.

This interview was conducted by Kennedy Smith, Quality Digest’s associate editor. Letters to the editor regarding this article can be e-mailed to letters@qualitydigest.com.