Baldrige Rapid Access Intensive – Accelerating The Journey


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highway road going up as an arrow

highway road going up as an arrow

After two full pilots, we are launching this totally new service. The two pilots have proved conclusively the value of this approach to kick starting a Baldrige journey. Developed in conjunction with Performance Excellence Northwest and two years in development, the results to date have been outstanding.

With the assistance of expert facilitators and the visual communication tools of story boarding and mind mapping, the Rapid Action Intensive will jump start your journey toward excellence. Along the way your team will learn the basic structure of the Baldrige framework, self-identify opportunities for improvement, strengths to be celebrated, and learn the comprehensive approach to excellence that Baldrige provides. It is hands on experiential learning as well as action oriented. You will come away with action items designed for excellence. You will also have the basic structure of a Baldrige application completed.

What others are saying:

We are now organizing our “nuts and bolts” team with associated workgroups focused on the Baldrige Quality Criteria. Our customer group has already begun our approach to use of social media, now in early deployment

I would highly recommend this offering to anyone seeking Baldrige or even considering a journey to excellence.

 Eileen Branscome

Chief Operations Officer, Mason General Hospital

Baldrige Rapid Access


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Accelerate the journey! 

Baldrige Rapid Access© was developed in conjunction with Performance Excellence Northwest, the regional Baldrige association This is an entirely new path toward a Baldrige journey. In development for 2 years it takes the normal 6-9 months of work to write a Baldrige application, submit it to a group of examiners, judges, and receive either a site visit or an executive briefing, down to a few weeks. We do this by engaging a small team of professional facilitators and Baldrige examiners in a process of self discovery. In this way, your organization develops its own observations of strengths and opportunities. In addition, the Baldrige framework and values are driven deeper into your organization.

For many organizations it takes 2-3 applications to begin understanding the core of the framework – Approach, Deployment, Learning, and Integration. This is lost time. This approach also mirrors what the national organization is doing but with some additional value added benefits: 1) develops internal Baldrige capacity and leadership; and 2) faster turn around from application submittal to deployed projects to improve excellence.


Social Service Nonprofits


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Developing a strategy is a critical and fairly normal part of operating a successful nonprofit. Communicating that strategy to staff, donors, and leadership is something entirely different. Strategic plans tend to be formal documents that all too often end up gathering dust on near the reception desk and then somewhere in the vaults of important documents. However, there is one simple tool that will make a strategic plan a vital document that will clearly communicate the future – A Strategy Map.

A strategy map is a one page graphical image of strategy. In graphical image it will tell the story of the organization, what it needs to be successful, what they must do to be successful, and who are they going to do it for.



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We hear all the time, “government should operate more like a business”. After consulting with government agencies now for nearly 20 years we are convinced of one thing – those who say this, are the first to back away from it when the opportunity to function like a business arises.

But there is one area where government can function like a business and when it does magic happens. This is in the area of measuring and scorecarding. We just completed a project for a large county in central Oregon. Good people running the County. Strong and improving economy. The project focused on the revenues into the Community Development Department, developing a 5 year financial plan, and creating a Balanced Scorecard to help them manage the department by fact and result.

The results are early but the opportunities are clear: managers are using data to manage people, quality, and workloads. The Commissioners, upon seeing the scorecard and early results “excited”.

This is an exciting area for Praxis Solutions and one where are experience in scorecarding, performance management, and lean can have a real impact

Financial Aid Offices


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Can lean principles change the working culture and work processes in an Office of Financial Aid. In the spring of 2014 a local community college engaged Praxis to conduct a lean kaizen event. A four day event that turned their core process (award application process) into visual value stream map. At this time it was taking 10 weeks to process an application and they phones were not being answered. Today the phones are being answered and it takes 2-3 weeks to process an application during the high volume season of June – July.

These offices are important functions of any college or university. They are often the first point of contact with a prospective student. This means the perception of the school can be set into stone before the student ever walks on campus. Students will often enroll into the school that first offers them financial aid. Thus the experience with office staff and the speed of award can be vital.

A lean engagement is a staff friendly function that creates a shared vision of the Office and how to maximize value to the student.


Applying Lean in Government


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I recently taught a series of three lean courses for a national food manufacturing and distribution company. The difference between applying lean in a government service vs applying lean in a manufacturing setting could not have been more obvious. Seeing opportunities to apply lean thinking in the manufacturing of food products was easy. A walk out to the manufacturing floor and you could see tools in the wrong place and no visual management of where they go, documents not organized for easy access, food that has to be trucked from one plant to another plant and then back to the first plant, and the plant itself not being laid out according to the flow of work process.
However, in government services, most work processes are hidden. You cannot physically see a product move along an assembly line. Instead information tends to move from one desk or one computer to another. Processes can breakdown but without a detailed analysis the problem could have happened several steps backs.
This is the value of lean kaizen events. Laying out the process along a wall on butcher paper turns the invisible process into a tangible reality. The process can be seen. Places where processes breakdown can be seen where people must handle the same piece of paper multiple times, or large batches of documents are pulled from files and lost, or where quality control check could have gone to prevent the most common errors early. Just making the process visual has a way of making the obvious known.
As another way of doing this. Besides building the traditional value stream map on a wall via butcher paper, we are thinking that another way of doing this is to lay out the process in a flat world of work stations. Turn the invisible government process into a one room assembly line. Make the process visual, then redesign the process from there. I think this could really work.

Maximize Creativity with Mind Mapping



I recently spent a day learning about Mind Mapping. I had been exposed to the concept over 20 years ago and thought it a good tool for personal and group creativity. Was I wrong, it is a fabulous tool for personal and dynamic group creativity. As a tool, it is developed and there is now software tools to assist. I purchased iMindMap and I am loving it. I see two primary value added activities for its use:

1) Strategic planning. Great tool to maximize the creative power of a small team to set strategic direction, identify objectives, tasks, and projects. The good news about iMindMap is that you can flip an icon and turn your Mind Map into a project plan and create tasks, assignments, timelines, etc.

2) organizing course outlines and structure. I am teaching a serious of courses for a local food manufacturing and distribution company on lean leadership, thinking, and practices. using Mind Mapping I was able to quickly come to the point points, identify the critical elements, and design the group activities.

Great tool for anyone interested in maximizing the power of personal and group creativity and dynamics.



Translating Muda Into Government Speak


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Does the types of waste or muda identified in lean training such as inventory, over production, and over processing translate into government “speak”? Of course they do but some translation work must be done.

When James Womack and Daniel Jones published their landmark book, Lean Thinking, they introduced a Japanese word into the manufacturing lexicon. The word is muda or what we would call waste in modern English. There are seven types of muda enumerated by the authors and the founders of lean principles. Each type of muda makes perfectly good sense in a manufacturing environment but may require some translation for a government application.

What we observe in much of lean training in government is that the language is so different that government leaders just tune out. This is not a negative hit on government leaders and workers. It is just the reality that all organizations have a unique language. So let’s look at those types of muda and see if we can make the translation. The specific example we will use in a government environment is payment of invoices and the awarding of financial aid in a college or university. Government does a lot of this. Let’s also remember the definition of muda = any activity that consumes resources but creates no value.

Over production

Producing too many parts for an assembly line is clear waste. But it also applies in a payment to grantees. Think of regulations as parts of an assembly line. If a process is designed that goes beyond what is required by a regulatory body, it has the same effect as producing too many engines for the assembly line. A State transportation agency providing federal funding to local municipalities for public transit must meet certain regulatory requirements. If errors are made penalties are the usual result. But in one agency the tendency was to error on the side of over regulation. There were so good at it, that when the feds were not sure of their own regulations, they just asked the State transportation group.


A part sitting in inventory, waiting for installation creates no value for the customer. But does the same concept apply to paying invoices for grantees. Think of a single invoice, sitting on not one desk for a review but five desks. One school district found that it was taking up to 6 months to pay staff for the extra work they did like driving students to the debate tournament. Once they figured out all the points of waiting they figured out how to get it done in 10 days.


Transporting a single part to multiple warehouses clearly creates no value. But moving paper documents around an office has the same impact. In one of our lean engagements it was discovered that every invoice passed the desk of the same person 6-7 times. And this was just one person, this happened with multiple people. So do the math. Assume every invoice must pass 3 people 6 times. That is 18 touch points at a minimum! That is also 18 points where invoices get lost. Clearly, this is muda.

Over processing

Manufacturing parts for an airplane that goes beyond the design specifications is clear waste. In the same way, many government processes are designed for the once in a million event. A workers compensation insurance trust sets up the same invoice payment review process for a $25 invoice as it does for a $2,500 invoice. The smallest invoices must go through three levels of review just like the largest invoices. While there is clear value in a comprehensive review of large invoices applying the same review requirements to very small invoices means the cost of paying the invoice is more than the invoice itself. One government workers compensation trust dramatically improved their speed of payment by setting up simple business rules. Smaller invoices went through one review process, larger ones went through a different one. The result was faster payment, stronger negotiating power with medical providers and better business intelligence to serve their ultimate customer.


A warehouse full of parts clearly creates no value for the customer. In the same way, money sitting in a bank can be inventory. If it is not put to immediate use building roads, paying medical claims, or getting a student off to university it is creating no value for the ultimate customer. When an Office of Financial Aid cuts in half the time it takes to process an application, money is going to work for the benefit of the intended student – faster.


The constant movement of parts is something that manufacturing organizations are just now understanding as muda. Parts get lost, parts don’t arrive on time, and parts get broken. In the same way, invoices and paper documentation that moves around has the same problems. They get lost, issues are not resolved on time, and there are multiple points in the process that will cause late payment. One office of financial aid stopped the movement merry go round but only giving 10 application packets for financial aid to each processor at a time. They could not get more until the 10 were completed. The results were fewer errors, no lost files, and staff were happier – they could see progress on a daily basis.

Defective Parts

We understand that buying anything that has to be returned because some small part is defective is irritating and expensive. The same applies for an invoice payment operations. Errors in coding and data are just as expensive. A simple error in data entry is a small thing to fix early in the process. But towards the end it can be catastrophic. On Office of Financial Aid designed two simple check lists. Much like airline pilots go through a check list for every takeoff and landing, this Office designed two check lists to catch errors before they had catastrophic impact. Besides fewer errors, they also realized that the check lists resulted in more standardized work because every knew the process.

Assessing the Office of Financial Aid


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Let’s assume for a moment that your Office of Financial Aid is in perfect compliance with its regulatory requirements. Let’s also assume for the moment that you have the latest technology to manage your Office and that the president of your institution just congratulated your entire office for excellent work.
But the question is this: are you maximizing your financial and human capital so that your customers are receiving maximum value?
Who is your customer and do you know their requirements? In reality, every Office of Financial Aid probably has at least three customers and all three need to be served.

  1. The regulators or the ones setting the rules;
  2. The lenders or the ones providing the money that the Office distributes; and
  3. The students themselves.

What often happens in government organizations is that the regulators become the primary customer and the student or citizen becomes something less. We serve the regulations and forget the group that actually consumes the service we provide. For example, we once did a lean process improvement project for a large state granting organization. Every biennium they awarded over $165 million dollars in grants. In asking them who were their customers, they all said the groups receiving the grants. However, every work process and ever measure of performance was designed to keep the regulators happy. In fact, they were so happy that when the Federal regulators could not figure out their own regulations, the regulators came to them to for help.
Organizational excellence means more than maintaining a check list in the regulations manual. It is about the continuous removal of waste so that maximum value can be added to the customer – all of them. The result of this, is that over time costs go down per dollar awarded. Certainly this does not happen every year, but over time this is the history of improving work processes.
We have developed a way of assessing Offices of Financial Aid. The assessment is totally free. We won’t even ask for your name and contact information. The assessment does one really simple thing – it measures where your Office is at on a scale of performance excellence. In other words, it measures your Office against what the best performing organizations, of all types, do to achieve excellence.
We suggest taking the assessment as a group. It will probably take 45 minutes. When you get done, let us know what you learned. You can contact us at:
For downloading the Self-Assessment

Mapping Your Strategy


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The Hidden Power of Mapping Strategy

The research is compelling. Most exercises in strategic planning fail to achieve even minimal gains. School districts, nonprofits, social service agencies, State agencies, and colleges all go though a round of strategy development every 5-10 years. But what happens to the documents, the actual plan? Most of them end up as decoration on at the reception desk. Ask anyone working in an organization of any size what is the mission, what is the strategy, what is the vision and most of the time you will get a blank stair. It is all too common, but also a tragedy. We give the most vital part of our daily lives to missions and visions we know little about.

A strategy map solves this tragedy.

A strategy map solves this tragedy because it summarizes what are often 25-50 page documents into a one page visual summary of the cause and effect relationships that must be in place for a strategy to work.  We once reviewed a strategic plan for a large urban school district. Forty five pages of beautiful and elegant “we will” statements. However, in all of that prose, there was exactly one sentence on how they were going to achieve their lofty aims – improve reading.

A strategy map adds value to the strategic planning process in five ways:

  1. It identifies the dependencies if the ultimate objective(s) will be met.
  2. It identifies any missing elements. When a strategic objective has no link to core business processes, technology, or funding the probability of failure is high.
  3. It communicates. A one page visual illustration can be used for wall mounted displays, produced as banners and posters for staff, and given to donors so they know the full economic requirements to providing quality training that will produce employment for students.
  4. It identifies project initiatives. These initiatives are often the links to the successful execution of strategy.
  5. It sets the budget requirements. From the elements in the strategy map a budget can be calculated that identifies each component of cost so that the organization can make an effective go-no-go decision.