Loretta Lynn once mused — to paraphrase — while everyone wants to go to heaven, nobody wants to make the trip.
It may not be everyone’s definition of heaven, but I carry around a punch list of my goals for 2008. It comprises ten numbered items. When a goal is reached, I punch a hole in the list next to the appropriate number.
I say it is the list of my goals, but it is really a list of goals for a large team of people at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There is nothing on this list I could do alone. For instance, I have little idea how to establish a best practices system or create an electronic dashboard. Nonetheless, I am able to punch items off the list because people are willing to do the hard work necessary to make EPA a better agency and better protect human health and the environment.
I sat down with some of these team members almost a year ago and went through the goals. When I got to item number 7, there was a groan. Number 7 seemed impossible. It was something that no agency had ever achieved and, it seemed likely, no agency ever would achieve. I said, “That’s okay, we’ll leave it on the list and consider it a stretch goal.”
You see, in the many years it’s been available, only two agencies have ever won the President’s Quality Award for Overall Management Excellence. Think of it as a supercharged Malcolm Baldridge Award for the federal government. It’s only rarely won and no agency has ever won this award two years in a row.
And yet, last night, thanks to this team of EPA employees — employees who not only wanted to go to heaven, but were willing to take the trip — I took my hole puncher and punched out item number 7. EPA won the President’s Quality Award for Overall Management . . .again.