Motivate me! How external standards can galvanize process management

John G. Tesmer

Maintaining motivation throughout process change is often very difficult. Best-practice organizations go further and garner motivation from external influences through the adoption of recognized quality or compliance programs. These can galvanize process management efforts by engaging and motivating employees.

APQC’s 2012 Best Practices Study Building Strong Process Management Capabilities focused on capabilities that organizations leverage to enable sustainable process management. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Clinical Research Pharmacy Coordinating Center (PCC) used external program criteria not only to drive process management excellence, but also to motivate employees.

Building on and Executing a Vision

Part of the allure of striving for external certifications and awards is the common goal instilled in those working toward it. Awards such as the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which the PCC received in 2009, serve as motivation for staff, while offering roadmaps for leadership on the journey to strong process management capabilities.

For 18 years, the PCC focused on regulatory compliance, but the organization wanted a new vision and a systematic, holistic way to reach high levels of quality and performance excellence in planning, products, processes, and people. The center selected the Baldrige Award for its more comprehensive, traditional quality control and quality assurance criteria.


To provide additional discipline for the initiative, leaders supplemented the efforts with ISO 9001, its regulatory compliance system. These two programs both offer examples and recommendations of the PCC’s next steps in process management, which include work process and employee roles and responsibilities. One of the benefits of using external standards is that each program offers a collection of proven methods, models, frameworks, and tools to help the organization succeed, which led the PCC to:

  • achieve swifter improvement implementation
  • achieve targets and benchmarks
  • improve existing tools
  • connect with other participating organizations and experts

Because ISO focuses on process, it prompted the PCC to create the process documentation needed to link all of its emerging process management activities, while Baldrige focused on results-oriented organizational excellence.

The PCC has adopted other standards to drive its process and quality efforts, including those of the Deming Prize, the European Quality Award (now called the EFQM Excellence Award), ISO 15378, the VA Carey Award, and the New Mexico Quality Awards. The PCC also uses Gallup surveys to measure and benchmark employee and customer engagement.

Through these programs, the PCC built on its established standards to create a work environment that focuses on efficiency and employee engagement. All of these approaches combined to give the PCC the structure and discipline it needed to become a world leader in quality processes, as evidenced by the hundreds of awards and recognitions it has received.


The PCC stands out among organizations for its creative approach to developing a process management vision. By adopting external standards, its process management capabilities matured while it worked towards recognition.

The PCC exemplifies the success an organization can realize when strong leadership meets high employee engagement. Leadership provides clear structures and employee duties as it pursues various process management improvement initiatives, which allows employees to participate with a greater understanding of the PCC's vision. All of these elements combine to create superior results.