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   Survey of Organizational Excellence   Star image
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The Survey of Organizational Excellence is one dimension of a vision of organizational improvement.  The Survey focuses upon fully utilizing an organization's human resources to build viable institutions, businesses, communities, and economies that will serve us in a new century.  This web page provides a description of the Survey, its development, use as a tool for organizational change, and a history of the survey.


Table of Contents

Survey Overview

Survey Background


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pencil.gif (1285 bytes) Why Survey?

The Survey assists organizational  leadership by providing information about work force issues that impact the quality of service ultimately delivered to all customers.  The data provide information not only about employees' perceptions of the effectiveness of their own organization, but also about employees' satisfaction with their employer.  Understanding issues such as the perceived comparability of the pay and employment benefit package is vital to attracting and retaining a competitive workforce.

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Who is taking the Survey?

The Survey is proving to be a powerful wave for change and improvement in both the public and private sector. In 1994 we distributed 62,000 surveys, in 1996 72,000, and in 1998 over 100,000 surveygraph.gif (2521 bytes)s were distributed. Both organizational and employee response has been tremendous! In 1994, the average organizational response rate was 42 percent and in 1996, it rose to 60 percent! The 1998 rate is comparable to 1996.  These are quite high rates for survey work and the increase from 94 to 96 and 98 is significant. Such participation indicates the readiness, indeed the eagerness of employees to engage in work to improve the organization. The Survey acts as a catalyst that is sent to every employee and says, "We are all involved in this together and each of us must be on board to create excellence!  A listing of many of Our Customers is available on-line.  
     Organizational leadership, in turn building on this wave of energized employees, begun dozens of initiatives to improve services, create new procedures, and benchmark results both against other governmental agencies, private industry, and with "best of breed" techniques from businesses.  
    But, above all the Survey is not about the collection of data or seeking the compliance of organizations in doing the Survey. It is instead a catalyst to promote excellence through participation and accountability. It says that every employee has a vital role to play and must play it to the best and fullest all of the time. It says that every employee must think continually for better, more efficient ways of getting work done. It says that the organization calls for openness and candor among all its employees and urges continuous teamwork to build quality.    

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Survey Design and Type of Data Returned               design.gif (1681 bytes)
   The design of the Survey provides a uniform tool for employees in all organizations to communicate to leadership their thinking about 

  • the strength of supervision,
  • the clarity of organizational focus upon goals and outcomes,
  • how clearly and focused communication appears to be;
  • how much are quality, excellence, and innovation stressed and supported and
  • how well they feel they, the employees, are treated as members of the organization.

   The Survey assessment is a framework which, at its highest level, consists of five Workplace Dimensions. Taken together these five capture the total work environment. Each Workplace Dimension consists of several Survey Constructs. The Survey Constructs are designed to broadly profile organizational strengths and weaknesses so that interventions may be targeted appropriately.  Survey Constructs are developed from the Primary Questions series and scores for the Constructs range from a low of 100 to a high of 500.  Survey Construct data are returned by first defining the Workplace Dimension followed by both response over time comparison and benchmark data for each of the corresponding constructs.

Survey Constructs
Dimension I
Work Group
Dimension II
Work Setting
Dimension III
Organizational Features
Dimension IV
Dimension V
Personal Demands

Supervisor Effectiveness
Team Effectiveness
Job Satisfaction

Fair Pay
Physical Environment
Employee Development

Change Oriented
Goal Oriented


Time and Stress

   For each Primary Question, employees are asked to indicate how strongly they agree or disagree that the item describes the organization.  There are two sets of Primary Questions.  One set refers to the organization as a whole, and the other set refers to the employee’s immediate work group.  The data report provides two sections, one for each set of Primary Questions, to clearly differentiate the information.
    Possible responses to the Primary Questions include:  (1) strongly disagree; (2) disagree; (3) feel neutral; (4) agree; (5) strongly agree; and, (6) don't know/not applicable.  Any survey question with an average (mean) score above the neutral midpoint of "3.0" suggests that employees perceive the issue more positively than negatively. Scores of "4.0" or higher indicate areas of substantial strength for the organization.  Conversely, scores below "3.0" are viewed more negatively by employees.  Questions that receive below a "2.0" should be a significant source of concern for the organization and receive immediate attention.
    For each Primary Question: frequency of response, response over time comparisons, and applicable benchmarking data are returned.  The following is an example of the information returned.  Below is an example of what the returned data report of a survey item.

7. We produce high-quality work that has a low rate of error.
Current Over Time Benchmarks
Score 4.07 1998 Score 3.89* Statewide 4.02
Standard Deviation .880 1996 Score 3.74 Mission 3.95
Number of Responses 148 1994 Score 3.75 FTE Category 3.54*
* Denotes statistical significance of .05 when compared to current score.
Response: Strongly
Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly
Don't Know
or n/a
Frequency: 49 79 12 9 1 4
Percentage: 32% 52% 8% 5% <1% 2%

  For the Over Time series of questions employees are asked to consider how their organization has changed during the last two years relative to many organizational issues. Possible responses include: (1) the organization is performing much worse; (2) the organization is performing worse; (3) the organization is performing about the same; (4) the organization is performing better; (5) the organization is performing much better; and, (6) don't know/not applicable. For each Over Time Question: frequency of response, response over time comparison, and applicable benchmarking data are returned in the same format as the Primary Questions with a modification to the scale.
    Two additional types of data are returned.  Respondent information is provided on all demographic items. A comparison data point (typically the respondent information from the Statewide results) is provided.  Along with organization summary data, customized organizational breakdowns are provided via electronic spreadsheets.   Many organizations wish to have their employees identify the region or program area in which they work.. The Survey allows for two specific organizational areas to be identified. 


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Rapid    Response to Organizations

    The Survey is designed to assist organizations in collecting internal data about employee perceptions to promote improved quality. Data collection, analysis, and reporting are designed to minimize time at each step and to create data that can be used for a variety of organizational efforts. Survey data are available usually within four weeks after survey collection is completed. Reports are returned to organizations in a format designed to permit ready duplication and extensive electronic files are provided in a spreadsheet format. Several comparative benchmarks from private and public organizations are available and returned with data reports to participating organizations.

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Empowerment and Accountability                                                                                 group.gif (8505 bytes)

    The Survey is both an empowerment and accountability tool. It gives the employees the power to assess their own organization. Survey procedures return the summarized data to leadership, which, in turn, makes sure every individual, sees how others assess the strengths and weaknesses. The Survey provides an organizational summary of what is done well and what employees feel must be improved. But, the design of the Survey then demands accountability from every employee in that the data are used with leadership and membership to develop strategies and priorities on what must be improved and how best to improve. 
    When organizations decide to participate in the Survey, they are affirming, making concrete, an implied compact between leadership and all employees. That compact is that leadership is asking for the full support, the highest level of thinking, creativity, dedication, and accountability from every member of the organization. It is a declaration by leadership that there is the commitment to create an organization that carefully chooses what it does and then seeks accomplishments that are outstanding, world class.

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wpeF.gif (1162 bytes)The BeginningwpeF.gif (1162 bytes)

The Survey of Organizational Excellence is a tool that began to be developed in Texas in 1979.  William Clements was Governor of the state of Texas.  We began the development of the Survey in response to Governor Clements' concerns to know more about how Texas state employees view working for the State of Texas. Essentially our charge was to create an instrument that would assess the working climate of Texas State government from the perspective of the employee.  In time and especially since the early 1990s the Survey has become increasingly a tool to build quality and excellence in organizations not just a gauge of how employees feel about work and working conditions.  The Survey is now an instrument utilized by both public and private organizations in an effort to continuously improve and meet the challenges of the future.

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Quality in Texas

Texas organizations participating in the Survey represent those in Texas that are actively seeking quality improvements. The data assist agencies to understand, from the viewpoint of the employee, what the organization is doing well and where improvement efforts should be targeted. Understanding how employees perceive various aspects of the workplace is critical to implementing successful change. When data are gathered over time they become a valuable record of organizational change.

The Survey of Organizational Excellence is one dimension of a vision of organizational improvement for Texas State government. The Survey focuses upon one aspect of the work that we are all engaged in to build Texas institutions, communities, and an economy that will serve us in a new century. Details of how to use the Survey and some of the findings about your organization are available in these materials. This document provides a description of where additional information about the Survey, its development and participants can be obtained.

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Creating Organizations for the Next Century

The Survey is as well a constant reminder that Texas State government must serve a great role in the transformation process underway in the economy of the state. Texas can no longer look to the land as the dominant source of wealth and jobs. While forests, grasslands, and oil reserves remain important resources for the state, the people of the state must use their creative abilities to invent the new businesses, the new organizations that will provide the economy of the next century. Our colleagues from the private sector panel are illustrative of that force underway in Texas business. In the last decade, we have witnessed the creation of hundreds of businesses in Texas and the elaboration of thousands more not from the extraction of natural resources but from human resources in the new knowledge economy. We must look to each other, to human inventiveness to create the new jobs, the new businesses that will support our families and our communities in this new century.

wpeE.gif (5532 bytes)In a like fashion, state government must show leadership in creating organizations where people work very hard and with great creativity. As a glance at state demography shows, we face many grave challenges in building opportunities for a growing population to participate in the new paradigm of the Texas economy. Our state organizations must set the pace in the Texas culture in choosing goals carefully, prudently, and then achieving them with distinction, with world class excellence. The Survey, the eagerness to participate, the reciprocity of empowerment and accountability between organizational leadership and employees signals to the citizenry that employees and the leadership of Texas view their jobs as positions of trust for the people of Texas. The trust demands that each of us in our jobs and in our organizations sets standards of accomplishment and dedication that go beyond even that of our counterparts in local government and private business. Through its thousands of processes from:

  • setting standards for health and welfare,
  • securing protection for individuals,
  • providing the means of transportation and recreation,
  • assuring fair conduct among individuals and businesses,
  • educating hundred of thousands, and
  • being ultimately responsible for the well-being of every citizen,

state government can through its own pursuit of excellence call forth reciprocal responses from every person, every organization, every community it touches. State government has the opportunity and must continue to take that opportunity to set the pace for excellence and innovation in the state.

The reality of these waning years of the 20th Century is that we are now building a new paradigm of organizations and the economy in Texas. This new paradigm consists of organizations that are learning organizations, organizations that innovate to meet new challenges. These are organizations that are composed of the highly diverse cultures of the people of Texas. These are organizations true to our cultural values of independent thought, self-sufficiency, openness of spirit, and grandness of vision. These are organizations where each member participates fully. These are organizations quick to respond to the citizenry, eager to develop alliances to improve services and products, and always mindful of vision and responsibility. The Survey is one tool to assist us in this vision of a Texas continuing to grow strong through diversity, energy, and commitment. Borrowing a bit from Governor Bush's vision we may say that the Lone Star State is indeed a beacon state where strong communities, vigorous businesses, and great government provide unmatched opportunities for every individual and every family.

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A Unique Effort

No efforts comparable to the size and comprehensiveness of the Survey have been identified in other state governments or at the federal level. However, Texas' experiences at reinventing government are beginning to be emulated elsewhere. In a new and related effort with funding from the Marion Merrill Dow Foundation, the State of Missouri has replicated the Survey in Kansas City and St. Louis. Explorations of other replications are underway and will serve to expand organizational comparisons available from survey data.

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