Magazine September/October 2015

Spotlight: In Pursuit of Excellence

September/October 2015 Issue

The Arkansas Governor’s Quality Award allows companies to identify strengths and learn about new growth opportunities. The 2015 recipients will be announced Sept. 15.

Photography courtesy of Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce
and Baldor Electric co.


Top photo: Leaders in Excellence – Baldor Electric Co. received many development opportunities after winning the Governor’s Quality Award.


Applying for the Arkansas Governor’s Quality Award last year allowed officials at Baldor Electric Co. in Fort Smith to identify their strengths and to seek opportunities for improvement. And, winning the top award took it all a few steps further.

“The process for applying, the initial training by the Arkansas governor’s team, the collaborative preparation of the extensive submission by the Baldor team and the intense on-site assessment of how well the model is integrated into our company all provided a wealth of learning for our organization,” said Myla Petree, director of quality at Baldor, a member of the power and automation technologies collective, ABB Group. The company received the Governor’s Quality Award for Performance Excellence in 2014.

On Sept. 15, a new class of Arkansas organizations will understand the benefits that past award recipients have experienced when the 2015 Governor’s Quality Award winners are announced.

Sue Weatter, program director of the Governor’s Quality Award and executive director of Arkansas Institute for Performance Excellence, which administers the award in partnership with the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, said the program is not a competition because multiple companies may win at each of the four award levels: Challenge, Commitment, Achievement and Governor’s Award for Performance Excellence.

Instead, the growth and success of an organization is measured, and organizations may continue to pursue higher award levels in subsequent years. For example, two other organizations — Conway Regional Health System in Conway and J.V. Manufacturing Co., Inc. in Springdale — received the top honor of Performance Excellence in 2014. Twenty-eight organizations received other award levels last year.

Even though multiple companies may receive awards, the application and assessment processes can be rigorous.

“Each award application is assessed by a team of examiners — professionals from across Arkansas — who volunteer to serve,” Weatter said. “Examiners receive training from AIPE and can spend 50 to 100 hours assessing an application and determining award level. A one-day site visit is optional at the Achievement Award level. A two-and-a-half day [visit] is required at the Governor’s level. A panel of judges reviews the award-level decision of the examiner teams before applicants are notified.”

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Organizations are assessed in leadership, strategy, customer focus, workforce focus, knowledge management, operations, results and more.

Award criteria follow the framework of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, established by Congress in 1987 to commemorate the former U.S. Secretary of Commerce.
“At the end of the award cycle, each applicant receives a feedback report with strengths and opportunity for improvement from the team of examiners who assessed their application,” Weatter said. “The feedback report can be used for strategic planning, gap analysis or other process-improvement methods. There are companies who apply for this award that tell me the award and recognition is good, but it’s the improvement that comes from writing the application and receiving feedback that is the real return on investment.”

According to AIPE’s website, award recipients often see improvement in stock value, income, sales, employment and assets. Recipients receive training, assessment and education in overall quality improvement, as well as public recognition and assistance in preparing for other certifications and awards, including the national quality award.

“Achieving the award complemented our strategy to continually increase the value of our products, as perceived by our customers,” Petree said.

When Baldor began its application process, Petree said she knew the company’s leadership team would benefit from the “fresh-eyes perspective” of the AIPE assessment team.
“By looking at our business in the way that is unique to the Baldrige model, we were able to identify opportunities and to enhance our processes ourselves, even before we received the final report from the assessment team,” she said.

“Participating in the process and understanding the comprehensive report from the Arkansas governor’s assessment team quickly validated the things we do very well,” she continued. “The Baldor team also learned key areas where we could further strengthen our business model, based on a universally recognized model for world-class quality, the Baldrige criteria. Going through the submission process brought top leadership in our organization together and aligned expectations around key ways we can positively shape our business.”

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