by James H. Heine
Concordia Publishing House is one of only four winners of the 2011 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award–the country’s highest presidential honor for business-performance excellence through innovation, improvement and visionary leadership.
CPH is the only nonprofit among the 2011 winners, announced Nov. 22.
The 69 organizations that qualified for the award were evaluated in seven areas: leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; operations focus; and results.
The evaluation process for each recipient included about 1,000 hours of review and an on-site visit by a team of examiners to clarify questions and verify information.
Named after Malcolm Baldrige, the 26th Secretary of Commerce, the award was established by Congress in 1987 to enhance the competitiveness and performance of U.S. businesses. Congress expanded the program in 1999 to include education and health-care organizations, and again in 2007 to include nonprofits.
CPH and the other 2011 recipients were honored at an April 15 ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Before his departure for Washington, The Lutheran Witness (LW) sat down with CPH president and CEO Dr. Bruce G. Kintz (BK) to discuss the award and the insights the Synod’s publisher gained from participating in the process.
LW: How did CPH become a candidate for the award?
BK: It’s an interesting process. You have to be recognized at the state level first. In 2009, Concordia Publishing House was awarded the Missouri Quality Award. We were reviewed by a host of outside examiners, who looked at our processes and compared them to seven specific criteria: leadership; strategic planning; our ability to focus on customers; a whole section on measurement, analysis and knowledge managementwhich is easier to say than it is to accomplish; workforce focus, which is instrumental here; our operations focus internally, and then, our results. We then put together our Baldrige Report, 50 solid pages of what goes on here at CPH. The Baldrige Foundation used that report to judge whether we were even worthy of a site visit by leaders of other corporations, who would judge whether we are truly adhering to the criteria.
LW: About how many companies are considered each year for the award?
BK: There’s no set number. It’s based on how many applicants meet the criteria. That’s why the award is so valuable. It’s not an apply-and-win situation.
LW: How long did this process take?
BK: Well, 13 years. We were confident after having won the Missouri Quality Award that we stood well in the pack of people that might be considered for the national-level award. We didn’t know that we would win it within two years though.
LW: What did CPH learn?
BK: Oh, wow. Well, we learned something across each one of the broad categories: That a leader cannot be disengaged. . . . [L]eaders need to stay engaged in the business and view all of the processes and policies as something integral to running a business whose outcomes are not by chance but more so by the process dictating them.
LW: How do these lessons benefit the Synod?
BK: It makes sure that our stewardship is right where it needs to be. If we’re working in the most efficient way possible and our processes are documented and they are yielding the proper outcomes, then we can go home and sleep at night and say to ourselves, “We’re doing the best we can in terms of stewardship for the church.” I believe all of the dollars that CPH receives for its products come from the offering plate. CPH is very effective, very efficient on behalf of the churches and schools and customers we serve.
LW: What is the state of publishing today? Is digital going to make print obsolete?
BK: Years ago people read magazines, they read books–hardcover books–and they took textbooks to school. Today, we’re seeing a sea of change in choices for those same areas. When you read today, there seems to be a movement toward reading on some sort of a device. And that’s true whether you’re reading for pleasure, reading a magazine, or reading in school. I would say we’re in an in-between state.
What this means for CPH is that we have to serve those people that still want to read in hard print, but we also have to make sure that CPH is creating resources digitally as well. Will digital printing make printing hard-cover books obsolete? Not for a good long while.
LW: What’s the best thing about CPH that people don’t know?
BK: In the 1950s, there was a perceived monopoly by CPH on all the products we had. If you were an LCMS church or school, you basically had to use CPH materials. Now, today, there are all manner of competing materials on every subject imaginable. But the one thing about CPH that people mostly don’t know is that we’re here especially for them. If you’re Lutheran, we’re here for you. The materials we produce are for you. How much more specialized could we be? The reinvestment of everything we have back into the products and services for the next round is something that most people don’t consider.
About the Author: James H. Heine is director of News and Information for LCMS Communications and executive editor of The Lutheran Witness.