Quest For Excellence 2002

Susan Elkins and Chad Meador

The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award’s Quest for Excellence XIV Conference was held at Washington D.C.’s Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on April 7-10, 2002. The annual conference showcases Baldrige Award winners and provides an opportunity for each recipient to share successful strategies, best practices, and lessons learned in pursuit of performance excellence.

Clarke American was the single award recipient in the manufacturing category. The company provides personalized checks, checking accessories, financial forms, and a growing portfolio of services to over 4,000 financial institutions in the United States. Clarke fills over 50 million personalized check orders every year and provides 24-hour service handling more than 11 million calls annually.

Pal’s Sudden Service, located in Eastern Tennessee and Southwestern Virginia, received the award in the small business category. Pal’s is the first business in the restaurant industry to receive a Baldrige Award. Pal’s also won the Tennessee Quality Excellence Award for 2001. The company aims to distinguish itself by offering competitively priced food of consistently high quality delivered rapidly, cheerfully, and without error.

The Chugach School District (CSD), based in Anchorage, Alaska, serves 214 students scattered throughout 22,000 square miles of the isolated and remote areas of south central Alaska. CSD delivers education in the workplace, in the community, in the home and in school to students from preschool up to age 21, using a comprehensive, standards-based system that includes the use of developmental levels instead of traditional grade divisions. Twelve school districts, in and out of Alaska, are replicating the Chugach model.

The Pearl River School District (PRSD), located 20 miles north of New York City, serves approximately 2,460 students in three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school with about 330 employees. The percentage of students graduating with a Regents Diploma, a key objective of PRSD, has increased from 63 percent to 86 percent. Also, student satisfaction has increased from 70 percent to 92 percent and parent satisfaction has increased from 62 percent to 96 percent. PRSD’s “balanced scorecard” - a scannable composite of progress indicators – provides continuous, up-to-date tracking of district performance.

The University of Wisconsin-Stout, one of 13 publicly supported universities in the University of Wisconsin System, has about 1,200 faculty and staff and about 7,700 students. Located in Menomonie, Wisconsin, UW-Stout offers 27 undergraduate and 16 graduate degrees. UW-Stout’s “Mission Driven-Market Smart” focus is aimed at developing students for careers in industry and education and has led to a graduate placement rate at or above 98 percent since 1996. Ninety-nine percent of employers rate UW-Stout graduates as well-prepared for their jobs.

Throughout its fourteen years, the Quest for Excellence Conference has provided a forum for the recipients of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award to showcase their exceptional performance practices. This year’s conference certainly continued the tradition of sharing excellence from manufacturing and small business, but also began a new era of sharing as the very first Baldrige Award recipients in education shared their exceptional performance practices.

Both of us gained from the conference experience. Chad Meador felt that “As an MBA student with less than one year of exposure to the Baldrige Model, the conference brought the entire process into perspective through the eyes of the five award recipients. The knowledge and learning opportunities were tremendous throughout the entire three days. There were several key themes and main points that captured my attention and reinforced the validity of the Baldrige Process. For example, the criteria can be successfully applied to any organization to drive the quest for excellence no matter what they do. The criteria also drive knowledge and understanding forming a knowledge network that can be directly translated into a competitive advantage.” Dr. Elkins’ thoughts can be summed up as: “From the perspective of a higher education administrator and past examiner for the Tennessee Quality Award, the conference was extremely informative, especially since this is the first year that recipients from the field of education are being recognized. These first education winners will not only serve as role models for other K-12 and post-secondary institutions, but as an integral part of the Baldrige process, they will share their best practices with others who pursue the journey to excellence. Lessons learned from all of the education winners presenting at the conference were very informative; however, since the University of Wisconsin-Stout is the first-ever higher education award winner, it was especially beneficial to learn from the best practices of that institution. Also, it was extremely helpful to learn more about the criteria tailored specifically to education. As the field of education continues to place greater emphasis on accountability and assessment, the Baldrige model will provide an excellent framework for organizations such as TTU who strive for performance excellence.”

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