Thursday, June 26, 2014

Organizational Excellence starts with Self-Assessment

This month, ASQ’s new CEO announced that ASQ has achieved the Excellence level in the Wisconsin state Quality program.  The program, like most state programs, uses the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA) criteria.  These state programs are rigorous and any organization that undertakes them should be recognized for the journey.  The challenge, once met, is to continue the journey because it is the right thing to do and not just to win an award. 
This past year I spoke on four occasions at ASQ sponsored meetings (2 section meetings, a regional quality conference, and the ASQ Lean & Six Sigma conference) on this very topic and how the SIPOC tool (Suppliers, Inputs, Process, Outputs, Customers) can be used as the basis for organizational self-assessment.  This model is currently being used by US Navy Shipyards. It is interesting how you can repurpose an “improvement” tool as a self-assessment tool.  But the SIPOC’s specific purpose in process improvement is to establish the macro look of today.  This macro look is an excellent basis for determining what IS your organization and how do you keep track of it. 

The graphic above provides a hierarchy that organizational leadership needs to embrace. The organization should rise through this hierarchy to achieve organizational excellence.  If the purpose of your leadership is to just deal with the everyday problems, an organization never improves.  The self-assessment acts as a stepping stone to improvement. Self-assessments provide hard data for monitoring current state and are a source for future improvement ideas. 
Self-assessments come in variety of flavors, ranging from the MBNQA and other national quality awards, local, state, and regional quality recognition awards as well as organizational and informal self-assessments.  Self-assessments act like thermometers by taking the temperature of current situations.   Self-assessments are not perfect.  Like thermometers we often have to check to make sure that the thermometer is reading accurately which means that there needs to be a touchstone by which the self-assessment is based.  We have to revisit the premise that the self-assessment is performing the purpose it was established to do. 
That is why a SIPOC is so important.  Just like a Mission/Vision/Values statement keeps an organization on course, revisiting the SIPOC helps an organization ensure that the organization is looking and measuring the right pieces.  Self-assessments lose their effectiveness if they no longer do what they are purposed to do.
Again, congratulations to ASQ for achieving this award.  It has been an arduous journey and one that has brought a lot of knowledge through this self-assessment process.