Judging quality Featured

9:43am EDT July 22, 2002

The quest for excellence may be never-ending, but Ohio’s dedication to the search has grown.

Businesses are joining four other sectors — education, health care, government and not-for-profit — in the launch of the Ohio Award for Excellence, a program mirroring the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

Conceived by a 1997 grassroots effort among Eaton Corp., Kent State University, NCR, Dana Commercial Credit, ABB Industrial Systems and Marconi Medical Systems, Ohio Award for Excellence will make its first presentation to winners this fall.

Winning the award brings obvious benefits; like the Baldrige awards, the Ohio Award for Excellence carries with it the prestige of being recognized as a world-class organization after which others will model themselves.

However, even applicants that do not receive the award find the process worthwhile, says Thomas Casperson, Ohio Award for Excellence executive director.

“Even at the Baldrige level, winners say the best thing of winning is still the feedback report they get, because there’s always room for improvement,” he says. “We can never tell a business how to get a job done. We just tell them what needs to be done.

“But we can help guide them to some areas they may want to look to help them improve.”

The 33 entities that applied for this year’s awards were spread fairly evenly among the five sectors, says Casperson.

Applicants provide an extensive assessment of their organizations in seven criteria for performance categories: leadership, strategic planning, customer and market focus, information and analysis, human resource focus, process management and business results.

“If you’re doing the first six well, the last one flows automatically,” Casperson points out.

The review process is just as extensive. Examiners, who receive the same training as Baldrige examiners, independently review applications, then look over the information in teams of three to seven, depending on the size of the applicant and application. Examiners also visit the site of the applicant. Each applicant receives a feedback report outlining strengths and opportunities for improvement.

The award recognition is given at four tiers:

Level 1: Pledge Toward Excellence: The starting level of recognition for organizations beginning their journey toward understanding and applying principles of excellence. The report will indicate what actions, processes or systems improvement might be most beneficial to the organization’s continuous improvement.

Level 2: Commitment to Excellence: The intermediate level of recognition for organizations that have demonstrated serious commitment to excellence and a process for continuous improvement. These organizations have documented a solid system level approach to achieving excellence.

Level 3: Achievement of Excellence: An advanced level of recognition for organizations that have demonstrated, through commitment and practice, significant progress toward excellence. Organizations recognized at this level clearly demonstrate results directly attributable to deployment of a systematic approach.

Level 4: Governor’s Award for Excellence: The highest level of recognition for organizations that have demonstrated through practices and superior results the highest level of excellence. These organizations are outstanding examples of excellence in Ohio, exhibiting “world class” processes that serve as role models for others.

Any number of organizations may receive recognition in each of the tiers each year. In fact, Casperson says, the judges may opt not to name a winner in a tier for which they think they did not receive a worthy applicant.

A board of directors, composed largely of representatives of the founding organizations, oversees the work of the Ohio Award for Excellence Council, which administers the awards. The program is funded through memberships, the cost of which is determined by the organization’s number of employees.

Costs to apply for the awards range from $100 to $3,000, depending on the size of the organization and the tier for which it applies. Time and effort to apply also varies, Casperson says, depending on those same factors.

Between April and June, Ohio Award for Excellence will offer training sessions to teach organizations how to get started on writing an application.

The application process is concluded for this year’s awards, which will be presented Sept. 15. Organizations must turn in eligibility forms for next year’s awards by Sept. 4, 2000, and applications by Nov. 2 this year.

Joan Slattery Wall (jwall@sbnnet.com) is an associate editor and statehouse correspondent for SBN.

How to reach: Ohio Award for Excellence, www.oae.org, (937) 445-6556.