The researcher conducted a qualitative case study with three Malcolm Baldrige-winning small businesses to explore leadership strategies used when implementing success performance excellence initiatives. Little literature was found in the area of small businesses and performance excellence initiatives, and this study added three rich success stories as examples for other small businesses.
The case study collected data from telephone interviews within three distinct levels of employees in each organization and performed a documents/web sites review. The following four research questions were answered: (a) what roles leaders played, (b) what strategies leaders used, (c) what challenges leaders faced, and (d) how leaders overcame obstacles. Many similarities were identified amongst the companies.
Leaders' roles encompassed being actively involved and developing long-term strategies, communicating consistent messages, and being accessible to employees. Leadership used three strategies: (a) studied quality concepts as a team and learned from others; (b) aligned individual goals with organizational objectives; and (c) involved employees through teambuilding, knowledge building and recognition. Two major leadership challenges were communication and lack of resources. Dealing with resistance to change required constant communication from the top of the organization. Leadership overcame challenges they faced through teamwork and communication. Information sharing and learning were constant initiatives in these three Baldrige-winning companies. A small business Performance Excellence Model identified four evolutionary stages: (a) exploring stage, (b) aligning stage, (c) building stage, and (d) improving stage.
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