The Silver Bullet: 46 Ways to Drive Organizational Excellence (Part 2)

  1. A Message from the President:The Silver Bullet: 46 Ways to Drive Organizational Excellence (Part 2)
  2. Network News and Events
    • PEN Presents Benedictine Health System with Highest Award, Celebrates Successful PENworks 2013
    • Making Ethical Behavior Part of Your Culture (Rochester) 06/04
    • Create a Great Customer-Inspired Experience (Minneapolis) 06/06
    • Making Your Message Stick: Brain-Based Presentation Design and Delivery (St. Paul) 06/11

    • No Frequency, No Repetition, No Problem: Improving Processes for Knowledge Workers.” (St. Paul) 06/12
    • The Principles of Performance Excellence: Baldrige 101-201 Workshops (Twin Cities) 06/18
    • Lean Six Sigma Forum (Shakopee) 07/31
    • No Twin Ports PEN June, July August — See You 9/18! (Twin Ports)

  3. Partner Events and News
    • How to Stay Energized in a Changing World — MHQP (Minnetonka) 05/30
    • Saying No Without Damaging Relationships — PMI (St. Paul) 06/11
    • ISO Powers Your Business — Enterprise Minnesota (Richfield) 06/12

    • South Central College Announces Upcoming Courses; Network Members Get 10% Discount — South Central College (Mankato)

    A Message From the President: The Silver Bullet: 46 Ways to Drive Organizational Excellence (Part 2)

Last month, I shared 34 best practices that have been demonstrated to promote high performance in organizations. I labeled them the “silver bullet” for achieving and sustaining performance excellence – they represent best practices in customer focus, workforce engagement, process improvement, and organizational measurement (to see the column, visit

This month, I’ll share another 12 best practices that can instantly help your organization improve its performance. I’ll also offer a tool to help your organization improve its results – a complimentary gift to PEN members. So I hope you can invest 10 minutes to see how your organization can reach higher levels of excellence…

As I mentioned last month, there are six general things that leading organizations – organizations that are at the top in their industries or markets – do. I think you’ll agree that:

5) High performing, world class organizations plan for the future. They focus on their changing environment; systematically address strategic challenges; ensure adequate resources to accomplish key goals; and deploy, measure, and adjust plans as needed.

However, (effective) strategic planning is hard. As I referenced in a newsletter column a couple of years ago, about 70-90% of business strategies fail, which has a huge impact on organizational results (from a Digineer study, January 2010):

  • Decreased employee commitment, 67%
  • Lost Market Opportunities, 53%
  • Decreased Revenue, 53%
  • Increased Costs, 39%
  • Increased Cycle Times, 28%
  • Decreased Customer Loyalty, 28%
  • Lost Market Share, 28%.

Here are some best practices in strategic planning:

  • Understand your organizational environment – your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in terms of changing market and customers’ needs, shifts in technology, competition, regulations, and risks.
  • Identify your strategic challenges, strategic advantages (marketplace benefits that ensure future success), and core competencies (areas of expertise/strength that are difficult to imitate and create a sustainable competitive advantage). And then determine strategic objectives that address your challenges or leverage your advantages/competencies. Strategic objectives should be measurable, outcome-oriented results the organization must ACHIEVE to be successful in the future (they are NOT action plans). They should be challenging, but realistic.
  • Develop action plans that align with strategic objectives. Action plans should include the details of resource commitments and time horizons for accomplishment. Deploy them throughout the organization, assigning ownership and accountability for completion.
  • Involve all key stakeholders in the development of your plans. It increases buy-in, develops stronger plans, and assists in ownership for implementation.
  • Determine resources (human, financial/budget) AFTER you establish direction (most organizations do it the other way around).
  • Track the achievement and effectiveness of action plans, and adjust plans as environmental factors dictate. Project your organization’s performance as well as your competitors (so as to see a path forward and to have milestones that facilitate adjustments when plans are not on track).
  • Design and innovate work systems that relate to and capitalize on your core competencies. “Work systems” refers to how work gets accomplished (through workforce, suppliers/partners, contractors, collaborators to produce and deliver products and services). In the context of planning, great companies will systematically determine what they choose to outsource to external resources and what they choose to retain internally due to core competency, intellectual property, efficient and cost, or other factors.

There are many effective planning processes (Hoshin Planning, large-scale change, catch-ball techniques, balance scorecard, and many others). But the key is to understand your environment; set strategy to address challenges and leverage advantages; and deploy, measure, and adjust plans. The role of organizational planning rests with its leaders…

6) High performing, world class organizations have visionary leaders. Leaders’ actions should guide and sustain the organization – they should create an environment for performance improvement, accomplishment of mission and strategic objectives, innovation, high performance, organizational and workforce learning, and agility.

Why is leadership important? Simply: effective leadership is the single biggest predictor of organizational excellence. Period. Quite a bit of research backs that up.

Here are some best practices in leadership:

  • Be personally involved in setting vision and values and in deploying and reinforcing them throughout the organization. Be personally involved in creating a focus on action, on balancing value for customers and the organization, on rewarding/recognizing performance that supports high performance.
  • Create an environment for the achievement of your mission, improvement of organizational performance, performance leadership, organizational and personal learning, innovation and succession planning.
  • Be personally involved – and create systematic processes – to ensure ethical behavior on all stakeholder transactions. Include ethics in training, communications, measurement, performance appraisals.
  • Ensure effective, frank two-way communication with the workforce. Use various media/vehicles for different messages and for different workforce groups. Measure effectiveness of communication to see if messages are received (correctly).
  • Ensure effective governance – accountability, transparency, and protection of stakeholder interests. Evaluate leadership (senior leaders and governance board) effectiveness.
  • Systematically address impact on society of your services and operations, and anticipate public concerns with current and future services and operations.
  • Support and strengthen key communities, focusing on areas related to your core competencies and strategic objectives. Consider societal well-being – environmental, social, and economic systems – as part of your strategy and daily operations.


So there you have it – the six things that organizations need to do in order to achieve and sustain performance excellence:

  • You need to focus on customers – to listen and anticipate their needs, to build relationships and engage customers so that they are committed to your organization, are loyal, and are willing to advocate for and recommend your organization to others.
  • You need to engage your workforce so that they are satisfied, capable, and fully motivated to reach high performance, to serve customers, and to achieve organization objectives.
  • You need to focus on your processes so that you can optimize your resources and deliver products, services, and programs that satisfy – fully satisfy – customer needs and create value for the enterprise.
  • You need to measure performance, both at the day-to-day operating level as well as the strategic level – ensuring that facts (rather than intuition) become the basis for organizational decision making and improvement.
  • You need to set and deploy strategy – to set a course for the future, a grand vision for the organization.
  • You need to have effective leadership that sets vision; aligns, guides, and manages the organization; focuses on workforce, customers, and partners; communicates effectively; and ensures accountability, transparency, ethical behavior, support of key communities.

Incidentally, these six things are captured in the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, as set of best practices that change every two years by studying organizations with demonstrated high performance outcomes, and incorporating their best practices into future Criteria against which other organizations can gauge performance. As such, these Criteria have become the “leading edge of validated management practices.”

Last week, we hosted our 26th annual conference – PENworks 2013 – at which 23 organizations presented their best practices for achieving organizational excellence. For more information, see article 2 below, and for presenter slides and a link to keynote videos, visit

So if those 46 best practices all work, and if all of them are important in driving organizational excellence, then what’s the most important to ensure your organization’s success?

(Pause, crickets chirp.)

I believe that’s where many organizations need some help. You see, I believe that ALL of these things are important to an organization’s success. But organizations are highly complex – they are a system of literally hundreds of processes that fit together to create something of value (presumably) for stakeholders. Therefore, organizational leaders sometimes struggle to understand how the system is working: leaders sometimes fail to cut through the complexity in their system to understand where they have strengths on which they can build, and where they have opportunities or gaps on which they need to focus.

That’s where PEN’s core service – a comprehensive organizational assessment – can help leaders identify and prioritize opportunities for improvement, help leaders optimize their resources and maximize their performance outcomes, and help leaders help their organizations achieve the highest performance possible.

There’s the silver bullet…the secret sauce: it’s about managing your organization as a system. It’s not easy. But it’s no longer an option. After all, can you name any organization that doesn’t have to focus on its customers (patients, students, stakeholders), doesn’t have to engage its workforce, doesn’t have to set a direction for the future and align resources towards achieving that vision; doesn’t have to measure performance and make course corrections; doesn’t have to manage and improve its processes so that value is created for its stakeholders and the organization can sustain its vitality? ALL organizations need to manage and improve ALL of these areas – it’s really only a matter of how WELL they manage the system.

So I’m going to offer a “deal you cannot refuse.” PEN is going to offer a FREE mini-organizational assessment to the first 3 organizations who respond (or if you’re already using the framework, a $900 credit on your next assessment). It’s on-line and fully automated, and it will give you the voice of your people – not an employee opinion survey or an employee satisfaction survey, but an employee perception survey of how your organization is performing. It’s a couple of dozen questions, takes about 30-45 minutes per employee to complete (anonymously), can be given to a sampling of your people, and it will give you insights into how your enterprise is performing – on your strengths, on your opportunities for improvement on which you might focus your energy and resources.

This offer is completely, 100% free for member organizations of the Performance Excellence Network (an $1800 value). Since it is designed for organizations, we request only organizations of two or more employees respond rather than individuals or sole proprietors. It can, however, be administered to parts of an organization (department, unit, team, division, site). For more information, contact me at The first 3 to respond are free; any beyond those three are eligible for the member discounted rate ($900).

Also, if you’re interested in learning best practices from any of the 23 organizations that are on the journey to performance excellence visit

Achieving organizational excellence is difficult; sustaining it is even more challenging. The journey to excellence never ends.

Want to participate in a discussion on this topic?? Visit our LinkedIn group and/or our blog our to post a comment!

Yours in Performance Excellence,
Brian S. Lassiter
President, Performance Excellence Network (formerly Minnesota Council for Quality)

PEN Presents Benedictine Health System with Highest Award, Celebrates Successful PENworks 2013

The Performance Excellence Network (PEN) has awarded Duluth-based Benedictine Health System (BHS) with the 2012 Minnesota Performance Excellence Award, Excellence Level. The award, framed from the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, is designed to help organizations assess their processes, determine areas of improvement, and put a plan into place to drive improvement. The Award was presented May 15 at PENworks 2013, PEN’s annual conference and celebration.

This is the first time since 1997 that PEN has named any organization in its three-state service area an award at the Excellence Level.

In addition to BHS, PEN recognized eight organizations for successfully completing the Baldrige-based self-assessment, also designed for organizational improvement. These organizations are: Alexandra House, Blaine, Minn.; Austin Public Schools, Austin, Minn.; Merrick Community Service, St. Paul, Minn.; MPC, Mendota Heights, Minn.; Project for Pride in Living (PPL), Minneapolis; Seagate, Bloomington, Minn.; South Dakota Department of Transportation, Pierre, S.D.; and Stewartville School District, Stewartville, Minn.

“Organizations go through the assessment process to identify areas of improvement and assess progress over the long term,” explained Brian Lassiter, president of PEN. “Once an organization goes through the rigorous stages of process improvement, they often see large gains in financial results, customer satisfaction, workforce engagement and operational performance. We congratulate Benedictine Health System for its Excellence Level recognition, and want to also recognize the eight organizations for successfully completing their self-assessments.”

“On behalf of all 6,000 BHS employees who are committed each day to caring for others, we are pleased to accept this important recognition,” said Dale Thompson, CEO, BHS. “Quality long-term care cannot come from regulation and inspection; it comes from a committed group of individuals with a passion for excellence. The Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence has given us a blueprint for excellence and continuous improvement, and we thank the Performance Excellence Network for its assistance, insights and support in our quality journey.”

In addition to BHS, PENworks 2013 featured the best practices of 22 other local, regional, and national speakers. The conference drew over 200 leaders and professionals for both days.

“I would like to sincerely thank the PENworks 2013 conference committee: Pat O’Boyle, Beth Neu, Jennifer Burmeister, Janice Grizzell, Mike Gratz, Heather Macleod, Sharon Boerbon Hanson, Sylvia Rolfs, Michael Garner, Dick Lee, Ken Rich, and Jarod Schmidt,” says Lassiter. “This is the first year we’ve used a full committee to plan and host the conference, and it shows. I offer my deepest appreciation for making the conference our best ever.

“I’d also like to thank our 23 sponsors this year, particularly Spangler Design Team (Platinum), Seagate (Platinum), Aveda (Gold), and RCTC (Gold). Their support made possible a tremendous forum for learning, sharing, and networking.”

Slides and videos (eventually) will be posted at

And mark your calendars for PENworks 2014! Dates are set for April 23-24, 2014, also at the Earle Brown Center in Brooklyn Center.

Making Ethical Behavior Part of Your Culture (Rochester) 06/04

How can leaders and workers ensure that all members of an organization meet high ethical standards?  Ethics aren’t just polices to enforce…they’re a component of your culture.

The Performance Excellence Network (formerly the Minnesota Council for Quality) is pleased to welcome Philip Zeccardi and Michael Garner, both of Cardinal of Minnesota, to our June 4 PEN: “Making Ethical Behavior Part of Your Culture.”

Phil and Michael will share their organization’s methods to shape and sustain a workplace culture that not only encourages, but requires ethical behavior.  Cardinal of Minnesota is a residential provider for individuals with varying types of disabilities and is based in Rochester, MN. Cardinal has participated in three Baldrige-based assessments through PEN.

The session is June 4 from 7:30-9:00 AM RCTC.  No cost for members; $30 for non-members.

Space is limited. Please register by contacting (or 507-213-8132).

Create a Great Customer-Inspired Experience (Minneapolis) 06/06

A great customer experience begins with a solid understanding of your customers.  But it also requires that your employees use those insights to build programs that your competitors cannot duplicate.

The Performance Excellence Network (formerly the Minnesota Council for Quality) is pleased to welcome Jim Tincher, Senior Business Advisor with Satisfaction Management Systems, to our June 6 PEN: “Create a Great Customer-Inspired Experience.”

Jim will share the three keys to build a great customer-inspired experience for your business, and you will pick up actionable steps you can implement literally tomorrow!  A great customer experience leads to enhanced loyalty and significantly higher financial returns.  Join this discussion to learn more!

The discussion is from 8:00-9:00 a.m. on June 6 (networking and continental breakfast begin at 7:30 a.m.) at MCTC, 1501 Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis (near the Basilica).  Admission to PEN is FREE for Network members; $15 for partner organizations; $30 for the public.  Space is limited so register today by emailing

Making Your Message Stick: Brain-Based Presentation Design and Delivery (St. Paul) 06/11

What will make your next presentation different from all the others vying for your audience’s attention?  For many people, designing and delivering a compelling presentation that contains a clear call to action can be daunting.  But there is a way to next presentation’s message “stick”…

The Performance Excellence Network is pleased to announce a special six-hour workshop June 11 facilitated by Jack Mateffy of Mateffy & Co: “Making Your Message Stick:  Brain-Based Presentation Design and Delivery.”

Based on neuroscience research, this workshop will show you how to design and deliver a presentation around how adult brains process and store important messages.  In addition, the workshop will answer your questions on how technology and the quickening pace of life are changing the brain’s structure, attention span, and learning capacities.  Whether you’re making a marketing pitch, reporting the results of a project, conducting an informational meeting, or facilitating a training course, this workshop will help you:

  • Understand how technology is changing our brain chemistry and structure.
  • Design presentations that inspire and influence.
  • Trigger meaningful reflection, peripheral perception and metacognition.
  • Set a stimulating pace for your audience.
  • Apply a formula for effective presentation delivery.
  • Guide participants to emotional and cognitive outcomes.
  • Appeal to both introverts and extroverts.
  • Incorporate five elements of effective adult learning.
  • Prepare your audience to receive your message.
  • Involve the audience by using interviews, characters and case studies.
  • Make emotional connections when telling stories.
  • Create aesthetically pleasing materials, slides, and display pieces.
  • Enhance understanding by adding music, video segments, and props.
  • Set the stage for engaging moments of insight and attention density.
  • Use multiple memory and neural pathways to hold mental real estate.
  • Inspire people to quickly recall you and your call to action.

The workshop is Tuesday, June 11 from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM (registration and continental breakfast 8:30) in St. Paul (location TBD).  Cost is $225 for members, $450 for non-members.

To register, email  Don’t miss this unique and valuable discussion.

No Frequency, No Repetition, No Problem: Improving Processes for Knowledge Workers.” (St. Paul) 06/12

All processes are different – those that are from highly repeated, predictable production environments should be designed, improved, and managed in a different way than those that are in a highly variable, knowledge-worker environment.  But many organizations try to apply production approaches to knowledge-based processes without considering the differences in context, which is why many process implementations don’t last.

The Performance Excellence Network (formerly the Minnesota Council for Quality) is pleased to welcome Dick Lee, Principal, High-Yield Methods, to our June 12 PEN: “No Frequency, No Repetition, No Problem: Improving Processes for Knowledge Workers.”

Dick will explore the differences in trying to improve process design and performance in highly variable, knowledge-based roles and how those different from repetitious, predictable processes.  He’ll share tips and best practices for designing knowledge-based processes, and he’ll offer examples of successful process design from several organizations.

The discussion is from 8:00-9:00 a.m. on June 12 (networking and continental breakfast begin at 7:30 a.m.) at Metro State University, 700 E 7th Street, downtown St. Paul.  Admission to PEN is FREE for Network members; $15 for partner organizations; $30 for the public.  Space is limited so register today by emailing

The Principles of Performance Excellence: Baldrige 101-201 Workshops (Twin Cities) 06/18

Note — this workshop is required as a requisite to becoming an Evaluator with our Performance Excellence Award.


The need to improve your organization’s performance has perhaps never been greater. This “new normal” we’ve been enjoying the last few years has created a renewed need for improvement and systemic change within all organizations: customers expect more, competent workers are growing scarce, and competition is intensifying. But – with the complexity of organizations – where does one start? How do you know on which processes to focus? And how to do you sustain the improvement over time?

The Performance Excellence Network (formerly the MN Council for Quality) is pleased to announce two new half-day workshops: The Principles of Performance Excellence: Baldrige 101 and Baldrige 201. The next offerings will be Tuesday, June 18 (Twin Cities) — Baldrige 101 (overview workshop) from 8:30-12:00, and Baldrige 201 (Baldrige Criteria discussion) workshop 1:00-5:00.

The Baldrige framework provides a systems perspective for continuous improvement and advancing performance excellence. The Baldrige “Criteria for Performance Excellence” reflects the leading edge of validated management practice, against which any organization can measure itself to identify and prioritize improvement opportunities. The Criteria have been accepted nationally (in fact, internationally) as the standard for achieving and sustaining organizational excellence, and represents a common language for communication and sharing of best practices within and across organizations.

The Baldrige 101 morning session will provide participants with an overview of the Baldrige Program and a discussion of how the Baldrige framework can benefit your organization (or division, department). You’ll learn how organizations like Cargill, Mayo Clinic, Ritz Carlton, and many nonprofits, schools, and governmental agencies are using the framework to improve performance and outcomes. The workshop will also provide some high-level Baldrige-based tools that can be brought back into your organization.

The afternoon Baldrige 201 session, facilitated by Dr. Mark Blazey from New York, will offer a deeper dive into the validated Criteria for Performance Excellence.  This session is intended for those who want to learn more about how this framework helps organizations achieve and sustain high performance; it is also intended for those who plan to become 2013 Evaluators for our MN Performance Excellence Award.

Note that our Performance Excellence Award Evaluator Training is changing in 2013, and a prerequisite is to be “current” in the Criteria for Performance Excellence.  Attending either location satisfies that requirement.

Cost for the full day (both Baldrige 101-201 workshops) is $225 for members ($450 for non-members).  Cost for the half-day is $150 for members ($300 for non).  One copy of the Baldrige “Criteria for Performance Excellence” book ($25 value) is included, as are meals.  Those becoming third year (or beyond) Evaluators have no charge for the afternoon.

To register, email with your name, affiliation, and membership status.

Lean Six Sigma Forum (Shakopee) 07/31

The Performance Excellence Network is pleased to announce the next Lean Six Sigma Forum on Wednesday, July 31 from 8AM to 12PM, hosted by Seagate in Shakopee.

The Forum will focus on Seagate’s use of Lean Six Sigma, showing how Seagate has integrated the tools with other improvement frameworks like ISO and, more recently, its pursuit of performance excellence using Baldrige.  Seagate will share the lessons it has learned, the results it has achieved, and some actual tools it has developed in its deployment efforts.  After a Q&A discussion, participants will then share in small groups their best practices (Lean, Six Sigma, and other improvement tools), their lessons learned, and seek any guidance and ideas from other organizations using similar tools.

Offered in partnership with the Joseph M. Juran Quality Leadership Center at the Carlson School of Management, the Lean Six Sigma Forum provides a means for leaders and practitioners from organizations using Lean, Six Sigma, and/or other techniques to share knowledge and best practices on successfully using process improvement methods. The Forum is open to the public, but there is a capacity constraint at our host facility.

We look forward to seeing you then!

Cost is $125 for members of PEN ($250 for non-members). To register, email

How to Stay Energized in a Changing World — MHQP (Minnetonka) 05/30

The MN Healthcare Quality Professionals, an alliance partner of the Performance Excellence Network, is pleased to announce a special session: “How to Stay Energized in a Changing World.”  The session will be held May 30, and will be facilitated by Gary Risberg, a warm, funny motivational speaker who has addressed over 500,000 people in the USA, Canada, Australia & Great Britain.

These days everyone is being asked to do more with less. This program teaches people:

  • Proven techniques to reduce stress
  • Ways to relax under pressure
  • How to achieve more balance in their lives
  • How To Stay Energized in a Changing World

PEN members $20 (non-members $30; MHQP members free!).  May 30 at Medica in Minnetonka.  Information and registration at

Saying No Without Damaging Relationships — PMI (St. Paul) 06/11

The Minnesota Chapter of Project Management Institute (PMI), an alliance partner of the Performance Excellence Network, is pleased to announce its next breakfast session: “Saying No Without Damaging Relationships: Collaboration in a Cross-Functional World.”  The session will be held June 11, and will be facilitated by John Shulman is a world renowned expert on negotiation, conflict resolution, leadership and collaboration.

Interested in learning proven strategies for collaborating more effectively in a world in which many project managers are being asked to do more with less? As noted in the “Saying No Without Damaging Relationships”, one of the most important collaboration skills is the ability to say “No” without damaging relationships.

As a participant, you receive tools and tips on how to handle challenging situations, such as when your colleagues on a project have already met and assigned you the most burdensome, unpleasant tasks!

Based on approaches pioneered at the Harvard Program, “Negotiation, Collaboration in a Cross-Functional World” shares a powerful 3-step model you can use to organize key information and influence your colleagues to collaborate more effectively.

Participants engage in an interactive learning game in which they score points for themselves and their team by deciding whether to collaborate or compete with a colleague, who may in turn either collaborate or compete with them.

The session is June 11 from 7:00-8:50 AM at C 2201 Burns Ave. St. Paul, MN. 55119.  Cost is $34 ($32.30 for Network members) before May 31 (PEN members should contact for discount code).  For more information, visit

ISO Powers Your Business — Enterprise Minnesota (Richfield) 06/12

Enterprise Minnesota, a partner of the Performance Excellence Network, is pleased to announce their next upcoming event: “ISO Powers Your Business”on June 12 in Richfield.

Moderator Kent Myhrman, Enterprise Minnesota, and panelists include Bruce Roles (Elk River Machine Company), Kevin Delk (Delmar Co.), and Seth Schoenbauer (Delmar).

For more information on this and other programs, click here:

South Central College Announces Upcoming Courses; Network Members Get 10% Discount — South Central College (Mankato)

South Central College is pleased to announce their upcoming quality and performance improvement curriculum.  Network members are entitled to a 10% discount.

The following courses are scheduled soon (prices before member discount):

June 12: Problem Solving Tools & Methods, 8AM-4:30PM, N Mankato, $445

For more information, please contact Laura Hardy at 507-332-5802 or at or Tom Kammer at 507- 389-7336 or