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Building a Federal Culture that Supports Results—Everywhere You Look


Wed Sep 02 2015

Building a Federal Culture that Supports Results—Everywhere You Look

To achieve organizational excellence, core management systems and processes need to be fully integrated and focused on measureable results. Measures of results should be based on customer requirements and feedback. 

Baldrige puts major management systems into six categories. But you shouldn’t think of them as categories. Rather picture six engaged gears that push the organization toward results. The systems/gears are: 

  • Leadership

  • Strategic Planning

  • Customer

  • Focus Workforce Focus

  • Operations/Business Processes

  • Results Measurement. 

Leadership articulates the model to all employees at all levels and reinforces the values that propel the integrated systems, such as customer focus, continuous improvement, and employee engagement and empowerment. 

Baldrige is as much a culture as a management approach—and what a culture it is! All hands and all brains are on deck. Pride, fellowship, and know-how grow because results are achieved and no one is a bench-sitter. Employees and the systems work together as a whole to produce exceptional results. 

Case in Point 

During my tenure with the City of Coral Springs, the city employed the Baldrige business model to create system integration and customer focus. In our case, every city worker was introduced to the model and the strategic plan at new employee orientations. Orientation covered the principles that keep professional silos at bay and job satisfaction high, including: 

  • establish and deploy vision and values

  • facilitate the development of an evidence-based strategic plan

  • set objectives, strategies and measures of progress

  • align resources and activity to the objectives

  • monitor implementation of plans

  • evaluate the effectiveness of plans

  • foster customer-focused lean processes

  • continuously improve through “feedback loops” that create organizational and individual learning

  • engage in all of the above. 

More importantly, my city government experience with the Baldrige model informs my approach to performance management at the Department of Commerce.


Applying Baldrige to the Federal Landscape 

Over the decades, the federal government has searched for the Holy Grail of performance management. This has proved elusive, though, because staff offices have set up performance measurement systems that are not aligned with a strategic plan, employee work plans, or process design. Instead, measures have been created by staff offices, not the folks who are on the line. What’s more, feedback on systems happened primarily when a catastrophic failure occurred; regular feedback for system improvement was an anomaly. 

Here’s the good news: Times are changing, and there are federal initiatives for customer focus, use of performance indicators and evaluation, employee engagement, and strategic plans that are actionable and monitored. However, if we don’t move on all these fronts through integrated systems that involve the entire workforce, the Holy Grail will remain elusive—even though Baldrige has put it in plain sight.  

Check out http://www.nist.gov/baldrige to get a better view. If you have worked in a Baldrige culture, you will never want to settle for less. 

For a deeper dive on this topic, join me for the session “Changing Up: Integrating a Culture of Performance in Your Organization” at the Government Workforce: Learning Innovations conference.


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