FLATE’s Sterling Evaluation and Scoring

After initial focus groups with its industry partners, the FLATE leadership team realized that it needed an evaluation plan that would be of value when interacting with the National Science Foundation (NSF) as well as FLATE’s state wide industry partners. With this necessity in mind, FLATE decided to use the Florida Sterling Criteria for Organizational Performance Excellence as a basis for its NSF-ATE grant evaluation plan. This is an industry-recognized, best practice model for managing and leading organizations, which parallels the Federal Government’s Baldrige Performance Excellence Program criteria. The Sterling model is an organization-wide approach to implementing and assessing performance, improvement, and organizational sustainability of any organization in any industry or sector. Thus, FLATE uses this model as a template for evaluation because it is an industry validated assessment tool also recognized within the Federal government. From FLATE’s leadership team’s perspective, it is the best way to demonstrate FLATE’s intention to use its federal grant funds to accomplish its grant declared goals and secure Florida based industries help to accomplish its mission.

FLATE’s evaluation plan is built on a set of core values which the Sterling model integrates into seven categories encompassing every facet of organizational leadership and management. The Figure summarizes the Sterling Framework and these systematic relationships of every aspect of an organization. The cyclic interaction of the 7 model elements shown in the figure suggests the cyclic nature of FLATE operational mode.

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An essential component of FLATE’s daily activity is a constant effort to continuously improvement all aspects of its operations. This overall improvement involves continuous review of activities as they impact grant performance measurement, analysis, and knowledge management. To assure that activities optimally help accomplish grant declared goals, a Sterling based evaluation of FLATE is conducted on a two-year cycle. The results of this formal review process conducted by FLATE’s Sterling certified NSF grant evaluator provide a quantitative measure or score of our organizational performance that can be compared to our previous Sterling “scores” as an indication of our quality improvement progress.

To put these biennial scores in context, it is important to appreciate that the scoring process is not linear. As an organization gets better at accomplishing its goals to realize its mission, the expectations for quality improvement also increase. In other words, the score at any specific time in an organization’s existence depends on the extent of the types of management systems in place, their deployment and alignment with organizational goals, and the implicit knowledge gained from regular improvement of these systems. A Sterling “score” reflects the organization performance based on the current status of their management system(s) with the expectation that the next round of scoring will not only reflect quality improvements but increased “organizational maturity” and effectiveness in their management system(s). Thus, average or typical organizations will continue to score around 20-25% or 200-250 points overall. Sterling award winning organizations show continuous increases in score values even though the performance expectations for the organization to achieve the average score also continue to increase. This nonlinear seemingly moving target scoring process pushes the organization toward excellence and produces Sterling recognized award winners with typical scores of 500+ points as a minimum. No organizations receive perfect scores, as there are always progressively higher level opportunities and expectations for improvement. It is unlikely an organizations would score in the 900’s, although it is not unusual for Sterling Award winning organizations to score in the 90% range in one or more individual categories of the criteria summarized in the Figure.

In summary, evaluation using the Sterling model provides strengths, opportunities for improvement, and a score on a scale of zero to 1000. FLATE’s 2008 score at 250 points improved to 362 points in 2010. This new score clearly indicates that FLATE is moving toward excellence with it management systems and overall all objective to be a high performance based organization. The score indicates that FLATE is above the norm and that it has identified new opportunities for improving quality. It also indicates that the next round of scoring will be based on these higher performance expectations. This cyclic improvement with continuous increased demands for perfection will lead FLATE not only to a Sterling Award but an organization where high quality results are represented in normal daily activity.

For more information visit http://www.floridasterling.com/, or contact Phil Centonze at phil.c@fl-ate.org

(Contributed by Phil Centonze, FLATE External Evaluator)