Operations excellence awards

Are You Ready to Win An Excellence Award?

Feb. 12, 2015
Three characteristics of operations excellence winners -- plus 4 tips on how to get the most from competing.

For small children, it may be okay to give everyone a ribbon for participation. For many of them, playing with others is winning. But as people age, and competition becomes real, awards should only go to those that deserve them.

As an assessor for many manufacturing excellence award competitions, I know that some applicants are rightfully deemed deserving, and others need to redouble their efforts.

The process of applying for an award -– the IndustryWeek Best Plants, the Association for Manufacturing Excellence Award and the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program are just 3 of the better known –- can be beneficial to any manufacturer.

The process of applying for an award can be beneficial to any manufacturer. It's as if you ran the race and received coaching from Usain Bolt, win or lose.

Feedback from experts such as myself is an integral part of most application processes. It’s as if you ran the race and received coaching from Usain Bolt, win or lose.

But prior to receiving feedback, the company must ask itself hard questions as outlined by the application. A written submission describing key elements of excellence, with backup data and evidence, requires that the business take a step back and assess what it does and how it does it. That itself is an eye-opening experience for most.

No good assessor is bamboozled by fancy graphs or eloquent narrative. We know how to read an application, how to see both what is presented and what is missing, and to identify contradictions and consistencies.

Some excellence award decisions are made by assessor team desk audits without a site visit; others require on-site verification of strong applications. I much prefer to “trust but verify” on-site examination, plus the additional feedback to the applicant is invaluable.

Based on my personal experience participating in numerous excellence award assessments over the years, I want to share 3 observations that differentiate those who become recipients from those that do not.

These generalizations are NOT intended to besmirch non-recipients, but rather to augment the self-assessment process of all applicants.

  1. Recipients demonstrate continuous and expanding effort that becomes more effective over time, while non-recipients describe either shotgun or “whole enchilada” approaches that lack continuity and a business-driven framework with a visible purpose.
  2. Recipient organizations are self-aware about their limitations and how far they have to go, while non-recipients are insufficiently versed in true excellence to discern the gap they still face.
  3. Recipient organizations are well integrated across functions, bound by a common goal.  Problems are visible and so are structured, data-based efforts to address them; non-recipients continue to reflect silo behaviors, with little change from traditional management systems.

Here’s what I encourage you to do:

  1. Obtain copies of several excellence award applications and select one to use, if only as a guideline
  2. With your leadership team, discuss strengths and opportunities as you see them for each element, and as a whole.
    • Consider the 3 observations listed above in your discussions
  3. Draft an application submission report -– you will find this a great learning tool, as well as discussion instigator.
    • Internal calibration is a necessary step to collaborative progress.
  4. Decide how, and if, you want the output of this self-assessment to impact your strategy, priorities and tactics moving forward.

I’d be remiss not to encourage you to submit an application at some point. The feedback and coaching from the process is invaluable.

You may not take home a blue ribbon this year, or next, but you never will if you don’t practice hard and work with a good coach.

About the Author

Becky Morgan | President

Manufacturing businesses ranging from $100 million to $1 billion in annual sales value the advice of operations strategist Becky Morgan and her Finish Strong thinking.

With more than 25 years consulting with manufacturers, preceded by 14 years of hands-on executive responsibilities, Morgan has contributed to the success of aerospace, food, machining, assembly, electronics, tool and die, jewelry, and process industry businesses. And more.

Morgan speaks with audiences typically ranging from 35-150 attendees.

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