The APEX (Achieving Performance Excellence) Initiative is an agency-driven systems approach to building capacity for higher organizational performance, implementing best practices, data-driven decision making using multiple self-assessment tools, and a guidebook series full of interventions, tools, and resources. The information presented is designed and written specifically for the field of corrections.

APEX was developed through a joint venture between the National Institute of Corrections and People in Charge LLC. One of the major APEX efforts is to incorporate culture, leadership, performance measurement, results, and a change management strategy to help corrections agencies use their resources wisely to improve their organizational performance.

The APEX Initiative includes these major components:

The APEX Public Safety Model
The APEX Guidebook Series
The APEX Change Management Model
The APEX Assessment Tools Protocol
The APEX Training

The APEX Public Safety Model includes eight domains that reflect the shared vision and operating values of everyone working in any corrections system. In this model, organizational culture is placed at the top to show that it is an umbrella over the organization, how it operates, and what it values. The APEX Public Safety Model domains can be used as a lens when problem-solving, decision making, and planning to ensure that the issues are being dealt with in a whole-systems manner.

The basic principles evident in the APEX model include the well-tested Baldrige Performance Excellence Program Criteria (, with the added elements of the Organizational Culture domain and Safe and Secure Supervision and Settings in the Operations Focus domain. The necessity of the safety and security element makes the corrections environment one of the most challenging in the world, and is the reason that understanding and implementing the APEX Public Safety Model is so important.

The APEX Guidebook Series, a set of seven books, is a compendium of advice and best-practice guidance that informs correctional agencies interested in building a higher performing organizational culture. All of the Guidebooks can be found on the APEX Home Page

The APEX Change Management Model was developed to give correctional agencies a road map to use when contemplating performance improvement and/or organizational change efforts. It is a systems systems-approach road map for navigating organizational change designed specifically for application in the field of corrections. It includes six stages:

Stage 1: Plan and Assess

Stage 2: Define the Goal

Stage 3: Organize People for Results

Stage 4: Build the Detailed Implementation Plan

Stage 5: Implement the Change Management Plan

Stage 6: Sustain the Change

The APEX Assessment Tools Protocol, based on the APEX Public Safety Model and the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, provides correctional agencies with a durable framework for guiding, planning, and assessing their performance and results in challenging and rapidly changing times. The agency is solely in control of how the data is used or shared, with no expectation that it will be shared with NIC or any other entity.

The APEX Screener is a brief self-administered survey that looks at organizational readiness for change and the eight APEX domains.
The APEX Organizational Profile looks at the organization’s operations, environment, relationships, and situation.
The APEX Inventory is a more comprehensive assessment of the eight APEX domains and evaluates the organization’s readiness for change than the Screener.

These tools in the APEX assessment protocol provide a comprehensive and systems-based picture of how the organization operates in the eight domains and informs the development of a plan to improve performance. Agencies can choose to use only the tools they wish and base their implementation plans on those results. Once an agency is working on implementation, the assessment tools can be re-administered to check progress.

The APEX Training is designed to create internal change agents in all sectors of corrections. This training enables participants to be able to take the APEX Guidebook series and Assessment Tools out to their agencies and use the APEX Public Safety Model as a systems-approach lens; successfully implement the APEX processes: assist their agencies as they go through the culture and performance tools; develop integrated and holistic implementation plans to meet any identified gaps; develop comprehensive communications plans; and work toward sustaining the change efforts.

What is APEX?

APEX is a business model that offers a systems approach to change, specifically for correctional organizations. It provides multiple tools and strategies to build sustainable capacity toward higher performance, evidence-based practices, and data-driven decision making. Safety and security is one of the foundational principles of APEX. In addition, this model provides a pathway for agencies to create an organizational culture and a management environment that encourages innovative ideas to improve services, processes, and results.

Participation in APEX provides opportunities to enhance mission and operational success. Each agency develops its own timelines, commitment, goals, stakeholder engagement processes, evaluation processes, and success measures.

What APEX is Not

APEX is not a report card or an accreditation process; it will not require public disclosure of the agency’s performance to compare with any other agency and it will not mandate actions. Engaging APEX is an opportunity for the agency to assess and address its performance gaps, including the effective allocation of human and fiscal resources, and to optimize results through innovation and evaluation. It serves as a guiding force for continuous performance improvement and transcends the boundaries of time, fiscal constraints, and changes in leadership.

Benefits of Implementing APEX

Whether an agency decides to use the self-assessment tools, the guidebook series, and the training, or one of these on its own, implementing APEX provides a wide range of benefits to corrections organizations. Increased performance standards, enhanced stakeholder results, more efficient use and stewardship of public funds, and a more engaged and productive workforce are just a few of the advantages that agencies may discover through APEX.

Staying the Course with the APEX Agenda

Achieving performance excellence is a process of commitment, support, and change. Agency leaders and staff must actively commit to and promote the change process; establish policies, procedures, and practices to institutionalize the agenda; influence the agency culture to embrace the change efforts; garner the support and commitment of stakeholders; and adapt and change to meet expectations and challenges.

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