Baldrige in a Time of COVID-19

How Can Baldrige Help You Manage the Covid-19 Crisis?

“Are you crazy?  We don’t have time for Baldrige; we are in the fight of our lives.”

That is true if your Baldrige focus has just been on an application, a site visit, and winning an award. These are now on the back burner, especially if you are in health care.

However, winning this fight against the coronavirus depends on excellent leadership and robust processes executed consistently by informed and motivated staff.  In Baldrige terms, those are part of Categories 1, 6, and 5.

A significant number of organizations that we serve are in health care. Their residents and patients depend on their staff. And unlike some other businesses, their staff cannot work from home. Senior health care leaders are the target of this article, although it applies to all businesses.

First, let’s look at what has changed and what has not changed.

What has changed are the priorities that have shifted in an instant.

The reality is the threat to the health of customers, staff, and the business. Contingency plans have been implemented.

Processes that have been important and may have been in the background are now front and center.  For example, personal protective gear is part of your business continuity plan for disasters and depends on your supply network management processes.

Infection prevention has always been an important work/support process. It was largely the responsibility of an infection preventionist. By now, you have created a focus on action with it being job #1 for every staff member in every department.

The rate of learning what works and does not work against this virus is evolving rapidly.

What has not changed are the core values and concepts that the Baldrige Excellence Framework is based on.

In times of uncertainty, frameworks help.  They provide a structured way to think and become a foundation for action.

Visionary Leadership through the crisis

Effective senior leaders are focused on clarity, calm, and communication. This is definitely a time for frank, two-way communication.  And senior leaders need to dynamically adapt their leadership style depending on the situation — being directive when needed and collaborative when appropriate.

Fostering teamwork within the facility is also important.  Remember to connect with your peers and support system.

Management by Fact to make better decisions

For example, effective measurement systems rely on both leading indicators and outcome measures.  For many, leading indicators are a concept that is hard to grasp. They are the measures that help you predict your outcome measure results.

Early detection of risks is essential to protecting patients and residents. One of the lessons learned from the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, where there were 35 deaths to date is that the elderly don’t have the same high-temperature response to the Coronavirus as younger people have.  Diarrhea is often their first symptom.  And a decreased O2 saturation due to reduced respiratory efficiency is often a helpful indicator before elevated temperatures are seen.  This relates to Category 4 measurement systems, measurement agility, and rapid sharing of best practices.

Adapting Baldrige is required.

Sometimes we need to reframe the questions.  For example, 1.1 might become, “How do senior leaders lead the organization through the coronavirus crisis?”

Certainly, there is a shift in 1.1b, how senior leaders communicate with and engage the workforce and key customers.  With family members being unable to visit loved ones in skilled nursing facilities, their need and desire for communication with staff have dramatically increased.  Even though your time has enormous demands, how you listen to and interact with residents and patients is critical.  (3.1.a(1))

2.2b asks, ”How do you recognize and respond when circumstances require a shift in action plans and rapid execution of new plans?”  This process has become a key to winning the war you are in.  The best organizations who mastered this skill before the crisis will benefit now the most.

5.1b(1) asks, “How do you ensure workplace health?”  This is certainly a top priority to ensure workforce continuity and also because we owe it to our employees.  At the Life Care Center, a third of the workforce either became infected or stayed home to avoid infection.   At last count, ten long-term care facilities in the greater Seattle area have confirmed coronavirus cases. Some of the health care employees at Life Care worked at other nursing homes and took the infection with them.  Most SNF administrators we have talked with have eliminated PRN staff.

Use Timeouts to Improve Effectiveness

In 2007 Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal, began a study to determine if a 19-item checklist reviewed during a timeout might reduce human errors during surgery. The results were startling.  The mortality rate fell to 0.8 percent from 1.5 percent, and surgical complications declined to 7 percent from 11 percent.  The use of timeouts has become a standard practice.

What changes do you need to make to your daily stand up meeting agendas or your organizational versions of “timeouts?”

Let BaldrigeCoach help you make a difference by being a part of your external support system.

Staff, patients, residents, and families need to see trusted calm.  A moment of panic, anger, or frustration can destroy trust.

Please let us know how we can support you.  Even if you just need someone to vent to, or you want to check plans with us to look for blind spots, we are available to you to help you, your team, and your patients and residents weather this crisis.

Also, we would like to collect lessons learned and new best practices that we can share with others in subsequent posts.

There is no charge or obligation for being part of your external support system. We’re all in this together.  Call or email us.


Baldrige Foundation National Webinar, COVID-19 Crisis Management Assistance – March 31

This webinar will share valuable resources and practices from a panel of experts managing and supporting the COVID 19 response. Join executives from CHIME, Guidehouse, Muskegon County, University of Colorado, and SOAR Vision Group for an interactive dialogue targeted toward hospital C-suites. Learn how recommended guidelines (e.g. from CDC and FEMA) can be smoothly orchestrated with a tool like PuLSE and swiftly implemented into operational practice. Furthermore, explore how hospitals can effectively partner with local and county officials for a more comprehensive response to COVID-19 with a current case study from Muskegon County.

Please register for Baldrige Foundation National Webinar, COVID-19 Crisis Management Assistance on Mar 31, 2020 1:00 PM EDT at:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

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