Quality win for Tri County Tech

Roseanne McKee
Tri County Tech Superintendent/CEO Lindel Fields and Tri County Tech staff celebrated winning the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award at a reception held Friday at Tri County Tech. Roseanne McKee/Journal-Capital

A decade-long dream is now a reality for the staff and leaders at Tri County Tech, and it is paying off on a national level.

The Bartlesville-based CareerTech school is one of five 2018 recipients of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. The Pawhuska Business Development Center, which fosters economic development in Osage County, is an element of the Tri County Tech family. The Business Development Center addresses business needs, but also provides a range of instruction to local workers that includes such things as CPR training for county road employees.

The award was announced Thursday, and Tri County Tech held a reception Friday at its Bartlesville campus to commemorate the award’s announcement.

The Baldrige Award is a presidential-level honor, recognizing exemplary practices among American organizations and businesses including an unceasing drive for radical renovation, thoughtful leadership and organizational improvement.

Tri County Tech Superintendent/CEO Lindel Fields said he was proud of the educators at Tri County Tech and the community.

“There’s no doubt this is the most significant day in Tri County’s 51-year history. It’s a top five day for Bartlesville, and I happen to believe that it’s a top 20 day for the state of Oklahoma,” Fields said.

“So, where do we go from here? Dr. Gil Greenwood has been with us on this journey with us as a board member for over 20 years and he never lets me go a moment without thinking about the next thing. … We feel confident that we can help others become great places to work, that we can help others on their quality journey. So, that’s what’s next for us. We’re going to enjoy the moment but then we’re going to help others become the best versions of themselves that they can possibly be.”

After applause, Brian O’Hara from U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern’s office presented a certificate to Tri County Tech.

O’Hara said, “We’re so proud of what’s been accomplished here. … We have a certificate to offer to the whole team, not just Lindel, because it takes a team to make this award what it is today. And, it’s a huge award. You’re talking about 111 organizations over the 31 years have won this award. That’s big. And, just think about all the people who applied for it throughout the United States. … It’s been awarded to 115. Four of them have received the award over and over again.”

Following the presentation of the certificate, Fields and a member of his leadership team sat down for an interview.

“It’s been a 10-year journey. This is a significant event for Tri County. What it means is that tens of thousands of students have entrusted their hopes and dreams with us and gotten the training to be successful. What Baldridge says is if you entrust your future to us, your likelihood of success will go up. That’s the message I want to share. It’s really about the students.

“It’s been a relentless pursuit. We believe it’s not about what you do in a day, it’s about what you do on daily that matters.

“I just couldn’t be more proud of the staff and the educators for how hard they’ve worked, but happy for the community and the state of Oklahoma,” Fields said.

Nationally, there were five winners of the Baldrige Award this year, Fields said.

“The annual awards ceremony [and conference] will be in Washington D.C. in April, and Tri County will share their best practices — our strategic planning process — called 5D,” Fields said.

“This process is used to evaluate anything new at our organization,” Fields said. “If it doesn’t pass muster, it doesn’t get done at Tri County.”

At the conference they will divide the material into sections.

“Lindel will speak about leadership. The senior leaders each speak about a piece of the puzzle. The team members are — Kim Smith, CFO and director of operations, Tara Gotwalt, senior director of economic development, Tonya Foreman senior director of business development, and Kerensa Kester, chief instructional officer,” said Dr. Tammie Strobel, deputy superintendent and chief quality officer, also a senior leader.

The 5D puzzle has five main pieces. The 5D process developed by Tri County Tech consists of — dream, design, drive (marketing), deliver and dissect (evaluate), Fields said.

“That’s one of the best practices we think other organizations can replicate quickly. There’s no magic bullet for being a performance-excellent organization, but there are a few things we can share that can help them along the way,” Fields said.

“Tri County Tech has been using this process for many years but recently added the name and the brand — 5D — which helps organizations to self edit and prioritize,” Strobel added.

“I believe it’s unique for a school t be run as a business. We do call our students our customers. They have a choice. They don’t have to come here, Strobel said. “We can help other schools and organizations. If we can do it, they can do it. We can help schools be better.”

One example of the 5D process being used at Tri County has been the development of a leadership retreat center.

“We applied the 5D process to the idea,” Fields said. “We’ve dreamed it and are in the process of designing it.”

In 2018 Tri County purchased real estate using funds from their building fund, previously called Garrett Farms, and are two years away from opening the facility.

The center will also be available to rent for weddings, corporate events and for organizations to conduct their own leadership and training seminars. The funds generated from the center will be put back into Tri County Tech, thereby benefitting its students.

Tri County staff will also offer leadership training at the center.

“This will allow us to showcase our gifts — to be a voice in the quality market and the best places to work,” Fields said.