Fort Knox has won third place in the annual Army Community of Excellence competition.

The prize money of $250,000 must be used in a fashion benefiting the entire community.

Fort Knox Garrison Commander Col. Rick Schwartz said, "We're all winners."

The criteria used to determine the winners are taken from the Baldrige Awards, given for quality management and leadership in the civilian sector.

Those criteria include leadership, strategic planning, customer and market focus, measurement, analysis and knowledge management, workforce focus, process management, and results.

The foundation for the award packet is the organizational self-assessment survey that garrison employees are asked to complete each year. The packet was submitted in September.

The application was good enough to pass the initial screening, so a site visit was the next step, explained Sara Johnson, the director of the Plans, Analysis and Integration office. Knox was visited by certified examiners Dec. 1-5.

While the examiners were looking at Fort Knox, Derek Avey was evaluating another garrison.

"Derek is also a certified examiner," Johnson explained. "He traveled to Korea to document findings for another ACOE applicant."

Avey had been instrumental in putting together data for Knox's packet, but because so many examiners are involved in the process, there is little fear of prejudicial findings.

"The visitors documented results of things we had already done," Schwartz said. "We didn't do things just for the ACOE competition -- these were things we had already accomplished."

The application packet was comprised of 35 two-sided pages of information - a regular gold mine of data. However, most of it wouldn't mean much to the average civilian or Soldier, Schwartz said. He searched to find a familiar comparison for Soldiers.

"This is like a command inspection program for the entire garrison," he explained. "The prize money goes right back into Soldier and family programs."

"We were looked at in comparison with lots of other folks," Johnson added. "It shows you the leadership of our organization and how focused we are on customer service, improvements, and continuing to do our best for them."

Due to the paperwork burden and manpower required to complete the packet, Fort Knox had not competed in the ACOE process for several years, Johnson said.

While some Knox residents might suspect that leadership is totally focused on the numerous Base Realignment and Closure projects, Johnson said this award should demonstrate otherwise to Knox employees.

"This shows that the focus of Fort Knox leadership has not all gone to BRAC moves and the new units," Johnson said. "This award proves that just isn't true."

One of the strategic planners who helped with the packet, Joan Fries, said, "This is a recognition of the good things we do every day; it tells customers that we are doing a good job."

Not only does the award send a message to Fort Knox customers, but the award indicates how well the post receives messages from its customers.
Schwartz reads every Interactive Customer Evaluation and Lean Six Sigma improvement, as well as suggestions received at Town Hall meetings, or feedback from any source.

Although no earmarks have been made for the prize money, Schwartz said, it will show up in Fort Knox's budget next year and he is confident that will be used prudently.

"We believe we know what people want because they helped shape our growth strategy, so we think we know what they want," Schwartz said.

The first place winner of the competition must sit out for the next two years, Fries explained, so Fort Knox is determined to do better in the 2010 competition.

"We have forward-looking people working at what adjustments we will have to make as our customer base changes," Fries said. "We will become more competitive."

The process for next year's application is already underway. A new OSA will be posted soon and the garrison needs a minimum percentage in order to satisfy eligibility requirements for next year's competition.

"This is huge for this installation," Schwartz emphasized. "It is a powerful example of customer comments at work."

To keep employees focused on their mission to support Soldiers, Schwartz has asked that the winning plaque be engraved with the motto, "Strength starts here."

Schwartz, Johnson, Fries, and Avey all traveled Tuesday to Washington, D.C., to accept the award at a ceremony on the Pentagon Center Courtyard.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16