Using Quality as a Driver for Success

With evolving priorities, shifting budgets and challenges to ensuring the highest level of employee engagement, federal agencies are under an intense amount of pressure. “Today’s environment is change,” says Al Tyree, Vice President of Business Relations and Learning Solutions for Graduate School USA. “There is so much going on, but the work of government has to continue. Essential services can’t be interrupted.”

In the public sector, like in the private sector, the best way to ensure that an organization not only survives, but thrives, is to provide customer-centric products or services of the highest quality. By using modern technology and tactics to collect, analyze and use data to support missions, goals and decision-making, engaging employees in every step of the process and equipping employees with the necessary tools and skills, agencies stand to operate more efficiently and effectively. During the most stable times, this is a huge undertaking. It becomes ever more difficult in a rapidly-evolving landscape where federal agencies are increasingly expected to do more with less.

Far too often however, many federal agencies’ response to such challenges only compounds the problem — what seems like an easy cut in the short term can lead to long-term setbacks. “Investment in developing employees to tackle new roles and apply more advanced skills are the first to go,” said Tyree. When staffs shrink or agencies undergo a hiring freeze, essential work still needs to be completed. Often, this means employees need to take on new responsibilities, which may require them to learn new processes and procedures or acquire a new skill set. In those cases, people have to be trained — it is hard to ensure quality if employees aren’t sure of what they are doing. Said Tyree, “Developing an effective learning and development program is vital to the success of the organization”

It is with that idea in mind that Graduate School USA created the W. Edwards Deming Outstanding Training Award. Dr. Deming was a renowned teacher and scholar for over 50 years, publishing hundreds of books and papers on a variety of topics. He taught mathematics and statistics at Graduate School USA between 1932 and 1939. Deming’s theories on organizational sharing suggested that employees at all levels of an organization should be engaged with ensuring quality, so that every employee feels a sense of ownership in the process and in the final product.

In 1950, Dr. Deming was invited to Japan give a series of lectures to leading industrialists on the subject of quality control. Deming convinced the Japanese that focusing on quality and producing goods that didn’t break or wear out, could make them a force in world markets. His advice helped the Japanese raise their country from the ashes of World War II to enormous industrial power.

Dr. Deming’s work as a curriculum leader and faculty member of Graduate School USA, as well as his work in industry, has had a major influence on how organizations better support policy, decision making and processes in the quest to improve mission outcomes.

“Dr. Deming’s legacy at Graduate School has given us insights into the concepts of quality management and leadership philosophies that are time-tested and are highly relevant today, said Jack Maykoski, President and CEO, Graduate School USA. "With our W. Edwards Deming Award, we look for the demonstration of improved processes or practices that have measurably impacted the accomplishment of mission with the applicant’s agency in qualitative and quantitative ways," Maykoski added.

Since 1997, GSUSA has given the Deming Award to federal organizations that drive success through a commitment to quality processes and services. Award-winning programs demonstrate a long-term vision for an organization’s future. “(The award) is really a stamp of approval to validate training efforts and demonstrate value,” said Tyree. “Once recognized, we hope these programs become best practices and are shared across organizations… We’re helping folks understand that success stands on quality concepts.”

Recent winners include the Social Security Administration, who reduced their case backlog and improved accuracy by creating a rapid training program for case reviewers; and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who designed and implemented a successful training program for employees that was transportable, scalable and inclusive; the National Park Service’s Park Facility Management Division, who started a competency-based training program that has resulted in an increase in preventative maintenance work orders, millions of dollars in savings and improved overall management; and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, who implemented a classroom/online training program designed to improve the ability of field and headquarters staff to track their projects, demonstrate alignment to HUD strategic goals and report out progress updates.

“We find that training and workforce development is typically at the center of such agency transformation efforts, and are critical to building engagement and ownership in the organization that is fundamental to success,” said Maykoski.

In 2017, GSUSA will present the Deming Award in three categories: human capital management, technology and employee engagement. Eligible programs can submit an entry for nomination until August 25. Find more information about the Deming Award and W. Edward Deming’s revolutionary teachings here.

This content is made possible by Graduate School USA. The editorial staff of Government Executive was not involved in its preparation.