Q&A with ExcellenceNorth Executive Director Anne Warner
For over 15 years, Anne Warner has helped businesses pursue excellence. Starting in 2006, she has been at the helm of the Granite State Quality Council, a nonprofit organization that works with businesses on performance and pursuit of success. In 2019, the council — which has long been helping businesses in Vermont and Maine as well as New Hampshire — changed its name to ExcellenceNorth Alliance.
Q. What exactly is ExcellenceNorth Alliance?
A. We began as the Granite State Quality Council, but about a year and a half ago, we realized that the name didn’t really reflect where the future is going or where our members are, since we cover northern New England. So we needed a name that better reflected what we wanted to be about. Excellence is about sustainably thriving, helping organizations to develop, grow and prosper so that they can be sustainable for the long term. North is more about the North Star than our location, because our goal is to help organizations find their own true north or their own North Star.
Q. What kind of support do you give?
A. We work with organizations and individuals to provide some of the detailed skills that they don’t necessarily have but may need. We work to make better organizations more sustainable organizations, and we see that as helping New Hampshire and northern New England as a whole. We want to help organizations to be strong so that we can raise everything up.
Q. How does your organization work?
A. We try to attract organizations that are seeking out that different perspective of what they do. Give them a new vision, retrain them and help them to look at themselves as an ecosystem and understand how that works and how everything fits together.
Then they can identify the things that they can do, their priorities, and then also build from their strengths. It’s really taking a different perspective, taking a step back, looking at the organization, maybe through a different mirror, and better seeing how the organization fits and works together. How the dots are connected.
What we have seen is organizations don’t do that enough to create a solid framework for their growth, development and sustainability.
Q. Are there certain kinds of businesses that are more amenable to this kind of process than others?
A. From my experience, I think it’s the purpose-driven organization and those who want to seek continuous improvement. They have a purpose beyond just making money.
We’re looking at organizations that say, “We have a purpose beyond ourselves. We need to figure out how to achieve that purpose because we’re impacting others.”
Q. Is there a typical company that comes to you? Is it a bigger company, a smaller, mid-sized?
A. It really depends. It’s more based on the focus of the organization — they want to get better. They’ve looked at other models, they see how we can help them and we need to expand that communication, of how we can help them and tell them that we have other expertise that we can bring in as well to help them.
There are a lot of organizations that are doing all of the right things. They may not call it Baldrige, but they’re looking at business excellence, performance excellence and they understand how that helps.
Q. What do you do when you come into an organization?
A. We assess, we build the relationships and we develop a plan. We ask questions about who are your important customers? What are their characteristics? What are their requirements so you can serve them? What are the needs from your workforce? Strategic challenges, strategic advantages.
The idea is to set out that framework for how you can build on that and having it clear because a lot of times when I talk to leaders they think, “Oh yes, we understand that,” but if I have them write down these things separately, they’ll come out with just slightly different things that, when you get into that strategic discussion, it may create some conflict that they didn’t know was there.
It’s really about, “Here’s who we are.” All organizations need to do that to move forward.
Q. How does a business or an organization get in touch with you?
A. We have the website, excellencenorth.org, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.