Monday, April 15, 2013

The MN State Quality Program - Performance Excellence

In his April blog post ASQ CEO Paul Borawski asks for examples of national quality programs, and whether the program is growing in visibility and perceived value and creating capacity for organizational excellence.

The United States has the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Program. I first became familiar with the Baldrige Criteria while an internal evaluator back in the late 1990's when 3M's Dental Products Division won the national quality award in 1997. The Baldrige Program is the USA's public-private partnership dedicated to performance excellence, administered by NIST and ASQ. Rather than focus on the national program, I wish to introduce my readers to the Minnesota state quality program. The Minnesota Council for Quality and Productivity was formed in 1987 as a part of the Department of Trade and Economic Development. The word “productivity” was later dropped from the name, and the organization was eventually spun off into an independent, private non-profit. The Council was one of the first state quality award programs modeled after the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. In 2012 the MN Council for Quality was renamed to the Performance Excellence Network, or PEN for short. The primary goal of PEN organizational assessments is learning and improvement, but it also recognizes levels of performance excellence to eligible organizations through the Performance Excellence Award (formerly the Minnesota Quality Award). Per the PEN website, the Award Cycle - with its multiple levels of recognition - remains an important part of PEN’s offering. Since 1991 there have been nearly 100 MN State Award recipients, representing various industries, sizes, and communities throughout the region.

I have been a trained State Evaluator for four years and have participated in several assessments and site visits. The great thing about the MN State Award process is that, unlike the national program, EVERY applicant gets a site visit!  Brian Lassiter, President, and the PEN judges and evaluators have done a masterful job of building a program focused on learning and best practices sharing. My participation with PEN has also benefited from the knowledge and experiences shared by Mark Blazey, author of Insights to Performance Excellence, whom has been invited to teach every year of my PEN evaluator refresher training. Serving as a MN state evaluator has significantly strengthened my understanding of overall organizational performance excellence beyond traditional quality tools, methods, processes and systems, which has also benefited my employer and all with whom I correspond.