the ceo magazine, organizational culture,
Kay Kendall, CEO & Principal, BaldrigeCoach

The Baldrige National Quality Award is the nation’s only Presidential award for performance excellence. It is given to organizations that demonstrate sustained excellence across a variety of measures.  Having worked with 19 recipients as well as recipients of the top level awards from Baldrige-based state and regional programs, we have come to appreciate the leadership that guides these organizations to these achievements.

We interviewed more than 50 executives from more than 30 organizations that represented all sectors, of various sizes, some unionized and others not, and located across the country.  We wanted to identify what allowed these leaders of such disparate organizations to be able to develop such strong workforce engagement that produced high levels of customer loyalty and strong financial and market place performance.

Once all of the interviews were completed and we reviewed our notes, what struck us was that fact that every leader had talked about the culture of his or her organization.  But we had never asked a single question about culture!  These leaders described an intentional approach to creating and reinforcing the culture they wanted.  They emphasized the importance of ensuring that every employee felt a strong alignment with the organization’s vision, mission, and values.  They understood the importance of personally serving as role models for the values.

What’s the culture of your organization?  Is it characterized by engaged employees?

Do you genuinely believe that your employees are your organization’s greatest assets, or are they a source of frustration that you’d gladly let someone else deal with?

Are your organization’s values evident in the behaviors you see every day, or are they merely laminated badge holders and posters on your conference room walls?

What are the ways that you personally demonstrate your commitment to the values?  Do you hold your other senior leaders to the same standard?

What was encouraging to us as we talked with these executives was that it was clear that leaders can change the culture of an organization – even an organization with a culture of entitlement.  It wasn’t easy, and it took time.  But leaders who clearly identified the type of culture they wanted their organizations to have; created or reshaped the vision, mission, and values; and ensured that every employee could identify how he or she contributed to them, ultimately developed their desired culture.

About the Author

Kay Kendall is the CEO and principal of BaldrigeCoach, and co-author with Glenn Bodinson, FACHE of LEADING THE MALCOLM BALDRIGE WAY:  How World Class Leaders Align Their Organizations To Deliver Exceptional Results.  From 2002 through 2005, Kay served on the Panel of Judges for the Malcom Baldrige National Quality Program after serving as an Examiner and Senior Examiner for the program for six years.  She continues to serve as an Alumni for the program.  Kay has facilitated examiner training for the Baldrige program since 1998, as well as for other Baldrige-based programs. 

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