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How a State Government Brought Diverse Agencies Together for Strategic Planning

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Dawn Bailey
January 15, 2018

How does a state government begin the process of strategic planning across many diverse agencies and workforce representatives?

For the state of Arkansas, the process began with the Efficiency Project, which was conducted by the Arkansas Policy Foundation of 21 state agencies and has already resulted in the identification of 184 cost-saving initiatives. The Baldrige Organizational Profile, a free download from the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, was one of the tools used to accomplish efficiencies.

Strategic planning became a state focus after Governor Asa Hutchinson announced in 2015 that one of his top three goals for year one was to “drive the implementation of state efficiencies and streamline state operations.” To guide strategic planning across state agencies, the Baldrige Organizational Profile tool and process were recommended by Randy Zook, president/CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.

“State government is like any other organization. It serves customers and delivers services through processes,” said Zook. “Those processes can most effectively be improved through the Baldrige framework.” The State Chamber partners with the Arkansas Institute for Performance Excellence (AIPE) to promote Baldrige-based training and the Governor’s Quality Award to the state of Arkansas.

Sue Weatter, executive director of AIPE, said the Baldrige Excellence Framework and its Organizational Profile were already being used as a resource to guide organizations at both the state and national levels; the Baldrige framework includes an entire category for strategic planning and overall strategy. Weatter said AIPE, a member of the Baldrige-based Alliance for Performance Excellence, made itself readily available to state agencies to guide them through the Baldrige process.

“Our program was originally created with discretionary funding from the [Arkansas] Governor’s office,” said Weatter. “We continue to have a strong partnership. It seemed like an opportunity for our program to give back to the state.”

After meeting with Amy Fecher, chief transformation officer of the Governor’s Office of Transformation, Weatter and Bill Craddock, a state and national Baldrige examiner, as well as the lead trainer for the Governor’s Quality Award Program, said it was decided that each state agency would create a profile that answered the questions in the Baldrige Organizational Profile as its first step. The agency profile would also use a few additional questions aligned with the overall goals of the governor’s strategic plan.

The Organizational Profile is the preface of the Baldrige Excellence Framework, a systems approach to managing an organization or agency to guide improvements and innovation. The questions in the Organizational Profile can be used a snapshot of the agency, the key influences on how it operates, and the key challenges it faces. It is the most appropriate starting point for self-assessment and for gaining feedback from specially trained Baldrige examiners.

The Organizational Profile is critically important because it helps an agency identify gaps in key information and focus on key performance requirements and results. As a self-assessment, the Organizational Profile can be used to identify topics for which conflicting, little, or no information is available; these topics then become starting points for action planning.

Any organization or agency can download a free copy of the Organizational Profile to use in its own planning and self-assessment.

“Any gaps in responses to the questions asked in the Organizational Profile could be used as a goal for the agency’s strategic plan,” said Weatter. Similarly, in the strategic planning category of the Baldrige framework, any gaps in how an organization answers a question may become areas to prioritize for improvement when conducting strategic planning or simply considering strategy.

Weatter added, “The questions in the Organizational Profile can provide a consistent baseline in discovering gaps across different agencies within state government. Each agency functions separately with different missions, visions, core competencies, etc., but they all share the same goal of serving the people in their state with the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars and resources under the direction of the governor. It was a sign of transparency on the part of Arkansas state government to be willing to assess themselves using the same process used by so many businesses and organizations in Arkansas.”

Over two days, AIPE provided the same training on writing an Organizational Profile to state agencies that is provided to organizational applicants for a Governor’s Quality Award. Attendee representatives, who comprised agency heads or their designees, answered the questions used for writing an Organizational Profile. Craddock led the training sessions and made himself available to answer questions following the training if agencies had questions about Baldrige terminology or other topics. Each agency was asked to use its answers to the Organizational Profile questions to identify efficiencies.

Said Craddock, “The training participants were predominantly senior leaders from the various state agencies. Their active participation through follow-up questions conveyed both understanding and insight. It was exciting to see them extend the learning connections from the training to the development of their agency strategic plans by involving other people in their agency.”

“The strategic planning process has been very successful for Arkansas in large part due to using the Baldrige Criteria,” added Fecher. “This process has helped agencies that have never done strategic planning get the baseline needed to develop their plans. I have enjoyed reading through all of the plans and continue to learn new things throughout this process.”

Author: Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program and involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 23 years of experience, 15 years at the Baldrige Program, working on publications and education teams. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.

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