Monday the Mobil Travel Guide released its 2008 list of five-star restaurants. Five-star restaurants presumedly provide flawless food and service in an exquisite setting. They are the tops. You can't do any better than five-stars.
There is one five-star restaurant near where I live: The Inn at Little Washington. I heard about it many years ago and wondered why anyone would pay hundreds of dollars for one meal. Not long ago, to celebrate our anniversary, my wife and I decided to find out.
Before I continue, there is another list that came out today. The Office of Management and Budget released its ratings of how well federal agencies are implementing five management initiatives. Each agency is scored as being ‘green' (successful), ‘yellow' (mixed bag), or ‘red' (“don't make me pull this car over”) on each initiative. Like five-stars, you can't do any better than five-greens. And they are tough to get. The latest ratings only give three of 26 federal agencies five-greens.
One of those three was the Environmental Protection Agency.
It's a first for us and we should be proud. Similar to the President's Quality Award we won in December, it's taken many years to get here. We got our first green (for financial management) in 2003 and have accumulated an additional green every year since then. More importantly we've kept our greens despite increasingly tough expectations. (In fact, we lost and had to regain our green in information technology twice.) Every office and every employee has been affected from changing the way we assess personnel to how we issue regulations.
A rating is just that: a rating. The rating doesn't make us more effective or save us money or make us a stronger Agency. But it validates something I feel. We continue to improve how we operate. We are among the best in government. We should be proud.
We should also be wary.
I expected much from the Inn at Little Washington and they still surprised me. The service was attentive but unobtrusive. The dining area was elegant yet comfortable. And the food . . . sorry Mom, but it was among the best meals I've had in my life. The kicker was the sous-chef who gave us a tour of the kitchen. I mentioned to him that Zagat had just rated them the best restaurant in the United States. “We don't pay much attention to that. We are here to do one thing, overwhelm people's impossible expectations. If we do that, the ratings will come. The day we start worrying about the ratings is the day we start slipping.”