PENWorks, Baldrige, and Leadership

By Kruse Scholar Shelby Crespi

After allowing the dust to settle following the whirlwind of my first semester as a Kruse Scholar, my thoughts about leadership and creating change have evolved. So much of my understanding of leadership was rooted in the idea of making tangible change, but not always how exactly this change would be executed. I viewed myself as a leader that could leave something that could be felt and touched - leaving evidence - as so eloquently explained by Dr. Bryan Williams, the Keynote Speak at this year’s PENworks Conference. However, such a large part of leaving behind this evidence is having an underlying structure that allows you to leave your mark.

So much of the leadership skills that we saw so many incredible organizations like Mayo Clinic and the MN Pollution Control Agency demonstrating was rooted in an underlying framework that holds everything together. This conference finally helped me to put into perspective the role of Baldrige. Just as Bianca mentioned being skeptical of this framework when she first entered her time as a Kruse scholar, so was I. What could a manual tell me that being in tune with the community can’t? Hearing the stories of how exactly people treated Baldrige at the PENworks conference helped to understand that Baldrige is not a manual of “how to do things in an organization,” but instead a living document that very much moves in rhythm with the ebb and flow of an organization. When the waves get rough, Baldrige gives us something to anchor ourselves in and weather that storm. (Please excuse the cheesy cliché, but it’s really true.) Baldrige is not a prescriptive problem solver, but a school of thought that demands an organization be honest and self-aware about the populations it serves, it capacity, where they are weak, and where they are strong all with the goal of improving efficiency and capacity through effective management techniques. This all ultimately improves services provided to our beneficiaries whether they are students, patients, clients, or other organizations.

Like Dr. Williams described, Baldrige helps to find the balance between the workplace that always has breakfast burritos and company outings, but cannot meet company goals and the organization that works employees into the ground and meets all productivity goals, but drives away burnt out and fed up employees quickly. Baldrige brings to life the ideal that we can have a breakfast burrito friendly and high efficiency work environment. Baldrige is not meant to be the overt means of operation that dictates exactly how to run the company, but it does force you to be honest about whether a company trip to a Twins game is time and well spent. It forces you to truly consider what the returns for the community are regarding making every decision. I believe that it is the self-reflective component, the questions, that many are fearful of when considering the introduction of the Baldrige Framework into their organization. It forces you to face the fact that you might be too much of the of the “friend manager” or too much of the “dictator manager” --which no one who thinks they have been effectively managing ever wants to hear. However, the best way to tackle these issues is with an effective and honest framework, and I now know that this framework for this task is Baldrige.

After PENworks, my skepticism has been addressed and my questions answered. Seeing how Baldrige has been implemented and how it is improving services to the community’s most vulnerable people, especially Doug Parks’ work at Mayo Clinic, was exactly what I needed to see. Baldrige fosters inspired leadership and innovation in the workplace. Effective organizational management has improved services to the community and that is a major driver for meeting health goals. As this first year as a Kruse Scholar comes to a close, I have a renewed understanding of my goals and my future role in using the Baldrige Framework to promote goals and actions that contribute to improving the health at the community level.

Read more about Shelby Crespi here

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