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U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker Delivers Remarks at Baldrige National Quality Award Ceremony

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Thank you, Dr. Benson.

You have been a true champion for the Baldrige Award from when you first served as a judge in 1997 through your contributions as an overseer to your current work as Chair of the Board of the Foundation.

As everyone here knows, the Baldrige Award program is a major undertaking – it takes a big team effort.  I want to recognize the Board, the judges, the overseers, the examiners, and volunteers who put in countless hours last year to make it a success.

And I want to thank the organizers of the Quest for Excellence conference for supporting this event.

In addition, I want to thank Bob Fangmeyer, the program director at the National Institute of Standards and Technology…

And particularly, I want to recognize Dr. Pat Gallagher, who has been serving double-duty as Director of NIST and as Acting Deputy Secretary of the Commerce Department.

Pat’s knowledge and wisdom has been invaluable: to me, to our employees, to the President, to Congress, and to thousands of leaders in science and business across the country.

He has been an incredible partner over the past 9 months – helping me learn and appreciate all of the facets of the Commerce Department.  

While we will miss him, we are excited that he landed his dream job as Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh, his alma mater.

Given all that he has done over the past 20 years, please join me in thanking him for his service to our country.

The Baldrige award celebrates organizations which practice all of the core elements of well-functioning institutions.

I am thrilled to be here today to celebrate the two well-deserved recipients of the 2013 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award – Pewaukee School District and Sutter Davis Hospital.

But first, let me take a moment to reflect on Mac Baldrige and the history of this program.

In the mid-1980s, I was at Stanford Business School.  We studied new concepts that focused on increasing efficiency, reducing waste, just-in-time production, and lean manufacturing.

At that time, global competition was expanding… and America’s primacy in sectors such as manufacturing was being challenged.

As students, we looked up to contemporary American business leaders who were blazing new trails and calling for action.

Mac Baldrige was one of our role models.

You might know his story.

After serving in World War II, Mac got a job at the foundry of an iron company in Connecticut.  He rose through the ranks to become President 13 years later.

From 1963 to 1980, he took a financially troubled brass mill (Scovill)… and transformed it into a highly-diversified global manufacturer of consumer, housing, and industrial goods.

In 1981, he stepped in to serve as Commerce Secretary at a key moment when our country needed his experience and wisdom.

Over his 6½ years of service, he became one of the most highly-regarded leaders in our nation… and throughout the world.

  • He tackled issues such as technology transfer with China…
  • He reduced unfair trade practices that hurt American workers…
  • And he became a vocal and visible advocate for Made-in-America.

As global competition heated up, Mac stressed that our nation should respond by focusing on one thing – assuring the high quality of American products.  

In 1983, he and President Reagan held a groundbreaking Conference on Productivity at the White House.   The report from that event called for a national medal for productivity as well as a quality awareness campaign.

By 1985, business leaders and Congress were working on plans administer a national program that would serve as a catalyst for quality improvement.  

Their efforts merged.  

These executives and legislators developed specific guidance to help businesses – many of whom were waking up to the fact that quality improvement translated to a stronger bottom line.  

As the final hurdles to legislation were cleared, Mac tragically died in a rodeo accident.  

Due to his unparalleled advocacy on quality, the Senate renamed the award in his honor and President Reagan signed it into law shortly thereafter.  

The initial focus of the Baldrige awards was on for-profit manufacturing and services companies.

But in 1995, NIST piloted an expansion of the Baldrige program to include education and health care with the rationale that institutions from these sectors could also benefit from high standards set by the Baldrige criteria.

In 1999, the program was fully opened up those fields, which brings us to our two recipients today – Pewaukee School District and Sutter Davis Hospital.

Let me begin with Pewaukee School District.  In 2007, they started using the Baldrige criteria as a guide.

At that time, they adopted a new mission for their school district and its 2,800 students.  Their motto became: “open the door to each child’s future.”

The School District created a Strategic Plan and secured buy-in from their many stakeholders – including teachers, staff, parents, and community leaders.  

Having just completed our OWN Strategic Plan – called the Open for Business Agenda – I know hard it is to get all of the lions on the stools at the same time.

Pewaukee set high standards, adopting one of the most rigorous set of graduation requirements in Wisconsin.

To meet those high standards, the District made important investments:

  • They provided each student in Grades 5 and higher with a laptop.
  • They introduced more personalized learning, and,
  • They doubled the number of Advanced Placement courses for high school students.

Like any good management team, they reviewed their action plans every quarter and adapted to changing circumstances.  
Their work paid off:

  • The percentage of graduates heading to college jumped from 79 percent to 92 percent in just five years.
  • Their graduation rate is 97.4 percent – more than 20 points higher than the state average.
  • Parents, staff, and student satisfaction scores all increased, and
  • Their financial situation improved. Their bond rating rose and their working capital balance jumped from $300,000 to $4.6 million.

As someone who served on the Board of one of our country’s largest school districts – Chicago – I know first-hand how hard it is to achieve these accomplishments.

Let’s give a round of applause to Pewaukee School District of Wisconsin.

And while education leaders have been calling Joanne and Larry to ask how they achieved such remarkable progress. I am sure that medical centers across the United States are looking to Sutter Davis Hospital for guidance.

While Pewaukee’s story is of dramatic improvement, Sutter Davis Hospital’s story is of sustained commitment to high standards.

Sutter Davis is unrelenting in its mission to provide high-quality care and positive patient outcomes.
Each year since 2010, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has ranked Sutter Davis in the top 10% nationally for evidence-based performance in handling:

  • heart attacks,
  • congestive heart failure, and
  • pneumonia.  

In each of those three areas, readmission rates and lengths-of-stay remain very low.

Also, Sutter Davis has done an amazing job of keeping down infection rates.

For example, there were NO post-operative orthopedic surgical infections from 2008 to 2012… and there have been NO central-line bloodstream infections since 2010.

And consider this: The average time it takes – today – to see a doctor at a California emergency room is 58 minutes.  

  • In 2008, the time to see a doctor at Sutter Davis was 45 minutes.
  • With a focus on getting patients immediate attention, Sutter Davis drove that time down to just 22 minutes.

Given all of these facts, it is no surprise that patients give Sutter Davis high marks – with rankings in the top 10 percent nationally for patient satisfaction and engagement.

And, like Pewaukee School District, Sutter Davis has a strong commitment to fiscal health.  

Its operating margin has grown steadily since 2008, even while the hospital works to keep patient costs affordable.

Let’s give a round of applause to Janet, James, and Sutter Davis Hospital of California.

The common thread that ties these two recipients together is a commitment to high quality… evidenced by metrics and outcomes.   

Even though they are NOT businesses, they have taken a very business-like approach at their organizations.  

They diligently track their progress – making a measurable, positive impact on their students and patients.

I think Mac Baldrige would be pleased that the program that bears his name is now having a broader impact beyond traditional industries and sectors.

And the fact is, a healthy, educated nation is a competitive nation.

By providing top-quality education for American youth, we ensure that our future workforce will have the tools and knowledge not only to help businesses grow, but also to help society thrive.

And by providing top-quality medical care, we ensure that more Americans live longer, fuller lives – maximizing their contributions to our country.

I want to thank all of you for being here tonight to show your commitment to the highest levels of quality in American institutions of ALL kinds.

Have a great evening and a wonderful conference.

Please help me once again congratulate the 100th and 101st winners of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards – Pewaukee School District and Sutter Davis Hospital.