When you’re striving for excellence, it helps to have an example. It’s much easier to work hard on something when you’ve seen others succeed despite obstacles. A highlight each year at the National Institute of Standards and Technology is the annual awards ceremony. This is where NIST celebrates operational excellence through the many achievements of its scientific, engineering, administrative and other support staff members.
This year the agency was honored to have U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker provide remarks at the event.
As NIST employees left the ceremony Wednesday, they had almost 200 examples of operational excellence to pick from for role models—people who had done amazing things. Since NIST is a research agency, many were technical stars who had:
- invented a new type of lens that makes ghostly 3-D images that float in free space;
- created a voluntary framework to help reducing cybersecurity risks to our critical infrastructure;
- invented and perfected some of the world’s best atomic clocks;
- collected lessons learned from a category 5 tornado to improve building codes, save lives, and reduce property losses; and
- strengthened DNA forensic tools;
Just as important, there were many administrative and other support staff members who modeled excellence by:
- literally risking their lives as firefighters to save someone and their dog from a house fire;
- demonstrating exemplary customer service and technical skill in purchasing scientific equipment;
- inspiring outreach efforts that broaden participation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers;
- improving the efficiency and effectiveness of human resources processing and payroll systems; and
- exceptional dedication to a safe workplace through outstanding snow removal during a particularly snow-filled winter.
In addition to internally selected Bronze Medal winners, NIST also had 44 staff members chosen for Gold and Silver Medals, the highest honors awarded by the Secretary and the Department of Commerce. Fourteen honorees also received NIST-specific awards, many of which are named after legendary NIST former staff who were the role models of their times.
As the home of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, NIST knows quite a bit about how operational excellence is achieved. Thousands of organizations of all types—manufacturers, service companies, small businesses, educational and health care organizations, and nonprofit and government agencies—use the Baldrige framework to systematically improve and strive for excellence.
In addition to strong leadership, an essential building block for any such program is the dedication and achievements of individuals and the teams they build.
Below is a short video from the NIST awards ceremony that captures what striving for
excellence and achieving great things is all about.