(submitted for class in doctoral study, Fall 2005)
Quality as a competitive business tool is a 20th century phenomenon. After an industrial revolution and two world wars, modern countries found themselves competing more closely with businesses across the globe than ever before. Advances in technology and communications only served to hasten the realities of a global marketplace, with fewer barriers to competition. Deming and other quality pioneers attempted to interest U.S. business and industry leaders in the concepts of quality and excellence, but found a more receptive audience in Japan, where the reputation of products were at an all-time low. Japanese business leaders realized that to compete in the newly-expanded global marketplace, they needed a competitive advantage, and that advantage was quality.
Though initially reluctant to embrace a system perceived as a command and control mandate, American business and industry witnessed first hand the dual impact of Japan’s quality drive compared against Detroit’s neglect of the customer, and ignorance of quality improvement. Between 1960 and1975, Japanclimbed from 3% of the world’s auto production market (5th place) to 2nd place, commandeering 21% of the market, while America’s market share in auto sales and production dropped from 48% to 27%. By 1980, U.S. auto makers had lost their dominance on the world market as Japan – responding to customer demands for more fuel-efficient and trouble-free cars – led global production with 28.5% of the market. That year, Detroit’s production numbers placed the U.S. in 2nd place among global production units – a rank they had not occupied since 1904. (AACA, 1991)
By 1980, world economic and political pressures had finally prompted certain sectors of American business to take a hard look at productivity and competitiveness in the global marketplace. This time, even the automobile industry listened. When Arthur Anderson released a report highlightingJapan’s competitive advantages even within theU.S.market, automakers attended a conference for automobile manufacturers and suppliers that addressed improvingAmerica’s failing auto industry through the implementation of quality measures meant to improve productivity and inventory control. (AIAG, 2004) Concern about theUnited States’ ability to compete globally was not limited toDetroit, however. Worried rumblings could be heard from business and government leaders; councils were formed to study the issues at hand; conferences convened to address improvingU.S.goods and services. By 1983, business and labor leaders, academicians, executives from corporateAmerica, and government officials were united in their call for the creation of a national quality award. (George, S., 1992) The ground swell of support for a national award continued throughout the 1980s as the Committee to Establish a National Quality Award was formed.
At that same time, leaders at Florida Power and Light were pushing hard for a legislative incentive toward quality. Inspired by working closely with the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers who were applying for the Deming Prize, Florida Power and Light executives, lobbyists and other quality advocates found a voice in Congress when in 1986 Don Fuqua (D-FL) introduced House Bill (HB) 5321 “..to establish a national quality improvement award; with the objective of encouraging American business and industrial enterprises to practice effective quality control in the provision of their goods and services.” (George, S. 1992) Though the bill stalled in the House that year, it was reintroduced the next year and concurrently received Senate support when Bob Graham (D-FL) sponsored Senate version of HB 5321. This time the bill passed the House and moved on to the Senate where it remained untouched for six weeks.
One barrier to a smooth transit through Congress was the political climate at this time was antagonistic toward legislation that advocated more government involvement in affairs that the administration viewed as best left to the individual or the market. In his review of the period, author Steve George (1992) describes the “lukewarm response by the Reagan administration, including…Secretary of Commerce, Malcolm Baldrige”. In an interesting, though sad twist of fate, Malcolm Baldrige died suddenly and unexpectedly in July of 1987. Quality advocates and congressional proponents of a national quality award found President Reagan more than pleased to be able to honor his friend and long-time business leader, Malcolm Baldrige with a public law and a national quality award enacted in his honor. OnAugust 20, 1987President Reagan signed Public Law 100-107 into law, establishing the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award
Responsibility for administration and oversight of the Baldrige award was assigned to the Department of Commerce, which in turn delegated it to the National Bureau of Standards – now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology that oversees much in the arena of quality related to development and utilization of technology. Definition of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award is found in the “Findings and Purposes” section of Public Law 100-107, and reads as follows:
The leadership of theUnited Statesin product and process quality has been challenged strongly (and sometimes successfully) by foreign competition, and our nation’s productivity growth has improved less than our competitors’ over the last two decades.
- American business and industry are beginning to understand that poor quality costs companies as much as 20 percent of sales revenues nationally, and that improved quality of goods and services goes hand in hand with improved productivity, lower costs, and increased profitability.
- Strategic planning for quality and quality improvement programs, through a commitment to excellence in manufacturing and services, is becoming more and more essential to the well-being of our Nation’s economy and our ability to compete effectively in the global marketplace.
- Improved management understanding of the factory floor, worker involvement in quality and greater emphasis on statistical process control can lead to dramatic improvements in the cost and quality of manufactured products.
- The concept of quality improvement is directly applicable to small companies as well as large, to service industries as well as manufacturing, and to the public sector as well as private enterprise.
- In order to be successful, quality improvement programs must be management-led and customer-oriented, and this may require fundamental changes in the way companies and agencies do business.
- Several major industrial nations have successfully coupled rigorous private-sector quality audits with national aw; giving special recognition to those enterprises the audits identify as the very best.
- A national quality award program of this kind in theUnited Stateswould help improve quality and productivity by:
- Helping to stimulate American companies to improve quality and productivity for the pride of recognition while obtaining a competitive edge through increased profits;
- Recognizing the achievements of those companies that prove the quality of their goods and services and providing an example to others;
- Establishing guidelines and criteria that can be used by business, industrial, governmental, and other organizations in evaluating their own quality improvement efforts; and
- Providing specific guidance for other American organizations that wish to learn how to manage for high quality making available detailed information on how winning organizations were able to change their cultures and achieve eminence. (George, S., 1992)
The goals that drove the development of the criteria, as well as the creation of the program’s objectives are contained in point #8 (above), but public law, Congress-speak and legislation aside, what is Baldrige?
Baldrige – an Overview
In general, the Baldrige Criteria are designed to promote:
– Awareness of Quality as an increasingly important element in competitiveness
– Understanding of the requirements for Quality excellence
– Sharing of information on successful Quality strategies and benefits derived from implementation of such strategies (Baldrige National Quality Program, 2005)
The intent of the Baldrige Criteria are to improve quality and increase productivity in theUnited Statesvia the following objectives:
- Helping to stimulate American companies to improve quality and productivity for the pride of recognition while obtaining a competitive edge through increased profits
- Recognizing the achievements of those companies that improve the quality of their goods and services and providing an example to others
- Establishing guidelines and criteria that can be used by business, industrial, governmental, and other organizations in evaluating their own quality improvement efforts
- Providing specific guidance for other American organizations that wish to learn how to manage for high quality by making available detailed information on how winning organizations were able to change their cultures and achieve eminence
One interesting note to the requirements outlined for winners is the mandate that winners willingly and openly share information on their successful quality strategies. While understanding the overarching goal of establishing a competitive business climate within theUnited States, the issue of how much sharing is counterproductive to business success remains. At what point does the transparency of operations as an award winner outpace the need for confidentiality as a competitor? Clearly this is more relevant to sensitive manufacturing sectors than in many service industries, but it remains a valid point for consideration by those who choose to apply for the award.
The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award is not without its critics – some notable quality experts – and most of the criticism surrounds the spending of large sums of money and the hiring of Baldrige experts to guide organizations through the application process. Perhaps the most extreme example of this criticism is the Xerox Corporation that in 1989 spent approximately $800,000 during their application process. In order to assess their internal quality program, Xerox began the Baldrige Award Program’s self-assessment and subsequently identified more than 500 problem areas. Xerox National Quality Team condensed these into 51 problem sets which were then presented to the senior management team, who initiated a 5-year plan to improve quality at Xerox in six key areas:
- Voice of the customer
- Employee motivation and empowerment
- Quality leadership by line management
- Deployment of clear direction and objectives
- Quality challenges: identified and met
- Management by fact
David Kearns – Xerox CEO at the time – noted that this report resulted in millions of dollars in savings to his company, in response to critics of the expense of the application process. Other companies’ experiences were less significant, including award winner Zytec ($8,900) and Solectron ($20,000). In 1990, Cadillac spent nothing on Baldrige expert consultants on its journey toward award recipient. Still, critics like one analyst for the Heritage Foundation contend that the application process requires more “gamesmanship” and “political connections” than any real commitment to change and quality (George, S., 1992) Other more notable critics of the Baldrige system include W. Edward Deming, Tom Peters and Philip Crosby.
Deming was quoted in a Harvard Business Review article as stating (about Baldrige), “[it] contains nothing about the management of quality, but is purely focused on results.” (George, S., 1992) Tom Peters notes three major problem areas with the Baldrige Criteria:
- they are strangely silent on the topic of bureaucracy
- celebrate a lifeless form of quality
- [he found] the lack of service companies as winners perplexing because, according to Peters, the top manufacturing companies in the United States cannot hold a candle to the top service companies when it comes to quality.
Charles Aubrey – one-time vice president and senior quality officer for BancOne, Senior Baldrige Examiner and past president of the American Society for Quality Control (ASQC) disagrees with Peters’ assessment, noting that MBNA (in 1991 the 4th largest credit card issuer in the United States and American Express have grand customer focus, but zero intrinsic quality systems in place. (George, S., 1992) Furthermore, in fairness to manufacturers (and speaking to Peters’ criticism in point 3), manufacturing companies felt the heat from global competition long before the service industry and while Peters is dismissive of manufacturing sector’s commitment to quality, in 1991 the membership of ASQC was 75% manufacturing (though this has shifted today to include more service industries)
Crosby’s disappointment with the Baldrige National Quality Award has been largely driven by his perception that the criteria are more concerned with the quality of the process than with any customer satisfaction. In response to this criticism, Baldrige proponents note that customer satisfaction is the largest category in the criteria. Noted quality gurus noted, Dr. JM Juran – a colleague of W Edward Deming, who along with Deming helped the Japanese learn and implement total quality control – has embraced the Baldrige Award program.
Noteworthy criticism aside, interest in the Baldrige Quality Program continues to increase, and its impact is felt beyond the confines of the original legislation, in that by 2004, 44 out of 50 states have now initiated (or are in the process of initiating) quality award incentive programs. As a comparison, in 1991, fewer than 10 states had any such program. Many of these state programs are modeled on the Baldrige Criteria and are used as preparatory processes by organizations who plan to apply for the Baldrige National Quality Award at some future point. (George, S., 1992)
Baldrige in Education
In 1999, categories for health care and education were added to the existing manufacturing, business and service categories. Under the education category guidelines, American elementary and secondary schools as well as school districts, colleges, universities, university systems, individual schools/colleges within a university system; non-profit and for-profit institutions are all eligible to make application for the Baldrige Award. Similar to award seekers in other industry sectors, educational award seekers are required to document accomplishments and improvement in seven key areas: leadership, strategic planning, student, stakeholder & market focus, measurement, analysis and knowledge management, faculty & staff focus, process management, and organizational performance results. Since 1999, the education sector has proffered more than sixty applicants, resulting in five award winners, includingUniversityofWisconsin– Stout (2001) and the Kenneth W.MonfortCollegeof Business (2004). (Baldrige National QualityAward, 2005)
As institutions of higher education continue to face increased scrutiny (from the public as well as legislative scrutiny) and declining funding streams, the pressure to do more, with less will continue. (Furst-Bowe, J., Moen, D. and Sorensen, C., 2005) The Baldrige Education Criteria are designed to assist forward-looking educational organizations to improve organizational performance practices, capabilities, and results; facilitate communication and sharing of best practices information among U.S. organizations of all types, and to serve as a working tool for understanding and managing performance and for guiding organizational planning and opportunities for learning (Baldrige National Quality Award, 2005) These criteria are built on the foundations of core concepts, identified as
- visionary leadership
- learning-centered education
- organizational and personal learning
- valuing faculty, staff, and partners
- focus on the future
- managing for innovation
- management by fact
- social responsibility
- focus on results and creating value
- systems perspective
The core concepts and criteria are designed to provide a systems structure for the dissemination of information as support for the improvement of quality.
The Nuts and Bolts of Quality in Education – Where Do We Begin?
According to the National Institute for Standards and Technology, some organizations choose to begin implementation of the Baldrige criteria by utilizing a questionnaire, ‘Are We Making Progress?’ which is designed to be distributed to employees to helps leaders understand the perceptions. A companion questionnaire, ‘Are We Making Progress As Leaders?’ is targeted to the organization’s leadership, and assesses similar parameters at the leadership level. (NationalInstitute ofStandards and Technology, 2005) These questionnaires will help an organization to assess its progress on any journey toward performance excellence and to learn what can be improved. Organized according to the seven Baldrige criteria categories, each questionnaire contains forty questions and takes approximately ten minutes to complete. In addition to helping an organization to recognize ‘opportunities for improvement’ (formerly known as weaknesses) these questionnaires will also direct the organization toward the criteria categories that may prove most helpful in identifying approaches for addressing these areas. Once the questionnaires are complete, organizations move on to the Organizational Profile.
The Organizational Profile is critical and is noted by experts as ‘the most appropriate starting point for self-assessment and for writing an application’. (Baldrige National Quality Award, 2005) Furthermore, it helps organizations to distinguish potential gaps in key information and focus on key performance requirements and organizational performance results. It is also used by the Examiners and Judges in application review, including the site visit, to understand an organization and what it considers to be important. The Organizational Profile serves to provide a snapshot of an organization, including the key influences on operations and any primary challenges the organization may face. This profile requires an organization to look hard at itself in terms of mission, vision and values, as well as its deliverables. For example, the first module in the profile asks that the organization describe its environment and key relationships with students, stakeholders, suppliers, and partners. Other areas explored in this profile include main educational programs, offerings, and services; organizational culture, and faculty and staff profile. Further attention is asked toward major technologies, equipment, and facilities employed in the operation of daily business as well as a review of the regulatory environment under which the organization operates.
The second part of the Organization Profile stretches the organization past looking inward, and asks questions about the competitive environment, including the institution’s competitive position; principal factors that determine success relative to competitors and comparable organizations delivering similar services; key available sources of comparative and competitive data from within the academic community. Strategic challenges for organizations are explored in these questions: What are key education and learning, operational, human resource, and community-related strategic challenges, and what are key strategic challenges associated with organizational sustainability? Lastly, the Organizational Profile summarizes existing performance improvement processes already in place by asking the following:
- How does the organization maintain an overall organizational focus on performance improvement, including organizational learning?
- How does the organization achieve systematic evaluation and improvement of key processes?
Once the Organizational Profile is complete, institutions may choose to step back from the process to reevaluate. In some cases, the organizational profile may serve as a complete assessment as it can provide (in some instances) the basis for developing an action plan. Organizations that choose to continue the self-assessment process will respond to questions in the following criteria categories:
- Strategic Planning
- Student, stakeholder & market focus
- Measurement, analysis and knowledge management
- Faculty & staff focus
- Process Management
- Organizational performance results
The basics of conducting this self-assessment involve identifying whether the whole organization or only a specific part will be assessed; selecting champions for each of the Baldrige categories; selection of category teams, who will collect information and data for responding to the criteria questions in their respective categories. Once complete, teams share their answers to their criteria questions with other teams. Each category team then develops and communicates an action plan for improvement based on the answers and organizational priorities they identified. In the final phase, senior leaders, champions, and teams evaluate what has been done and think about ways to improve the self-assessment process in the future.
In a review of quality in higher education, editors Sorenson, Furst-Bowe and Moen (2004) compare and contrast six institutions with differing structures, constituents and missions on their journeys toward excellence using the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence in Education. The schools listed found not only a path toward quality, but discovered a way to integrate the principles of quality into existing processes, thereby eliminating a major weakness that can befall quality initiatives – becoming a stand-alone or separate initiative.
- 1 of 13 publicly supported universities inWisconsin
- Established in 1891 as a ‘special mission’ institute, focused initially on home economics and industrial arts
- Began quality journey in 1990s with TQM
- Earned recognition as the 1st institution of higher education to win the Baldrige National Quality Award for Performance Excellence in Education (2001)
- Today, UW-Stout boasts more than 8,000 students and 1,200 employees
MonfortCollegeof Business,UniversityofNorthern Colorado
- 1 of 5 academic colleges within the UNC system
- Established in 1968 as autonomous degree-granting institution
- By 1984 was enrolling in excess of 2,000 students working toward bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees
- Mid 1980s, revamped mission to focus on undergraduate degree programs only
- In 1992, recognized by the Colorado Commission to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
- Recognized in 1999 byColoradoCommission on Higher Education as a Program of Excellence
- Actively using Baldrige criteria since 2000
- New Mexico’s 1st community college; established in 1950
- Open-door community college
- Enrolls about 1,250 students each semester
- Engaged in quality improvement initiatives since 1994
- Grants associate degrees, certificates and diplomas
- 2nd largest provate/non-profit institution of higher education inCalifornia
- Established in 1971 and accredited by the Western Association of Schools & Colleges
- Grants associate, baccalaureate and master’s degrees
- Enrolls approximately 17,000 students each year.
- Established in 1905 as a normal (teachers) school
- Now a comprehensive state-assisted regional university
- Offers 103 undergraduate degrees; 40 graduate degrees
- Enrollment: approximately 6,500
- Noted for installing nation’s first Electronic Campus in 1987
- Began quality journey in 1984
- Missouri quality award winner in 1997, 2001
- Established in 1912 as a vocational school
- Has since evolved into a comprehensive, publicly-supported technical college
- Serves close to 21,000 students at main campus and within 6 extended campus sites
- Offers 40 associate degree programs, 19 technical diploma programs, and 4 certificate programs
- Using Baldrige since 1999
- Recognized at the Mastery level for the Wisconsin Forward Quality Award
After reviewing each of these institutions in context of their quality journeys, editors Furst-Bowe, Moen, and Sorensen (2005) highlight 8 lessons learned by these distinct institutions in their book, Quality and Performance Excellence in Higher Education – Baldrige on Campus.
Lesson 1: The need for committed leadership
Lesson 2: System wide adoption – elimination of silos (in thinking, if not in practice)
Lesson 3: Clarity: defining (identifying) the customer and stakeholders, and listening to what they want. Utilization of student and market data to align programs and services with organizational mission and vision.
Lesson 4: Change: the ability to rapidly change to meet student and stakeholder needs. Baldrige refers to this as agility.
Lesson 5: Benchmarking: simply put – looking outside of one’s organization and comparing practices across a continuum of institutions that share similar stories.
Lesson 6: Assessment: understanding that assessment is part of the improvement process and should not be avoided due to “too much work” needs to be done to improve.
Lesson 7: Strengths: (do we need to start from scratch?) Due to the fact that the Baldrige criteria are non-prescriptive, they can be applied to any configuration of an institution of higher education. Each institution should determine for itself the extent to which it will utilize the Baldrige criteria.
Quality efforts are likely to remain an integral part of the strategic planning process within institutions of higher education in one form or another. With goals set to improve school performance by setting outcome-driven expectations, sharing best practices and the promotion of sharing and learning between businesses and schools, (Bogue, E. and Hall, K., 2003) it is difficult to argue against a sustained and long-term commitment to quality, however; the history of TQM, CQI and similar programs within the halls of academe suggest that this commitment may not be defined in the same terms that work for organizations like Xerox, AT&T or Motorola – that of a structured business model. In Quality and Accountability in Higher Education, Bogue and Hall (2003) note that while the business sectors of the American economy were participating fully in the latest trends in management (i.e quality programs), “a couple thousand institutions [of higher education] decided to sit this one out; dozens of institutions that began a quality journey, ended it; others have persisted but have little to show for it,…and most of the gains … have been on the administrative, not the academic side.” In fact, Bogue and Hall suggest that the total impact of quality in higher education has resulted in only minor progress over the past two decades.
Specific to the Baldrige criteria, quality critics point to award winners from years past who have since gone bankrupt, or undergone major downsizing, including Westinghouse, AT&T, and Boeing, but the jury remains out on this trend in higher education. First, the education criteria category is relatively new (established in 1999) and secondly, with the diversity of funding streams that institutions of higher learning rely on, a direct cause and effect tying quality to sustainability and viability may prove next to impossible to establish.
In conclusion, Bogue and Hall (2003) nod to the need in higher education to balance “fact and faith; passion and evidence” in any journey toward quality. While adherence to fiscal and academic guidelines that are aligned with the strategic plan remain essential, institutions of higher education should not discount the impact they have on society when knowledge and people come together. Consider the case of the community college student who dropped out of her associate degree career program after the second semester. While the community college recorded this attrition as a failure, an accident of fate revealed later that the student had found her footing and academic courage in the classrooms of that community college, reexamined her career goals, and moved on to a four-year institution with the goal of achieving a Master’s Degree in the same field that she had entered at the community college level. Was the attrition of this student a failure? Perhaps the community college considers the loss of tuition revenue as a failing measure, but to what extent can a society measure the good that was done in giving this student the opportunity to find herself, and express it via an alternate route? These ‘softer’ unknowns stand quietly by as cautionary flags for leaders in higher education: strive for quality, but be mindful of the invisible benefits that are bestowed each day in classrooms acrossAmericathat no system for outcomes measurement will ever be able to capture.
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