Issue 3
Monday, January 31, 2000

Five Minute MasterClass – Baldrige category 5.1, Work Systems
Performance appraisal – lessons from the public sector

There's a common (and, frankly, well-deserved) view that when it comes to innovation and high performance, public agencies are not in the frame.

Our Auckland City Council Planning Group case study will open a few eyes on that score, and in the January-February issue of the Harvard Business Review (page 21) Dick Grote highlights three other best practice examples from the public sector:
1 A USAF research laboratory in Dayton, Ohio has developed a performance appraisal system which connects individual performance to the lab's mission, with pay related to how much value each of the 3,200 engineers and scientists individually adds to the organisation.
2 Another home-grown appraisal system, in the Minnesota Department of Transport, links employee evaluation with the agency's mission and strategy. How? By corralling teams of pothole fillers, their managers and support staff and getting them to review their goals and values and write down the skills needed to fulfill them. Not just definitions - they write down what individual workers need to do to master each skill – to become what the team calls 'true masters.' By using agreed master profiles as a yardstick for all employee appraisals, the agency removed the subjectivity that plagues conventional methods, applying instead an objective assessment of how often a worker acts as a master (occasionally/sometimes/frequently), yielding a more palatable and useful evaluation that identifies opportunities for improvement.
3 The city of Irving, Texas, has taken this approach a step further. After specifying 23 critical-for-success competencies, system designers wrote dozens of examples of different levels of performance – from totally ineffective to distinguished. Appraisers simply pick the descriptions that best match worker performance. Efficient, objective, and much more illuminating for employees.

If you're wrestling with Baldrige category 5, wondering where to look for some best practice, or even some practice innovation, how about calling your local city manager? Take a good look at our Auckland case study.

Quality in a dot com world
A back-channel email dialogue with TQM list member Mary Ann Overbaugh on the subject of quality in the e-conomy has hinted at what we here at BaldrigePlus think may be THE quality debate of the next few years: In the fast-moving, aprocessual, essentially unplannable and frequently chaotic dot com world, what's the role of quality?

Our guess is that ISO900x “control and compliance” is not even on the dot com radar. We wonder if dot com and ISO900x is an oxymoron. But what about customer-defined quality, the HR implications of hiring, training and retaining staff, the need for clarity of mission and purity of purpose, and the other Baldrige categories (yes, even category seven. Results will eventually matter)?

Business processes? We can hear the get-back-to-the-rustbelt scorn. Here and there, though, there's a glimmer of common sense, and we recently came across an example in Bussiness2 (336 ad-rich pages, December 99), the Business Week of the wired economy.

Tacit Knowledge Systems wants you to have “this morning's version of the company at every employee's fingertips,” by making “smarter use of that vast and untapped resource known as internal email.” Using a product called KnowledgeMail, Tacit aims to capture the 45% of mission-critical information that flows through corporate email, by searching for key words, building a database, and making the collected information 'public' to the relevant email 'community.”

ClosedLoop Solutions (so far “all bark and no bite” – there isn't even a www) the brainchild of an ex McKinsey & Company consultant, is a modeling program that will take a company's strategic plan, add a few key indicators, and in real time make suggestions about, say, hiring decisions, expenses targets, marketing, “and other forms of corporate behaviour.” It'll only work if the input data are accurate (GIGO), and the models are robust.

We'll be watching this area. Anyone feel brave (or 'connected') enough to write a set of Baldrige criteria for the e-conomy? We're toying with the idea!

Additions to the Exhibits collection In a recent email Martin Stankard - ASQ's Baldrige assessment for service industries developer and lead instructor, member of the MBNQA Board of Examiners 1991-93 and 1999, and member of the board of judges for the Massachusetts Quality Award - says “After sampling perhaps 10% of what you offer on your Baldrigeplus website, I would say the content you are publishing … takes a giant step toward fulfilling your purpose and mission. Just the exhibits you have available for download (the Solar employee survey for example) make your web site one of the most useful and informative Baldrige websites I know of.”

It's always been our view that our Exhibits resource is under-used (maybe because they're only available as slow-to-download PDFs), so Martin's words have been very encouraging and this week we deliver on our promise to add more … check the Exhibits page for new top-of-the-list resources on the costs of quality, measuring what you manage in HR and performance measurement in health care.