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How Germantown, TN, Used The Baldrige Excellence Framework To Score Big
Competing for a Baldrige award is not for the faint of heart. But this Tennessee community had what it takes to succeed—with teamwork and the help of ClearPoint.
Many organizations strive for excellence—whether it’s in a specific department, for a specific goal, or a general mandate for the entire workforce to pursue. But not every organization lives up to this ideal. The City of Germantown, Tennessee, however, truly demonstrates its commitment to excellence. In fact, it was recognized for its excellence with a prominent honor in 2019—the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which signifies a level of excellence few rarely achieve.
Many organizations strive for excellence, but not every organization lives up to this ideal. The City of Germantown, Tennessee, however, truly demonstrates its commitment to excellence. Click To Tweet
Baldrige Excellence Framework
The Baldrige award recognizes U.S. organizations that demonstrate unceasing drive for “radical innovation, thoughtful leadership, and administrative improvement.” The award ties into the ideals of the overarching Baldrige framework:
- Raise awareness about the importance of performance excellence.
- Recognize companies that show performance excellence and pass on this information to other organizations to tailor it for their own needs.
- Motivate companies to improve their quality standards and strive for excellence.
- Help organizations embody the competitive spirit and drive the economy forward.
In addition, the Baldrige criteria for performance excellence comprises seven assessment areas:
- Measurement, analysis, and knowledge management
To win the award, Germantown (and other past winners) had to excel within these categories. Below we share the story of how it went from a recession-recovering city to a strategically driven, award-winning community in less than a decade.
Germantown, TN: Baldrige Beginnings
Germantown’s journey to Baldrige award winner required the combined effort of city leaders, staff, and citizens—and a little support from ClearPoint. The inspiration for seeking the award came from Patrick Lawton, Germantown’s City Administrator. Returning from a conference in 2010 with the aftermath of the 2008 recession still on his mind, Lawton was inspired to strive for renewed excellence with his city—Baldrige excellence.
Fast forward to 2015, when the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a process for developing Germantown Forward 2030, a long-term strategic plan meant to guide the growth and development of the community for the next 15 years.
To make the strategic planning process a truly grassroots effort, the Board handed over development of the plan to a 30-member steering committee to ensure community ownership. Steering committee members represented all aspects of the community with respect to age, race, gender, and neighborhood.
The year-long planning process was facilitated by city staff to provide support and guidance, and ensure completion of the plan. The process aimed to understand and influence the future—rather than simply prepare for or adapt to it—by aligning resources to bridge the gap between present conditions and desired outcomes.
The Germantown Forward 2030 plan captured this ideal by focusing on quality-of-life issues, fiscal responsibility, strong public safety, and community engagement. It would help guide Germantown in these areas by charting a course to navigate the economic, environmental, and social arena in which the city operates.
After creating the plan, city leaders tracked progress in nine key performance areas (see image below) using ClearPoint’s strategy execution software.
Within ClearPoint, the city was able to align the overarching performance areas with its objectives, KPIs, and action plans; in addition, they used the software to track internal metrics. City leaders also felt it was important to share their progress with citizens, so they partnered with ClearPoint to create a community dashboard—a public-facing website that people could visit to see the status of key performance areas and the underlying action plans and KPIs that were influencing each area.
Working Its Way To The Top
Not to forget Lawton’s aim for Baldrige excellence, the city took a preemptive step toward national recognition by engaging with the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence, the state-based Baldrige program. The city’s work on the Germantown Forward 2030 strategic plan and community dashboard helped them win a top honor from the Tennessee Center—an unofficial prerequisite for applying for the national Baldrige award.
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ClearPoint: Baldrige Framework In Action
In 2019, the Germantown team set its sights on the national award. It put together a 55-page award application that covered all seven Baldrige criteria for performance excellence. While it was a large effort for the team, they already had a lot of the information and data they needed in ClearPoint, so they could easily export it for use in their application.
The process of preparing a Baldrige application reveals how ClearPoint supports four of the seven criteria mentioned at the beginning of the post:
- Strategy—By creating the Germantown Forward 2030 strategic plan and tracking this in ClearPoint, the city had a clear understanding of its strategy and how it was implementing strategic decisions.
- Customers—With the community dashboard, Germantown gave its customers (citizens) a transparent look at its efforts, helping to maintain strong, lasting relationships.
- Measurement, analysis, and knowledge management—ClearPoint gave the city the ability to track components of key performance areas; thus, it had a good understanding of how it was progressing toward its 2030 goals and how to best use resources going forward.
- Results—ClearPoint helped the city centralize all this information in one place, enabling leaders to easily create informative, timely reports they could share internally and with the community.
A Big Win & Looking Forward
In summer 2019, a team of highly trained independent examiners reviewed the city’s application and determined that Germantown was worthy of further review. Out of 26 applicants, only 12 received a site visit.
In October 2019, city staff hosted a team of nine Baldrige examiners for a week-long deep dive into city operations. ClearPoint made showcasing required information a simple task. The Baldridge team interviewed leaders, reviewed documents, clarified and verified their findings from the initial application, and visited with employees from across the organization.
On November 12, Lawton received a call from Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who shared the thrilling news: the city had achieved its 10-year goal and was being honored with the 2019 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award! Germantown was one of only four municipalities nationwide to have ever received the honor.
For Lawton, this is only the beginning. Together with other city leaders, he plans to dig into the feedback report from its application and address identified opportunities for improvement as a city that’s always striving to do the best for its citizens.
The Baldrige excellence framework is one of many performance assessments ClearPoint’s strategy execution software can help you exceed at. Organizations of all sizes can use ClearPoint to effectively execute strategy, efficiently manage projects, save time on reporting, and achieve higher levels of excellence. Contact us to learn more.