Originally posted on Blogrige by Dawn Bailey

Lindel Fields, superintendent and CEO of 2018 Baldrige Award recipient Tri County Tech (TCT), knew when he drafted his Vision 2020 that it was a fearless and bold initiative. His goal was to establish Tri County as a premier U.S. education institution. In April, when he takes the stage at the 31st annual Quest for Excellence© conference to celebrate TCT as a U.S. role-model organization in the education sector, he will know that this goal has been achieved.In the following interview, Fields describes his upcoming leadership presentation at the Quest conference and what was behind the technology center’s journey of continuous improvement on behalf of its students, a journey that has culminated, for the moment, with winning the Baldrige Award.

How do you feel about this great achievement, and how did your employees react when they heard the news of winning the award?
It’s very exciting, and it’s a very emotional experience for our employees who have worked on our Baldrige journey of improvement for 13 years. Those of us who are close to Baldrige know the magnitude of it.

This is also a great moment of pride not just for our employees but for our students. We didn’t quite know the type of impact that Tri County Tech winning the Baldrige Award would have on the students, but there has been an emotional response, including tears, from them as well. I didn’t expect that.

Please gives us a sense of what your leadership presentation will be about.
The main theme is to share how using the Baldrige framework has led to a lot of learning for us, and I will share five mantras that we’ve discovered on our journey. Here are two samples: “When you try to be everything to everybody, you can’t be anything to anybody” and “Spend Tri County money like it’s your grandmother’s social security.” All five mantras give you a sense of our leadership philosophy. The presentation will also talk about the importance of patience and perseverance.

How has the Baldrige Excellence Framework contributed to your organization’s success?
Baldrige is systemic at our organization. We contribute everything we do to the framework and its Criteria. It’s about being committed to the entire process, not just to parts of it. As a result, we can point to a couple of things that we didn’t expect as a result of using the Criteria. We have had significant efficiencies in business operations including our ability to eliminate dependency on federal funding. Results have also led to more process and operational consistency and one of the highest completion and retention rates for students at a public education institution in the United States.

Why do you think organizations in your sector could benefit from using the Baldrige framework?
Education is about providing opportunities for students who entrust us with their hopes and dreams. And when you have that kind of responsibility, your ability to do that for the masses is dependent upon subscribing to something bigger than you can accomplish alone. It’s like a workout regimen. An Olympic athlete would not train alone. He or she would hire a coach and subscribe to a world-class regimen or methodology. When an organization subscribes the world-class methodology available in the Baldrige framework, it can achieve world-class results.

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