I recently had an experience that I strongly suggest for any consultant, regardless of discipline, industry, firm size or level of experience. It is serving as a Baldrige quality examiner.
This is a terrific idea (based on my seven years as an examiner). Although examiners participate as volunteers, there is no better way to enhance your skills in diagnosis, evaluation and most of the other skills required for effective consulting engagements. The Baldrige program is more than 20 years old and was designed to improve organizational quality and performance. Originally aimed at American manufacturing firms, it has been extended to service, education, health care and small businesses and is now used around the world. Companies’ documentation of their approach, deployment and results across six areas of performance are evaluated by a panel of examiners. Examiners come from almost every discipline; I have served with bench engineers, hospital administrators, college deans, management consultants, military officers, business school professors, accountants, and manufacturing company executives, each of whom brings their unique disciplinary perspective and organizational context to the evaluation team.
The Baldrige program is sponsored at the national level, and most states have the same program for organizations within their states. Examiners all go through the same training and review one or two applications for a series of awards. Competition is intense, as is the experience of evaluation. Each examiner spends from 20-40 hours reading ,evaluating and taking notes on each application, preparing for a group feedback report. The learning that accompanies the diagnosis and negotiation leading up to the feedback report is unparalleled in that each person brings unique and valuable expertise to the mix. As good as you think you are, prepare to be humbled by the experience.Tip:
(the National Institute of Standards and Technology) who administers the program, or see materials available from The Alliance for Performance Excellence
. Consider investing in your professional development, your network (I've made some great contacts with highly professional people during my years as an examiner), and your business (yes, being able to conduct a Baldrige assessment is another line of business for you, and clients highly regard your experience as an examiner).© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA