County productivity and quality improvement process



Update on County’s use of U.S. Senate Productivity and Quality Award Program and the Baldridge National Quality Program’s Criteria for Performance Excellence



Tucker, Elliott, Davis, Allshouse, L.,  Ralston






July 11, 2007


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At the May Board meeting, a recommendation was made to provide an update  to the Board regarding the County’s use of the national Baldridge “Criteria for Performance Excellence” and the state’s “U.S. Senate Productivity and Quality Award program models to assist the County in its quest to continuously improve its organizational performance.



Use of these performance models assists the County meet its mission to “…provide the highest level of public service consistent with the prudent use of public funds.”



Over the years, a variety of high performance organizational tools and methods have been employed by the County to improve its operations and delivery of services including:


·         the County’s strategic plan and management process

·         bi-annual citizen surveys

·         the internal employee “climate” survey processes

·         improvements to the employee performance review system

·         total rewards program

·         360 review process for County leaders and management

·         citizen-focused improvements to the County’s website

·         technology improvements, such as increased use of team-oriented Sharepoint technology

·         Board executive summary tracking and management system

·         five year financial forecasting model

·         the development of a results-oriented performance management system which includes “key performance indicators”


While these quality improvements have been quite beneficial, prior to 2005, the County lacked a consistent methodology to structure and assess its organizational improvement progress.


In 2005, the County’ Leadership Council (LC), consisting of County Executive staff and department heads, adopted Virginia’s U.S. Senate Productivity and Quality Award’s  (SPQA) framework as the County’s high performance organization (HPO) structure to frame and organize its future organizational improvements. The SPQA program is the Commonwealth’s version of the Baldridge National Quality Program Award program.  The Baldridge National Quality Award program has been in place for over 20 years and is designed to influence organizations to become high-performing ethical organizations and to recognize those that have. The Baldridge National Quality Award Program and its state counterpart provide organizations with self-assessment methodology to assist in framing, planning, and structuring their continuous improvement efforts. The Baldridge “criteria” assists organizations in delivering ever-improving value to customers and stakeholders as well improving organizational and personal learning. While the approach has a strong business focus, many federal agencies, states, local governments and school systems find the results-oriented focus of this process to be very beneficial. Chesterfield County, the City of Virginia Beach, and Prince William County are other Virginia jurisdictions that utilize the SPQA framework and approach.


The Baldridge/SPQA criterion utilizes a numerical scoring system that an organization can use to assess its progress in seven areas:

In May 2005, the County conducted its second organization-wide employee survey to obtain data regarding how employees view the County as a place to work. This survey was not only used to assess how employees viewed the County as work place, but also included questions to assess employees’ views of the County’s progress in relationship to all of the 7 SPQA categories. This tool provided the County leadership with a greater understanding of how employees viewed the organization from these perspectives.


In March 2006, based on the results of the survey, the LC used Baldridge/SPQA assessment tools to determine:


·         how well County leadership communicate with, empower, and motivate employees throughout the organization,

·          how well they encourage frank, two-way communication throughout the organization, and,

·          how well the County breaks down barriers to improve performance. 


After the assessment, the County Executive chartered teams to further study these areas and to provide recommendations to the Leadership regarding ways these areas can be improved.


After this evaluation, the County Executive also chartered a task force to develop a recommendation for consideration by the LC regarding how the County could develop a systematic approach to organizational-wide self-assessments in the future. The Task Force identified a number of benefits of Baldridge/SPQA focused self-assessments including:


1) Launching a County-wide assessment process that could be expanded/sustained over the years

2) Engagement of staff in a county-wide process

3) Improvement of cross-departmental internal communication

4) Identification of areas to improve, including the identification of potential efficiencies

5) Establishment of a systematic assessment process of the County’s HPO efforts that would be tied to an annual improvement plan

To assist the County with its self assessment and improvement processes, during the past year, Lori Allshouse, the County’s Strategic Management Coordinator, became a certified SPQA examiner and she served as a state SPQA examiner this spring.


In June 2007, the LC voted to consider an assessment across all spectrums of the HPO categories in FY 10 utilizing teams comprised of employees from all levels of the organization. The LC further acted to encourage the Baldridge-based self-assessment process in 6 departments as well as to continue these on-going efforts in the Department of Social Services. Also, in a coordinated effort, the County, several county departments, and the school system will review their strategic planning processes in relation to the Baldridge/SPQA criterion beginning in July.


In addition to the Baldridge/SPQA self-assessment processes mentioned above, the County will conduct a program review focused on evaluating the effectiveness of program delivery beginning this summer/fall. In this review, departments will identify potential adjustments to service levels as well as areas where efficiencies could be gained by changing the way the County provides services and programs. By conducting this review internally, the County will minimize its costs while it increasing its ability to and improve County operations in relationship to the Baldridge/SPQA’s Category 6 “Process Management” and Category 7 “ Results.”


Department of Social Services’ Experience with Baldridge/SPQA

In 2001, the Department of Social Services conducted its first organizational self-assessment grounded in the seven standards of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence (CPE).  Since that time, the department has conducted four additional self-assessments, each culminating in a Continuous Quality Improvement Plan (CQI Plan) that identified action steps for performance improvement.  Collecting customer data, making fact-based decisions and analyzing whether changes are systemic and saturated became standard operating procedures for the department.  Each self-assessment brought more improvements as CQI strategies were implemented and accomplished based on the seven categories.  Some improvements have been small (for example, telephone message response protocol and establishment of a complaint management process) while others were large (for example, internal and external customer satisfaction surveys and changes to increase our ability to communicate with non-English speaking individuals). Other improvements are in process including establishment and tracking of Benchmarking partners outside the social service industry, formation of a Structure for Ethical Practice for all departmental staff and creation of a Knowledge Management System.


In 2006, the Leadership Team of the Department of Social Services decided to “test” the Department’s progress in becoming a high performance organization by applying for the SPQA award, a first step toward the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.  The goal of the application was to obtain feedback from a panel of examiners trained in the criteria for Virginia and to utilize that feedback to continually improve the Department in the seven standards (with a goal to eventually achieve one of the prestigious awards).  The year-long process engaged over 50 staff in self-assessment and CQI actions and culminated in a story of the department’s efforts to improve value to its customers and improvements in overall organizational performance and capabilities.  The SPQA application was submitted in January 2007 and the department is awaiting written feedback on that application.



Use of Baldridge and SPQA criterion and methodology assists the County improve its alignment of resources with the County’s strategic goals.



Staff provides this report for information only and no Board action is requested.  Staff welcomes any comments or suggestions the Board may have regarding this information.



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