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GCRTA's Journey to Performance Excellence BY JOE CALABRESE

CEO and General Manager
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA)

Winning awards—especially awards for performance excellence—is a wonderful affirmation for everyone in an organization that they’re doing the right things at the right time, day in and day out.

That’s how we feel at GCRTA about receiving the prestigious Gold Award for Commitment to Excellence from the Partnership for Excellence (TPE), a nonprofit organization that supports and celebrates performance excellence in Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia based on the Baldrige National Quality Program’s seven criteria.

We were one of six high-performing organizations named in May for “performance excellence through innovation, results and visionary leadership using the Baldrige Excellence Framework.” This honor represents a step up for GCRTA after the agency received the Silver Award in 2015, and it motivates us to strive to win the Platinum Award—the highest rating—next.

In June, we received a comprehensive report from a team of judges who visited Cleveland a few months ago. The report includes recommendations on ways that GCRTA can improve its programs and operations. Work will begin immediately to assess and prioritize opportunities for improvement where feasible.

The Work Behind the Award

Importantly, this award is not just a reflection of our achievements as an organization, nor is it just about the outstanding service we deliver every day and the 44 million passenger trips we provide each year.

At its core, the award acknowledges that GCRTA’s success becomes the success of all who share the mission of delivering outstanding public transit throughout our communities. It’s about the positive impact these achievements mean to the image of public transit.

It’s the hard work and commitment to excellence exhibited by our 2,400 employees every day that is making GCRTA one of the most well-respected public transit agencies in the nation.

As we reach this outstanding milestone and are recognized for having great business practices, the bigger picture is that our customers—the public that we serve—know with greater confidence that we are outstanding stewards of their hard-earned tax dollars and we are putting every penny to work to deliver the service they need.

GCRTA’s Gold Award also points to the outstanding relationships with our civic, community, corporate and government partners. They invest in and benefit from public transit, and our commitment to excellence only accelerates those investments.

Our Journey to Excellence
Two years ago when the Partnership for Excellence issued its 2015 Feedback Report, it was very helpful as GCRTA senior leadership identified 12 actionable opportunities to improve processes and programs. The results? GCRTA staff is now implementing three critical priorities:

* Employee engagement and ­satisfaction goals;
* Market research, with a focus on customer satisfaction and improved ratings; and
* Budget and planning processes that align with our strategic plan.

Our leadership team looks forward to receiving the 2017 Feedback Report to update and align current organizational excellence initiatives with new opportunities. GCRTA officials will then reapply and seek the Platinum Award.

No doubt this is a significant accomplishment, and it marks yet another step in our excellence journey toward the Baldrige National Quality Program Award, given by the president of the United States to businesses and education, health care and nonprofit organizations judged to be outstanding in seven areas of performance excellence.

One of our partners on this journey is TPE, which assists organizations in using the internationally recognized Baldrige Excellence Framework to develop a comprehensive assessment that helps organizational leaders better understand and prioritize key strengths and opportunities for improvement.

While the assessment is the foundation, TPE’s main focus is on organizational learning, innovation, resource optimization, continuous improvement and results.

All applicants are rigorously evaluated by an independent board of examiners in seven areas: leadership, strategy, customers, measurement, analysis/knowledge management, workforce and operations/results.

The evaluation process includes more than 1,000 hours of review and a three-day visit by a team of examiners to clarify questions and verify information in the application.

By providing this framework, organizations have a greater focus on customers, process management, innovation, work systems and organization-wide results. These organizations typically experience lower costs, improved productivity and increases in both employee and customer satisfaction leading to growth in market share. As a result, they can have an enormous ­positive impact on the lives of thousands of people.

The next step on our journey is a celebration when GCRTA will be among those honored at TPE’s annual Quest for Success Conference, Sept. 11-12 in Columbus.

"Commentary" features points of view from various sources to enhance readers' broad awareness of themes that affect public transportation.
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