Influential Voices: Government Quality

This post is in memory of Ed Thompson. Ed was the two-time Mayor of Tomah, WI, and a former Gubernatorial candidate in Wisconsin. When I was the Program Chair for the ASQ La Crosse-Winona Section, I invited Ed to speak to our section about quality and the government. Paul Borowski’s post on the subject brought back memories of that meeting and a story that Ed shared with us.

An employee of Tomah failed to do his work. In an ordinary situation, this may not be such a big deal, but in this case it was – as a result of the employee’s negligence, the city lost some funding that it needed. Ed fired the employee. The employee filed a complaint with the union, and was reinstated when Ed left office. Even though proper channels had been followed Ed was unable to fire an incompetent employee. In general, I do not have an issue with unions, but this anecdotal story is just a hint at some of the issues that rules that protect the status quo in government can create when exercised. There has to be a path forward that protects the rights of the indivdiduals while allowing the government the ability to manage employees appropriately. That does not appear to have been in place in Tomah at the time that Ed was the mayou.

On the other hand, I see a lot of work being done at the county and local level that is done quickly, efficiently, and sometimes on a shoe string. They may be using quality tools without even knowing it, because a lot of the methods and messages are things that just make sense.

As customers of our government, we can certainly ask for change, something the Occupy! movement is currently doing in the U.S. But can we drive this change? Realistically, if a change is going to be made, it needs to be owned and driven internally. It may need customer feedback, for example when looking to improve transactions with the customer, assessing the voice of the customer would be a valid input. The government needs to create an environment that drives, sustains, rewards and supports continuous improvement.

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The future of Baldrige

When I first read Paul’s post on the Baldrige award and the fiscal commission proposal to de-fund the Malcome Baldrige Performance Excellence program, I have to admit that my initial reaction to the issue was similar to that of one of those who commented on Paul’s post, that every special interest would be looking to defend their piece of the budget pie.

The bigger picture look, however, is that the Baldrige criteria are being used to help organizations improve their performance, and this can give US businesses a competitive advantage. As noted on the website, “The Baldrige Program’s mission is to improve the competitiveness and performance of U.S. organizations.” Our local ASQ section is always able to draw a good audience when we have someone speaking on a Baldrige-related topic, and for a very good reason: the use of the criteria is not exclusive to those who seek recognition through the Baldrige Award or a state quality organization. Anyone who uses the criteria can benefit from them. This is an investment in the future, especially considering how the criteria have been embraced by healthcare and educational institutions, not just the traditional manufacturing sector.

How do you keep your organization competitive?