North Island Is First Financial To Win Governor's Award

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North Island Credit Union is being recognized for its business performance from the California Council for Excellence, including becoming the first financial institution to win the prestigious Governor's Award.

The California Council for Excellence (CCE) is a non-profit foundation that administers a statewide award program known as the California Awards for Performance Excellence, or CAPE. The CCE is one of many state programs established in the 1990s that emulate the U.S. Department of Commerce's Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

At a ceremony in Riverside, Calif., North Island received a gold-level Eureka Award, which is given to companies and organizations that demonstrate "continuous improvement and best-in-class performance" in several key business areas. In addition, the CCE's board of directors named North Island the winner of the Governor's Award for Performance Excellence. The latter award is reserved for top CAPE recipients that have "consistently superior performance results and organizational excellence."

The CU was only the second Governor's Award nominee in the 10-year history of the program. Boeing's airlift and tanker program in Long Beach, Calif., was the first recipient in 2002.

Mike Maslak, North Island's CEO, said the CU's management is "humbled and gratified" to receive the honor.

"It is nice to get the validation. Following the Baldrige criteria takes effort and discipline, but the outcome is continuous improvement of our processes and business results," said Maslak. "Establishing and building on a culture of performance excellence is what the Baldrige program is really all about."

Baldrige served as secretary of commerce during the Reagan Administration. According to Ken Marion, North Island's senior vice president for strategic planning, the Department of Commerce established the Baldrige Award on the national level in the late 1980s as a model for encouraging American businesses to be more competitive in the global marketplace.

North Island CU became involved in the CCE program in 1992. It has won a Eureka Award four previous times, including a gold-level win in 1997. Marion said the national Baldrige Award does not yet have a category for non-profit organizations such as credit unions, but it expects one to be offered in 2006.

In anticipation of a possible run at a Baldrige Award, North Island prepared an application in 2003 and submitted it in 2004. "It is a lengthy process," Marion said. "There are standards and criteria that must be conformed with, and they are pretty rigorous. It is all about achieving superior results in multiple areas while demonstrating positive trends."

Baldrige Criteria

The Baldrige criteria cover seven areas: leadership, strategic planning, customer/market focus, information and analysis, human resources focus, process management, and, business results.

"We had to show how the credit union approaches each area of business," Marion explained. "We had to demonstrate how we deploy our approach, how the organization benefits from the deployment and our business results. Because, if the results are not there, you need to examine what's wrong and how to improve it."

Marion described participating in the program as a tool for self-assessment; one that is proven to lead to continuous improvement in processes and results.

He said many organizations use the Baldrige criteria but never apply for state or national awards because the application process is difficult.

"Companies must answer questions that substantiate each criteria. They must show high levels of performance and increasing trends against peer benchmarks."

"A lot of it is about the approach," he continued. "You do an assessment of your organization using the criteria. That sets you on a journey of continuous refinement and improvement. It's a journey North Island has been on for over 12 years now, and we will continue to use the Baldrige criteria to keep us on course."

If the Baldrige Award adds a non-profit category in 2006, as expected, Marion said North Island will apply.

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