We are reliant on standards in every way. We believe that we are adding a full gallon of gasoline as we fill up at the pump; we assume that we get the right amount of our favorite meats and cheeses when we ask for a pound at the deli counter; and we plan to start meetings on time because we asked participants to arrive at the same time. Much of our lives rely on measurement and standards. Yet, we often take those standards for granted.
What about leading your organization? What standards do you use to ensure your organization is functioning effectively? Or are you taking it for granted that you even have a standard?
Standards create strong and consistent practices—practices that lead to repeatable results and the creation of successful organizations. These practices fall into a handful of key areas, such as leadership/strategy, customer, operations, workforce and knowledge management. To understand our standards for these areas, we need to ask only two questions:
- What are the key results?
- How do we achieve those results?
These questions can be asked in several ways to explore the many facets of each key area.
The answers tell a story of your current organization standards. As a medical professional uses an MRI machine to take a 3D view of the body, ask yourself the right set of questions and the answers give you a 3D view of how your organization operates. To build your standard of excellence, you should use a set of questions common for any organization. This common set of questions already exists: the Baldrige Criteria is an integrated framework that guides understanding into any organization, regardless of size or sector. There is nothing more comprehensive to help you better understand your organization.
Documenting responses to this standard builds a basis of communication for employees, customers and stakeholders. You deepen their understanding of your organization, you create a baseline to continually improve in a fact-based and coordinated approach, and you can benchmark with others to integrate best practices. This is how you build a standard of enterprise excellence.
Today’s economy is full of challenges and uncertainties. It takes courage to deeply explore, understand and create enterprise excellence. Can you afford to take your standards for granted any longer? I’d like to see your standard of excellence and understand where it is taking your organization.
As an interesting side note, as with weights and measures to ensure we receive the right amount of product, and like the atomic clock that keeps us on the same standard of time, the Baldrige Framework is housed at the U.S. Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The NIST mission is to promote U.S. innovation and competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology. It certainly is at the right place to guide the standards of enterprise excellence for our nation. iBi
David Boulay is president of the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC).