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Business Officer Magazine

Integrated Process, Celebrated Results

Be clear about what role faculty and staff can play in your stretch to new levels of campuswide performance. And, when they help make it happen, let them take a bow.

By Kristi R. Beeks and David M. Ward

Yet, as state resources became scarcer, it was clear that the college would need to rely on an adaptable, flexible administration, faculty, and staff. This triumvirate needed to find a cooperative means to integrate their respective professional goals with the financial stability of the institution. Out of this realization grew a shared vision for improving accountability and productivity across all areas within the college. To that end, the leadership team of the college (dean, associate deans, assistant deans, and department chairs) implemented an integrated planning and management process. Our efforts resulted in the development of a scenario that, across seven years, aligned the college’s stakeholders around a common business philosophy, engaged faculty and staff in problem solving, raised accountability to higher levels, increased communication, and ultimately delivered a stronger bottom line to the organization.

Getting on the Same Financial Page

Within just a few months of her arrival on campus in 2000, the dean was faced with significant budget cuts imposed by the state government. During the course of the next two years, the college had its state appropriations reduced by 40 percent. While this reduction in funding created enormous challenges, the dean and the leadership team used the situation as an opportunity to unite the college and focus on strategic, integrated decision making.

As a first and important step in the integration process, the college’s finance and administration team developed standardized statements of revenues and expenditures. The statements included departmental budgets as well as individual program budgets. These reports served as the foundation for building our overall plan of action and for creating a culture and expectation of financial accountability. At this stage of the planning process, we instituted the following key activities, which remain in use today:

Tracking budgets monthly. Variance analyses of actual revenues compared to expenditures were reported and reviewed on a monthly and quarterly basis by the dean, assistant dean for finance and administration, department chairs, and department business managers. The financial reports standardized by department and program enabled college administration to consistently and routinely review the financial progress of each of those units—and ultimately the financial health of the entire college. Revenues and expenditures were tracked and reported in standard categories: state appropriations, continuing education, student tuition and fees, grants, faculty practice, gifts and contributions, personnel, facilities and administration (formerly referred to as indirect costs), and operating costs. 

Sharing financial information. Perhaps the most important component of the financial information was the open sharing of the data and analyses across departments and programs. Information was shared via departmental meetings and collegewide faculty meetings as well as through the issuance of an annual report. The intended outcome was for everyone to gain an understanding about how the college spent its resources and the variety of resources required to operate the organization.

Motivating faculty and staff. Sharing financial information reinforced the commitment to open communication and enabled all parties to be energized by their accomplishments or perhaps motivated by their relative short falls. Most department chairs used these financial reports to help motivate their faculty with respect to other departments within the college. In one case, a department that always considered itself to be more productive than the others was faced with the reality that, from the standpoint of financial productivity, it was at the bottom of the barrel—and nobody wants to be on the low end.

Engaging People in the Process

One of the most important enablers of the change that took place within CHP was the senior leadership’s recognition that to implement all that they envisioned, faculty and staff had to be part of the decision-making process.

With that in mind, formal faculty assembly and staff congress structures were either established or reinvigorated. The faculty assembly already existed, with subcommittees that were integral components of academic decisions and helped set the overall direction for the college. But, the group was not as vibrant as it could have been. Hence, the dean met with the assembly’s officers to “bring them on board” and challenged them to become more engaged. As a result, the assembly’s curriculum committee played a critical role in helping the college review its academic programs and course offerings.

In the case of the staff congress, the dean met with senior staff and encouraged them to create an organization that would ensure their input and involvement. The resulting group participated in the strategic planning process and in identifying accomplishments for inclusion in the college’s annual report.

Along with this increased interaction, the leadership of CHP solicited the opinions of the faculty and staff via workplace surveys. These surveys were Web-based and designed to elicit feedback about levels of satisfaction and overall inclusion in the college’s activities. Results were openly shared and served as a key component in opening up our environment and creating a shared commitment to growth.

In addition, we conducted—and continue to facilitate—team building workshops. Most often, these events were part of the larger annual collegewide retreat. We strongly encouraged cross-departmental collaboration and engagement during the workshops. Through these various means, we gave the people of the college a voice in the change process. By doing so, we learned that inclusion is critical and that the strength of the organization rested with our people.

Focusing Faculty on Outcomes

It was helpful to have faculty’s input as we began to establish formal processes for quantifying their work and evaluating it based on the college’s integrated management process. Three strategies were critical in moving this portion of our efforts forward.

1. Conducting a workload analysis. Workload is always a concern for faculty, who are expected to engage in a variety of activities, including teaching, research, clinical practice, college/university service, and scholarship. For example, since our college resides in an academic health sciences center, it is expected that faculty will devote, at a minimum, 20 percent of their time in scholarly research or clinical activity. These faculty activities are a necessity for a college or institution to maintain excellence.

The college developed a faculty workload analysis with the intention of enabling college administration to look at a diverse group of programs with consistency and equity across programs and departments. Much like the financial information, this data turned out to be a significant faculty motivator. When outcomes and productivity are openly shared across departments and programs, nobody wants to be “less productive” than their colleagues. However, initially this approach resulted in creative tension at the very least and in some cases escalated to heated philosophical debates about how and why certain activities were being evaluated. (See sidebar “Taming Tension.”)

Despite the objections of some, we have found that the workload analysis serves multiple purposes:

  • monitoring and setting strategic goals for the college, including educational, clinical, research, and financial goals;
  • evaluating faculty members’ performance during the past academic year; and
  • setting goals and writing contracts for faculty members for the upcoming academic year.

2. Tying evaluations to faculty contracts and goal setting. An important element of the college’s integrated management approach called for tying faculty performance directly to organizational goals. The faculty workload analysis quantified work, whether in the form of teaching, lab work, research, or publishing, while a salary-generation requirement committed each faculty member to raising research funds and grants to support the work of his or her department. Evaluations provided periodic feedback with respect to performance, which included positive reinforcement and challenging, constructive criticism designed to improve outcomes. Faculty workload reports and input from peers and students were also important criteria. Setting clear expectations at the beginning of the year and then following up with a thorough review of performance was—and is—essential to maintaining faculty’s commitment to the overall process.

3. Establishing an office of research administration. The college did not merely say that it was necessary to increase outside funding for research. We invested resources in building the administrative infrastructure to support the faculty and enable their success by establishing an office of research administration. This office developed a research productivity database and reporting system to track research productivity—both useful in budget preparation. Aside from the very real support that this office has provided the faculty, it also sends a strong message about the college’s commitment to providing tools to help them achieve their goals.

Selling Staff on Accountability

Much like the faculty, the staff needed clear objectives and procedures to rally them around our integrated approach to managing and evaluating their activities. We implemented similar strategies with this group to establish standardized processes for goal setting, evaluation, and training.

Establishing a universal date for staff evaluations. Conducting all staff evaluations during the same time period resulted in a more equitable performance review system. Previously, review dates were based on hire dates and other confusing and complicating factors. In the revised evaluation process, supervisors and staff compared outcomes to goals for the year and established goals for the next year. Staff were highly supportive of this change as they saw standardization as a significant step toward fairness.

Emphasizing goal setting. College administrators placed increased emphasis on goal setting. The term “stretch goals” became and continues to be the “buzz” around the college. In addition, the finance and administration team developed an annual staff analysis report that is intended to assist the dean, assistant and associate deans, and the department chairs in

  • monitoring and setting strategic goals for the college;
  • evaluating staff members’ salary levels in conjunction with their qualifications (education and years of service) and performance during the past year;
  • setting goals and writing development plans for staff members for the upcoming academic year; and
  • planning for succession by providing years of service information for staff members. 

Providing training and development opportunities. The college made staff training and development opportunities a priority. For example, we now offer the following:
training in various software applications and hardware; question-and-answer sessions with information technology coordinators who focus on the college’s upgraded equipment and technology; guidance to help staff improve preparation of performance reviews, interviewing techniques, and hiring skills; and annual professional development workshops.

Communicating and Achieving Common Goals

Taming Tension

When we implemented workload analysis as part of our integrated management process, faculty raised a number of objections. Following are some of the most commonly heard comments and our rebuttals. These are representative of concerns you may need to address should you decide to implement a similar initiative at your institution.

1. Objection: “Our programs and our work are all so different. You can’t compare across programs.”
Rebuttal: “We recognize and value the differences, but in the end all faculty are expected to produce scholarship, teach students, and provide service. We are simply looking at how each faculty member does this.”

2. Objection: “Teaching a course with 70 students is not the same as teaching a course with 20, nor is teaching in a distance format the same as teaching in a traditional format.”
Rebuttal: “Agreed. Let’s work on developing a system that helps quantify the differences.”

3. Objection: “My scholarship activities are mostly focused on books or book chapters and not on extramurally funded research that has specific dollars attributed to it.”
Rebuttal: “That is all right. We want to quantify all activity, not just the funded activities.”

Many of the actions described have resulted in increased communication within the college. It is important to note, however, that communication itself was a strategy—not just a by-product of other initiatives—and an ongoing exchange of ideas has been critical to the continued progression of an integrated management process. We’ve discovered that the best way for college leaders to achieve trust and respect is by sharing information through frequent meetings and other interactive communication tools.

Hold frequent meetings. Trust and respect can only be earned one person at a time and one day at a time. To achieve that mutual trust and to increase the opportunity for open communication, the dean meets often with chairs not only in the dean’s office but also in the chairs’ offices. The associate dean for academic and student affairs meets routinely with a group of program directors, which has been organized as the academic advisory council. Additionally, the associate dean for academic and student affairs meets with the faculty assembly council and its subcommittees to facilitate information sharing and relationship building.

Use the Web. The college created and trained a Web committee that redesigned all of the college’s Web pages and continues to monitor and update them. The result of the Web site changes, plus the behavior changes, has been a significant increase in communication and the open flow of information.

Get feedback. Continual input from all members of the college has been critical to creating an open environment. Feedback can be formal (such as the surveys described above) or informal (such as casual conversations in the hallways). The college created an environment in which such interaction—both positive and negative—is expected and the norm.

Realizing Results

So what did we actually achieve through increased communication and our other integration strategies? Nothing short of a dramatic collegewide change that touched everything from working relationships to the physical space that we occupied. First and foremost, increased financial stability resulted from the rigorous review of and attention to the bottom line. Existing deficits were eradicated, and surpluses were expanded. Revenue sources were diversified and an accumulation of necessary funds enabled the construction of a new college complex, the renovation of an existing college building, and an investment in technology and research initiatives.

Our fiscal health was also strengthened by our ability to foster relationships with corporations and businesses interested in the work of the college. Our cohesive management process meant that we were no longer trying to pitch 11 programs, but rather one clear and concise college vision. One example of this was the development of our partnership with Dell Computers. By coordinating our leadership team, the development officer was able to make the first contact; while the associate dean, who was leading the technology plan, made the formal pitch. In the end, we secured a gift that brought high-tech services to the new building and laptops to all of our students.

Another major change was the cultivation of pride and ownership—of both institutional and individual goals—that resulted from management by participation and empowerment. This dynamic is reflected in the fact that faculty and staff consistently surpass their annual productivity targets. Recognizing and valuing employees has motivated quantifiable performance and outcome improvement. Building commitment to the mission and empowering faculty and staff to meet and exceed their goals have truly transformed the culture within the college.

While none of the strategies were specifically targeted at our academic programs, it is important to note the overall growth and improvement in those programs. Student enrollment has increased, our first-time pass rates for programs with licensure exams have improved, and a number of our programs have received national recognition in profession-specific rankings. We’ve seen that changing the cultural and physical environment within which people work changes the work that they produce.

Until the summer of 2005, the academic programs in the college were scattered across the MUSC campus in seven locations. Each of these locations provided different levels of technology support for the faculty, staff and students; and the dean’s office was in a separate and isolated location. The new CHP complex included the renovation of the 40,000-square-foot High School of Charleston and the construction of a 40,000-square-foot “sister” building joined by a connector. We also refurbished an existing college building to house our growing research centers and sponsored projects.

In addition to building and moving into our new facilities, the college planned and implemented a major technology program, which included the creation of smart classrooms and conference rooms with full connectivity. We’ve incorporated wireless capability throughout the complex. And finally, to take full advantage of the technology capabilities built into the facility, the college began a program that provides each student in the college with a laptop for use while enrolled in an academic program. The laptop program has been extremely effective, and students report increased access to information and opportunities to learn.

Defining Success

In the end, the College of Health Professions went from being a financially vulnerable and disparate collection of 11 academic programs in seven locations to a financially stable, cohesive college in a new state-of-the-art building complex. We have described the philosophical approach and specific strategies that led us on this wonderful journey to integration. We would be remiss, however, not to reinforce the message as to who ultimately played the most significant role in our organization’s success scenario—our people.

For us, the dean had the vision and the personal characteristics to direct everyone to work toward her vision. Lack of strong leadership would have been the deal breaker. Our dean was focused on the end game, and she built a leadership team that held mutual trust, was committed to the mission, and was held accountable for the results.

The dean of the College of Health Professions provided members of the leadership team with a copy of Good to Great, by Jim Collins. Each person read it and began talking the same language. What resources has your institution used to align leaders in their work toward a common goal? E-mail

Success is often defined as the “good fortune that comes from aspiration, desperation, perspiration, and inspiration.” We definitely experienced all of these elements. In setting the stage for institutional transformation, aspiration—the strong desire to achieve something high or great—characterized the leadership team, which aspired to great things for the College of Health Professions and for each faculty and staff member individually. The related stretch goals resulted in individuals accomplishing more than they ever thought they could.

Desperation—“involving or employing extreme measures to succeed”—led the dean to conclude that the College of Health Professions needed a new building. Now, we sit in a wonderful new facility because of the dean’s leadership.

As for perspiration, the leadership team can attest to the fact that the dean made us sweat a time or two.

The final push came from inspiration, which is “the action or power to move the intellect or emotions. The dean truly inspired us all and never let our cast of characters settle for a lackluster performance. With her leadership, we were able to set the scene for a transformation that will have lasting effects for years to come.

KRISTI R. BEEKS is the assistant dean for finance and administration for the College of Health Professions, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, and DAVID M. WARD, MUSC’s former associate dean of academic and student affairs, is dean of the College of Health Professions, University of New England, Portland, Maine.