Performance Excellence Network Recognizes Four Organizations

2020 Performance Excellence Awards Presented at PENworks 2021 Online Conference

ST. PAUL, Minn., September 24, 2021 – The Performance Excellence Network (PEN) honors four recipients of the 2020 Performance Excellence Award.  The Award is based on the Baldrige Framework and is the culmination of a rigorous evaluation of an organization’s management and performance system.  The evaluation criteria consider leadership, strategic planning, customer-related processes, measurement and knowledge management, workforce, and operations, and recognize organizations that are systematically improving results.

The organizations receiving the Award are: River’s Edge Hospital (St. Peter, Achievement Level); South Dakota Department of Transportation (Pierre, Achievement Level); Apple Autos (Apple Valley, Commitment Level); and Central Minnesota Community of Excellence (St. Cloud, Commitment Level).  There have been 150 organizations recognized since 1991 by this program.

While the Award has been given to organizations for 30 years, Central Minnesota is the first community to receive recognition in our region, using the principles of excellence to improve community outcomes related to population health, educational attainment, economic vitality, and quality of life.

Accepting the Award on behalf of Central Minnesota was Jodi Gertken, Community Wellness Program Director at St. Cloud-based CentraCare: “We are excited to incorporate the Baldrige Excellence Framework into our community alignment work, keeping us disciplined and accountable as we believe this will be the secret ingredient of our community’s sustainable success.”

All four recipients, plus two from co-host Wisconsin Center for Performance Excellence, were recognized at PENworks 2021, an online conference held today.  The Awards were presented during a ceremony attended by over 300 local leaders from across a four-state region.

Said Brian Lassiter, president/CEO of the Performance Excellence Network: “As we continue to navigate significant challenges, these four Award recipients have demonstrated a commitment to improving their approaches, aligning their strategies, and optimizing their resources to serve their customers, their workforce, and other stakeholders.  They are deserving of recognition in any year, but even more so, given the circumstances.  I imagine they will also more successfully navigate the challenges and creating a better future because of their efforts.”

“Our work toward continuous improvement doesn’t stop with this honor of being recognized at the Achievement Level,” says Joel Jundt, Secretary, South Dakota Department of Transportation. “We are focused on the need to continually implement and evaluate systematic processes across our department. It is because of the hard work and dedication of our nearly 1,000 SDDOT employees that we can achieve our mission of efficiently providing a safe and effective public transportation system in the state of South Dakota.”

Steve Grove, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development joined the celebration, adding: “There’s never been a more important time to invest in our people and in how to get results.  I’m glad you gathered together to share ideas and celebrate your successes and momentum.”

The conference featured more than 25 local, regional, and national speakers from all types of organizations, each sharing best practices and methods to improve leadership, customer focus, workforce engagement and capability, and operational effectiveness.  Of those speakers, five were from Baldrige Award recipient organizations, the nation’s highest performing organizations: Gerry Agnes, CEO, Elevations Credit Union (CO); John Chessare, president & CEO, GBMC Healthcare System (MD); Scott Frisch, EVP & COO, AARP (DC); John Kueven, SVP & President, Wellstar Paulding Hospital (GA); and Kelsey May, CEO, MESA Products (OK).

The other three keynotes each shared methods for building winning teams, navigating change and making innovation systematic, and envisioning and responding to future opportunities: Joe Nayquonabe, CEO Corporate Ventures & Commissioner of Corporate Affairs, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe; Deb Reuben, Founder/CEO, TomorrowZone; and Ross Bernstein, Speaker & Author.

About Performance Excellence Network

The Performance Excellence Network was founded in 1987 by the Minnesota Legislature and Governor Rudy Perpich, and was spun off into a private 501(c)3 nonprofit two years later. PEN advances improvement and performance excellence within organizations, individuals and communities. It helps leaders identify strengths and improvement opportunities, and it builds networks that bring information, resources, knowledge and best practices to organizations desiring to improve. PEN serves over 200 members and organizations in Minnesota and the Dakotas. The Performance Excellence Award is given in four levels: Commitment, Advancement, Achievement, and Excellence. For more information, go to

About Apple Autos

Apple Autos is a 5-location, 8-brand automotive dealership serving the south Twin Cities Metro.  Apple has nearly 600 employees and is committed to customer enthusiasm, employee satisfaction, financial performance, marketing competitiveness, and ongoing improvement.  For more information:

About Central Minnesota Community of Excellence

The Central Minnesota Communities of Excellence initiative focuses on the three-county region surrounding the St. Cloud area.  It’s goal is to improve population health, educational attainment, economic vitality, and quality of life for the community.  For more information:

About River’s Edge Hospital

River’s Edge is a Critical Access Hospital that provides a range of in- and outpatient services, specializing in orthopedics.  With about 200 employees, River’s Edge has 25 beds.  For more information:

About South Dakota Department of Transportation

With a team of about 1000 employees, the DOT is responsible for the maintenance and operation of the 7800 miles of state highway.  The mission of the South Dakota Department of Transportation is to efficiently provide a safe and effective public transportation system. For more information:

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