One of my favorite business maxims is, “If you can't measure it, you can't improve it.”
Attributed to Peter Drucker, widely considered the father of modern business management, this concept is embraced by successful organizations around the world.
But how can an organization merge disparate data for hard metrics like cybersecurity, financial reporting, and compliance—as well as “softer” ones like employee engagement and leadership strength—to find one “true north” measurement for overall organizational excellence? For us at Businessolver, we found the answer in the Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework.
The framework, established in 1987 and named for former US Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige, invites businesses of all sizes and types to commit to and measure organizational performance in key areas supported by 11 core values:
- Agility and resilience
- Customer-focused excellence
- Delivering value and results
- Ethics and transparency
- Focus on success and innovation
- Management by fact
- Organizational learning
- Societal contributions
- Systems perspective
- Valuing people
- Visionary leadership
Businessolver’s Baldrige journey, which began in 2016 with about 700 Solvers, continues to this day—even as our organization has nearly doubled in size since then, and now stretches nationwide literally from coast to coast since adopting our Workspace Anywhere initiative in 2021. Our leaders, CEO and President Jon Shanahan and Chief Strategy Officer Rae Shanahan, reflected on our Baldrige journey in separate presentations at the 2021 Baldrige Fall Conference. It’s an annual event that brings together national and state Baldrige Award recipients to share their proven performance management practices and real-world insights.
Businessolver CEO offers transparent view of Baldrige journey
In true fashion, Jon pulled no punches in his presentation about how Businessolver’s journey with the Baldrige Framework started out a bit on the bumpy side.
“We had ‘pockets’ of what I would call excellence instead of an overall framework for excellence in the organization,” Jon said. “I could see the things we were struggling with, and knew we had to adopt a structure with a consistent language.”
Our first application was met with some tough love from external Baldrige reviewers. “We thought we had our stuff together because we did all of those things [the Framework requires],” he recalled. “But what we realized is we had more ‘cave drawings’ and stories about how we do things, and less documented and systematic processes.”
Since earning that first Tier 3 recognition from our Regional Performance Excellence program in 2017, our continued commitment to the Baldrige standards helped us receive a state-level bronze recognition in 2018, silver in 2019, and gold in 2020.
With 1,300 full-time Solvers now on board, Jon looked back on how the framework has supported our organization as we serve our growing client base and our family of Solvers. “I don't think we could have survived that growth without the Baldrige Framework,” Jon said. “So, for me, the biggest impacts are the consistency, the systems thinking, and the mindset that becomes a part of your culture.”
Businessolver Chief Strategy Officer outlines Baldrige Framework as a blueprint for survival and success
Speaking of culture, Rae’s presentation shared how the framework allowed us to not only survive the move to a 100% remote workforce in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic but thrive in this new work environment.
Friday, Mar. 13, 2020, was the last time Solvers were required to go to the office, Rae recalled, before they were sent home and set up remote workspaces to keep them safe and productive. But before that day, every new hire participated in onsite orientation in our West Des Moines, Iowa, headquarters, and 1,000+ Solvers worked there or at one of our seven satellite offices each day.
Without that same daily in-person connection, how did we maintain employee engagement, expand our intentional culture, and continue to succeed as a business? The Baldrige Framework gave us valuable tools and processes to leverage key metrics and stay on course, Rae explained.
Did it work? The facts are in the framework: Since shifting to 100% remote work at the peak of the pandemic, and now to Workspace Anywhere, Businessolver has seen a 5% increase in the number of Solvers who say they are happy and healthy at work, and that they love what they do.
“We want our Solvers to feel like they are better and healthier people as a result of working for Businessolver,” Rae said. “We want them to be involved and feel like they make a difference. That's really at the heart of everything we do.”
She also reminded leaders that while driving Baldrige principles comes from the top down, the organizational culture that arises as a result comes from the bottom up. “I know as a leader, that we can cultivate a culture, but our employees are the ones that really shape it and create somewhere they really want to be.”
We’re proud to have survived pandemic and emerged as a better company than we were going into it. We have a more diverse workplace, more happy and loyal employees, and more tactics to conquer uncharted territories. That’s worth its weight in (Baldrige) gold, and then some.