“Why should leaders and decision-makers consider investing in Baldrige/Sterling and Lean Six Sigma?”

The Baldrige/Sterling Performance Excellence Criteria represent a system which is founded on the principle that a result is the byproduct of a process. Therefore, to improve a result, one must first improve the process producing the result. This is basic cause and effect.

Furthermore, the Baldrige/Sterling system is holistic in the sense that it identifies the specific areas within an organization in which processes should be managed effectively. By managing the key organizational approaches and processes effectively, then the organization’s key results metrics will meet stakeholders’ requirements.

But how does Lean Six Sigma fit into this concept?

Lean Six Sigma is an approach for defining, improving, and standardizing systems, approaches, and processes. In other words, it enables leaders to do more with less, do it better, and sustain the improvements. Therefore, any approach identified by the Baldrige/Sterling system as important can be improved using Lean Six Sigma.

Many don’t know what they don’t know.

Many leaders and gatekeepers have a bias towards compliance and staying out of trouble. In other words, they focus on maintaining the status quo and fixing problem areas in order to maintain control. This behavior can be compared to driving down the highway by looking through the rear view mirror. They can only see where they’ve been, but not where they’re going. Statistically speaking, a process that is in control may not be meeting requirements. It’s stable, but not capable. Lean Six Sigma can provide the ability to see where you’re going and ensure you’ll get to the right destination.

How can Lean Six Sigma help me do more with less and be proactive?

Lean Six Sigma is an approach reliant on data to achieve its purpose. Through the use of data, cause and effect relationships can be confirmed and effective courses of action can be taken. Therefore, Lean Six Sigma helps you do more with less because it increases efficiency by reducing waste. By spending less time on waste, you have more capacity with the same resources, thus enabling you to do more.

A common panacea is to simply increase the budget so service levels will improve or so more customers can be served. This belief is admitting that the current processes are fine and do not need to be improved. A fundamental principle in Lean Six Sigma is that “a lack of resources is never the cause.” Rather, it’s a lack of resourcefulness and not knowing where the waste is.


What are the skills leaders need to change their mindset?

There are five basic skills that leaders need to manage proactively. These skills are grounded in the use of data. Let’s briefly review each of the five skill sets.

  • Prioritizing requires the ability to make informed choices. Choices involve weighing perceived benefits, associated costs, and risks. To make choices without facts is inconsistent with sound management practices. By collecting and analyzing data correctly, fact-based decisions can be made. Leaders are faced with many choices and run the risk of attempting too many priorities when uncertain. This can lead to the misallocation of resources and projects which deliver minimal benefit.
  • Measuring performance is the only way to know if requirements are being met. There’s an old saying – “What gets measured gets done.” Without measures, you cannot set realistic expectations, measure results, or compensate staff fairly. Process measures should reflect customer requirements.
  • Understanding cause and effect leads to effective decisions. Knowing a problem is not enough. You must determine its causes. As they say, “You need an unlimited budget because there’s an endless supply of solutions for which the causes are unknown”. 
  • Empowering the workforce works better when the workforce is capable of doing the work. This includes improving the work and environment. Improvement requires learning and facts supported with data. Train the workforce in the application and analysis of data.
  • Providing effective feedback depends on quantitative evaluation. Your opinion may be important, but when it’s supported with facts, it’s respected. Get the facts and use the measures to determine the degree to which requirements were met.

The Baldrige/Sterling Management System represents a framework for achieving and sustaining performance excellence. It describes “what” must be done. Lean Six Sigma is a body of knowledge that focuses on “how” to design, develop, implement, evaluate, and improve processes and systems. As an integrated approach,  they provide a means to succeed in any market.

Bob Seemer

ets, Inc.

February 22, 2023

Note: The term “Sterling” refers to Florida’s and Georgia’s Baldrige-based state programs.