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Aug 02

The City’s Path toward the Malcolm Baldrige Award

Posted on August 2, 2018 at 4:22 PM by Thomas Reeves

Even before being sworn is as Modesto’s City Manager on July 10, 2018, I had my sights set on a very prestigious award handed out to the nation’s top organizations.  As the leader of California’s 18th most populated city, I've established a career of cultivating and learning from teams of people charged with serving the public, and the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award is the nation’s public-private partnership dedicated to recognizing such performance excellence.  This award is the first and only Presidential Award for performance excellence.  

It is the framework created in pursuit of the Baldrige award that I am busy refining, as I meet with the directors and leadership at the city at the beginning of this 2018/2019 fiscal year.  Soon, this leadership group will begin meeting in earnest to develop a new game plan aimed at addressing the most pressing needs of the city.  Certainly a goal of this magnitude won’t be accomplished overnight, but the process is worth undertaking even if it takes several years.  

Included among these needs is a better, safer culture for the dedicated city employees who serve the community; a more robust, transparent reporting system for alerting the public to our services and work plan; and a more responsive customer service program that showcases our commitment to the community we love.  

As I write this blog entry, my team is preparing a plan to act upon these commitments to the citizens of Modesto.
  • We will commit to organization excellence rooted in continuous improvement: we will strive to be innovative and efficient in all our work processes.  This is simply good governance.
  • We will commit to fiscal responsibility and accountability: we will continually ask ourselves if what we’re doing is in the best interest of the City and our citizens, and we will be fiscally responsible with expenditures, asking ourselves how the public would view the expense.
  • We will commit to responsive customer service: we will remind ourselves that serving the public is our number one objective, and we will seek solutions before saying something is “against our rules or policy,” making sure we have done everything possible for the public to have a pleasant experience with the city.
Organizations like the City of Modesto don’t receive the award for any specific product or service.  To receive the award, an organization must have a system that:
  • Ensures continuous improvements in overall performance in delivering products and/or services, and
  • Provides an approach for satisfying and responding to customers and stakeholders.
The Baldrige award is based on a set of beliefs and behaviors.  These core values and concepts are the foundation for integrating key performance and operational requirements within a results-oriented framework that creates a basis for action, feedback, and ongoing success: 
  • Systems perspective
  • Visionary leadership
  • Customer-focused excellence
  • Valuing people
  • Organizational learning and agility
  • Focus on success
  • Managing for innovation
  • Management by fact
  • Societal responsibility
  • Ethics and transparency
  • Delivering value and results 
Source: Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. 2017. 2017-2018 Baldrige Excellence Framework: A Systems Approach to Improving Your Organization’s Performance.  Gaithersburg, MD: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology.  http://www.nist.gov/baldrige.

Only three cities have been honored with the Baldrige award since 1988, and the application and screening process is highly competitive.  

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for such an achievement.  On the contrary, we should be seeking out every opportunity to showcase the great work of the employees and residents of the city.  The people of Modesto deserve to live in a city where their leaders work hard toward improvement.  The people of Modesto deserve a city other organizations across the country look to for ideas, ingenuity, and innovation.  

Like any organization, we will make mistakes along the way, but we commit to learning from those mistakes and being honest with the ways we’re fixing those mistakes.  

In the end, there will be no greater prize than being awarded your trust, and hearing the community say, “Modesto is a great place to live, work, and play.”