Irving wins nation’s highest award for business practices
Irving has won the nation’s highest award for good business practices — a recognition it achieved after hiring a consultant for $15,000 and scheduling practice interviews for hundreds of employees.
Irving is only the second city to win a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award — a presidential honor that is like the Oscars for business managers — since government agencies became eligible for it in 2007.
“It’s highly sought after. Competitively so. You have to be the best of the best,” said Daryl Walker, chairman of the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce, at a celebratory press conference Wednesday.
Surrounded by rows of city staff, City Manager Tommy Gonzalez lauded Irving for implementing efficiencies large and small — from reducing its payroll without layoffs and reorganizing its administration to cleaning up major thoroughfares.
Mayor Beth Van Duyne pointed out that the award traditionally goes to private-sector organizations. Past winners include Xerox, FedEx and Motorola. Of 39 applicants this year, the three other winners were a small manufacturer in Oklahoma, a nonprofit hospital system in Mississippi and Grand Prairie-based Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.
“We take best practices from the private sector, how businesses are run, and incorporate them into how we run a government municipality,” Van Duyne said. “It can be done.”
Both the mayor and city manager referred to an intense, citywide visit by Baldrige examiners in October, including employee interviews and on-site inspections.
“We had people come and talk to everybody,” Van Duyne said.
And everybody had been prepared.
In September, after officials learned Irving was one of a dozen candidates on the short list for the award, the city signed a $15,000 contract with a consultant to prepare its staff for the four-day inspection. The firm’s managing director, Diana Pollard, used to be a Baldrige examiner herself.
According to city documents, the firm scheduled mock interviews for “as many employees as possible” at 20 sites, including libraries, fire stations and the police department. While it is unclear how many employees attended the group sessions, one document indicates as many as 1,400 were expected.
City and council officials went through their own grilling — prepped for questions as specific as “what level of LEED certification does the Irving Convention Center and the library have,” or philosophical probes such as “how does societal well-being affect decisions made by the council?”
At Wednesday’s news conference, officials said it was well worth the trouble.
While the award comes with no grants, officials said its prestige — or “top-notch bragging rights,” as council member Rose Cannaday put it — will help attract businesses to Irving.
As for the costs, Van Duyne compared the Baldrige inspection to a citywide audit: time-consuming, but ultimately valuable.
“It gives us a chance to find out how we’re doing,” she said. “I think we definitely got our money’s worth.”
And Gonzalez said the cost of competing for the Baldrige was more than offset by the millions of dollars the city has saved with efficiencies that ultimately earned Irving the award.
Even the city’s hefty consulting bill, Gonzales said, outclassed its competition.
“I challenge you to ask any other [competing] organization what they spent,” he said. “It’s a lot more than $15,000.”
The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award is a presidential honor named after a U.S. commerce secretary killed in a rodeo accident. Since 1988, the Department of Commerce has given 93 organizations the award, which recognizes outstanding quality and good business practices. Past winners include Motorola, Xerox and FedEx. Government agencies and nonprofits became eligible for the award in 2007, when Coral Springs, Fla., won it. Irving is the second city to do so.