CONDUCTING A SYSTEM ASSESSMENT
An organization can conduct a system assessment for an internal or an external deadline. Any company or unit of any size can set its own deadline at any time of the year. AT&T states the annual deadline for its Chairman's Quality Award in the application guidelines it distributes with copies of the Baidrige criteria. For small companies intent on performing a system assessment, senior management must drive the process if it is to be completed by the deadline. External deadlines offer the advantage of providing an immovable deadline.
Identify a firm deadline, or the assessment will never get done:
- To assess your system using the Baidrige criteria, plan on a three-month process from start to finish.
- Kodak estimates that writing a full application takes around 2,500 labor-hours, which seems like a good aver-age.
- Companies such as Xerox have reported spending much more time, because of the size of the organization represented in their application and because they were simultaneously working on improvement.
Fourteen major steps in creating the assessment document:
The process of creating the assessment document, as described in The Baldrige Quality System, follows fourteen major steps:
- Involve senior management.
- Establish application team(s). Teams share the work, bring different perspectives to the task, and spread the learning experience to more people.
- Iram team members. The first exposure to the Baldrige criteria can be more confusing than enlightening, unless people receive some training in how to understand the criteria and apply them to their organization.
- Assign responsibilities. The assessment process is most effective when there is clear accountability for gathering data and information, writing responses, and producing the report.
- Collect data and information. The quality of the assessment depends on the quality of the data and information it presents. A system assessment that is vague or anecdotal or that reports glowingly on what the organization hopes to achieve is worthless.
- Identify areas for improvement. Areas for improvement materialize in the course of conducting the assessment. Wise companies understand that these areas are the primary goal of the process, the gold nuggets that make the assessment worthwhile.
- Communicate needs, ideas, and information. As the assessment process proceeds, individuals and teams tend to focus on a particular category, work process, or functional area, thus losing sight of the system in which they exist. Constant communication helps to maintain a systems perspective.
- Edit the first draft. Editing the responses to the criteria is an exercise in interpretation and communication that requires diligence and clarity. it is also very hard work, but the payoff—learning to think about what your organization does as a system—is worth it.
- Begin the layout, including graphics. An essential part of clear communication is the presentation of information. Charts and graphs can help explain processes, information, and results.
- Evaluate the first draft. Reviewers usually include the authors of the assessment document and the organization's senior people (if they did not write it). Internal and external quality experts and consultants may also be included.
- Write subsequent drafts. The first draft evaluation always identifies sections that are inappropriate, weak, inaccurate, and wrongly placed. Subsequent drafts can only make the assessment stronger.
- Coordinate loriting and graphics. As the deadline approaches, an individual or team must coordinate ali the pieces that will make up the document.
- Produce the final draft.
- Print and deliver the assessment.