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For Organizations: Assessment Process

The Minnesota Council for Quality currently offers two comprehensive assessment options and some modified tools.

Narrative-Based Assessment

The first is the traditional, comprehensive narrative-based assessment. This approach requires the organization to submit a written 50-page narrative application (plus 5 pages for an Organization Profile) that describes their processes with regards to the Criteria for Performance Excellence. This can be done either completely by the organization itself, or with the support of the Council or the Council’s recommended vendors. Creating the narrative usually takes organizations anywhere from two to four months (or about 3000 person-hours) depending on their familiarity and experience with the Criteria. But the learning experience from creating this application is tremendous – it facilitates candid discussions about strategy, customer needs, process performance and deployment, and it engages employees throughout the enterprise.

Once complete, the narrative is submitted to the Council and then independently reviewed by a team of 7-9 trained Evaluators to identify strengths and improvement opportunities in light of the Baldrige Criteria and through the filter of your Organizational Profile. This team is built for diversity: we will form a team that has a balance of sector experience, represents various organization sizes, has a blend of functional experience, has a mix of leadership experience, and has depth of Baldrige Criteria knowledge. Once “Independent Review” is complete, the team comes together to form a consensus view of the organization before going on site to verify perceived strengths and clarify possible improvement opportunities.

The output of our process is a comprehensive feedback report, which includes an executive summary, a description of strengths and improvement opportunities by Criteria item, and scores. Scoring is not only used for the determination of an Award level, but also is used by organizations to prioritize improvement actions and to monitor progress over time.

Our final step is an Improvement Planning Session. This 4-hour facilitated session is intended to 1) promote understanding of the feedback report, and 2) work with senior leaders to prioritize improvement opportunities. This exercise is extremely helpful in translating the 80-100 feedback comments into the critical 2-4 areas on which to focus improvement efforts; the session frequently serves as input into an organization’s existing planning process.

Survey-Based Approach

The second approach is a behaviorally-anchored survey-based assessment, we call Baldrige Express. There are many survey-based instruments on the market, but we have used this instrument for nearly a decade and are satisfied with its accuracy.

This tool, administered either by paper or on-line, includes about 60 questions answered by your employees (or a sample of them). In Minnesota, we use this survey as a proxy for the narrative, but we still form an Evaluator team, still reach consensus, and still go on site to test our assumptions and finalize feedback. Used this way, feedback reports are highly accurate and very much reflect what a narrative-based assessment would yield. Really, the only major difference between the narrative approach versus the survey-based approach is the deep learning that takes place through the process of writing an application.

Which tool is right for your organization?

Selecting the right approach depends on several factors, including:

  • Your organization’s resources (time and financial)
  • What speed/time requirements your organization desires
  • What level of understanding and experience your organization has with systemic assessment and improvement

To help you understand the strengths and weakness of both assessment approaches, we have created a matrix for your consideration.

Other Tools

The Council can also help organizations early in their improvement journey with modified or abbreviated assessments. For example, we can facilitate your senior leaders in building your Organizational Profile. This document contains a list of key questions relating to your employee profile, your customers’ needs, your competitors’ capabilities, your strategic challenges, and so forth. The questions are intended to put the assessment (either narrative or survey, above) in the context of your organization. However, we have found that grappling with the answers to those questions is oftentimes an appropriate place for many organizations to begin their improvement journey. The Council can facilitate discussions and consensus building.

We can also facilitate the administration of an employee-perception instrument developed by the Baldrige office called Are We Making Progress? This tool is a 40-question survey that, while not as rigorous as a comprehensive assessment, provides some indicators of strengths and improvement opportunities and might also be a good place to start.

Finally, we can modify and adjust our standard processes above to suit your needs. For example, we can eliminate or abbreviate parts of our process, we can combine steps, we can add steps that lead into planning, and so forth.

For information on other assessment tools or to discuss how to customize an assessment process to suit your organization’s needs, please contact the Council.

What Makes Minnesota’s Program Different?

There are a few things that make us different from other programs and assessment processes:

  • First, in Minnesota, all organization applicants get a site visit. We began this process in 1995, and we believe this not only improves the accuracy of the feedback but also increases the real-time learning for the participating organization.
  • Second, Minnesota’s process on a “rolling schedule.” Beginning in 2002, organizations can select when their assessment takes place. So, instead of having a rigid assessment timeline that may or may not align with your organization’s fiscal year or planning/budgeting cycle, we can begin an assessment at whatever time that best works for you. All we need is six to eight weeks’ notice so that we can field a team, check conflicts of interest, and schedule Consensus and Site Visit. We believe this is more customer focused, and we also believe we are the first state program in the country to offer a rolling cycle.
  • Third, with our process, you get independence. Unlike an internal self-assessment process (which has tremendous value and is being used by dozens of Minnesota organizations), we offer a neutral, unbiased, external perspective of your organization’s performance. This objectivity helps us eliminate the “noise” often found in organizations, and helps us help your leaders identify challenges and improvement opportunities. We also take great care to ensure there are no conflicts of interest with our Evaluators or Judges and that your organization’s confidentiality is strictly maintained.
  • Fourth, with our process, you get increased accuracy. Our process has been validated and refined several times over the last decade, and our resources – our Board of Evaluators and Panel of Judges – are among the best in the country. Part of this is because our Evaluator selection and training is of very high quality and we have very seasoned, tenured volunteers. But part of it is due to the nature of our process. Since our teams are usually 6-8 Evaluators, your assessment will capitalize on the natural diversity of that team: some Evaluators will have marketing expertise, others will be financial gurus, others will be HR experts, while others will have experience in your sector or with your size organization. We believe that this diversity – this blending of perspectives, skills, and experience – helps to increase the richness of your feedback report. And, considering your organization receives some 700-1000 hours of “consulting” through this process, this may be one of the most affordable organizational health examinations available!
  • Fifth, we offer the Improvement Planning Session. We understand that the real value of an assessment is not only the learning and recognition, but perhaps more importantly, the ability to drive improvement throughout an organization. As such, we take that final step to help your organization translate the findings into action plans for improvement.
  • Sixth, we are flexible in our assessment options. While we have two standard assessment tools today, we can modify assessments to fit your needs. We realize that one size does not always “fit all,” and we are willing to work with our applicants to find an approach that works for you.
  • Finally, we have a tiered award structure. Instead of having only one or two “winners,” we provide recognition in four Award levels (Commitment, Advancement, Achievement, and Excellence) to recognize where your organization is in its journey. In this way, your organization can monitor – and celebrate – your improvement over time.

For more information on our assessment process and how it can benefit your organization, please contact the Council.

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