How We Got Here
Since the early 1990s, I have used the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Criteria for Performance Excellence (including several derivatives) as a practitioner inside organizations, as an examiner/judge for a variety of Baldrige-based programs, and as an external consultant to a variety of organizations using the Criteria for Performance Excellence (CPE) to transform and achieve performance excellence. The CPE have informed and shaped my practice and research as an organization architect for the past 25+ years.
During the past 30 years since its inception, the Baldrige CPE and the many derivatives have spread around the world. The CPE have been successfully applied to a wide variety of organizations including large and small commercial business, healthcare, education, non-profit, and government. During this time there have been over 100 National Baldrige award recipients in the United States not to mention the many regional and international award recipients.
While many leaders have been successful using the CPE to guide their journey to excellence, many more have not. In fact, the success rate is rather low with well over 1,000 applicants for the Baldrige award and just over 100 successful recipients. And, this number doesn’t include all the organizations that have attempted the journey at the regional level and dropped out before reaching the level to apply for the national award.
Between 2005 to 2011 I co-authored the first five editions of the Baldrige User’s Guide: Organization Diagnosis, Design, and Transformation to help leaders better understand, translate, and apply the criteria to their organizations. While this book helped leaders design, align, and integrate their key organizational systems, it didn’t address many of the challenges faced by leaders when attempting to transform their organization using the CPE.
In 2006 I found myself running the Monfort Institute at the University of Northern Colorado. The Institute was an integral part of the Monfort College of Business a 2004 Baldrige recipient. Working with other Baldrige recipients, we planned and conducted several Baldrige Award Recipient (BAR) Consortium events to learn from each other and continue the journey to excellence. The two main challenges for award recipients were (1) how to sustain the gains in performance and (2) how to continue developing the organization to achieve even higher levels of performance.
We decided to develop a research agenda to address these challenges. To develop the agenda we hosted a summit meeting in Bachelor Gulch, Colorado USA with academic researchers from around the county, executives from Baldrige Award recipients, and members of the Monfort Institute. This meeting produced a prioritized research agenda and the top two areas identified for research were culture and leadership. The questions for leadership were focused mainly on how to develop a “pipeline” of leaders to mitigate the negative impact of turnover and how to lead the organization to the next level. For a more comprehensive discussion of the summit meeting read Latham, 2008.
To develop future leaders and continue the journey we needed to better understand and make explicit the key leadership activities, behaviors, and attitudes that supported those journeys. A CEO study was conducted with 14 Baldrige Award recipient CEOs from business, healthcare, and education to explore how they led the journey to excellence. The result of this study was a framework for Leading the Transformation to Performance Excellence. For a more comprehensive discussion on the framework read Latham, 2013a and Latham 2013b. The papers were well received, and Part 2 was awarded the 2014 Gryna Award by the American Society for Quality which is given for “the paper that made the largest contribution to the extension of understanding and knowledge of the philosophy, principles, or methods of quality management during the past year.”
Unfortunately, many who attempt to apply the CPE get frustrated with the slow incremental process of full-blown organization assessments, award applications, feedback, “fixing” opportunities for improvement, and then full-blown assessment again…. While this approach can be a useful and effective “learning process” as many organizations have demonstrated, many to most organizations that attempt to use the CPE “drop out” and never reach their goal of performance excellence. To help address this issue a design framework was developed from practice to guide the design and redesign of organization systems. If you are applying for the Baldrige Award read this first.
The design framework emerged from work with a wide variety of organizations designing many different types of organization systems and was later refined using case study research methods. Over the years the framework has been successfully applied to a wide range of “guidance” systems including leadership, strategy, and governance systems as well as “value creation” systems such as customer relationship management, production, and supplier management. The framework has also guided the design and development of “enabler” systems including workforce attraction, development, and engagement systems as well as a comprehensive scorecard, measurement, and analysis systems. For a more comprehensive discussion on the framework read Latham, 2012. The design framework was also well received, and the 2012 paper was awarded the 2013 Gryna Award by ASQ.
The Organization Design Studio™
In 2015 I decided to take it one step further and develop a practitioner version that combines both the leadership framework and the design framework to form a Leadership & Design Blueprint. The blueprint is a “flexible framework” that integrates both research and the tools, techniques, and lessons learned working over the past 25+ years helping leaders transform their organizations. While the CPE and what we have learned from users of the CPE inform the “DNA” of the blueprint, it is not specific to any particular excellence model. In fact, while we recommend using an excellence model to help make your journey easier and faster, the blueprint doesn’t require it. The 14 components of the blueprint are the subject of the book [Re]Create the Organization You Really Want! Leadership and Organization Design for Sustainable Excellence. This book was originally intended as the first steps for a leadership team to take that would prepare them to lead a faster and less frustrating journey to excellence. However, the blueprint also helps organizations in the middle of their journey to align and integrate their strategy, systems, scorecard, culture, and leadership to create sustainable value for multiple stakeholders. In short, it helps anyone at any point in their journey to become the architect of their ideal organization. Consequently, the book is useful for those just starting out, those who are in the middle of the journey, and those who have achieved excellence and need to develop the next generation of leaders to continue the journey.
We have now taken this a step further and developed an online applications lab to help leaders learn how to apply the concepts in the [Re]Create book to develop their leadership and organization. The Applications Lab includes 14 modules – one for each chapter in the book. Each module includes five lessons – (1) key concepts, (2) application, (3) assessment, (4) leader as organization architect, and (5) reflection and recreate. A total of 70 lessons that include 70 videos, 70 downloadable slide decks, and over 150 downloadable worksheets. The eLearning experiences are “bite-size” chunks to fit your busy schedule, and they can be accomplished anytime and anywhere there is a connection to the internet. There are three options to choose from including a Do It Yourself (DIY) version, a one-on-one coaching version, and a leadership team facilitated cohort version.
Our journey at the Organization Design Studio™ continues and we are working every day to develop new and improved frameworks, tools, and techniques to help you become the architect of your ideal organization. While systems thinking and performance excellence have been around for several decades now, unfortunately, the teaching of these concepts and frameworks in “most” business schools has lagged behind. Today, 30 years after the first edition of the CPE provided us with a framework to guide the design and development of aligned and integrated high performing organizations, most business schools still teach the functions of business in a series of disconnected siloed courses. Our compelling directive is to go beyond business school and provide this ever improving digital learning and applications lab for organization architects around the world.
Enjoy the journey!
John Latham, PhD | Founder, Organization Design Studio™ Ltd.