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Business Officer Magazine

Seven Degrees of Change

In a time of limited resources, how can institutions conceive and undertake projects that improve efficiency, transparency, and accountability? For seven colleges and universities, the opportunity came in the form of an umbrella project funded by the Lumina Foundation for Education and organized under the direction of NACUBO.

In 2009, NACUBO announced criteria for the Lumina-funded project with the goal of developing a cadre of institutions committed to using the Baldrige National Quality Program methodology, the Excellence in Higher Education (EHE) model, and other associated tools. Last year, the seven institutions were selected to undertake Challenge 2010: Building a Culture of Assessment and Accountability, with projects designed to deliver data-driven, results-oriented improvement strategies.

In a series of consecutive presentations moderated by Susan Jurow, NACUBO's subject matter expert for leadership, and Brent Ruben, executive director of Rutgers' Center for Organizational Development and Leadership, representatives of those colleges and universities reported what they'd learned. They shared best practices in the three major change areas that were the centerpieces of Challenge 2010.

Tools for Driving Change

Projects in this category included:

  • A budget planning process at American University, Washington, D.C., "Getting Ahead of the Storm: Creating Significant Change in Budget and Finance Processes in the Absence of a Crisis," presented by Nana An, executive director of budget and payroll.
  • An accreditation change initiative at Rogue Community College, in southern Oregon, presented by Denise Swafford, accreditation liaison officer.
  • An IT pilot project with potential as a national model, presented by Reba-Anna Lee, assistant director of information technology, Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York.

Overcoming Resistance to Change

Representatives of three institutions talked about initiatives designed to gain consensus around new processes and procedures.

  • University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth. Jason Hartley, executive director of facilities management, explained UNT's project to develop and implement processes to ensure effective communication with the center's executive team and other key constituents on issues surrounding space planning. Hartley attributed the doubling of useful square footage at the university to the project.
  • University of Georgia. With the highest ratio among its peer institutions of employees serviced per human resources staff member, the university wanted to change HR from a "paper to a people" model, said Lydia Lanier, senior director of the financial management and education center. The department's project focused on designing a financial life management model that could touch each employee at least once every four years and do 360-degree financial planning.
  • Loras College, Dubuque, Iowa. The college not only lacked a formalized performance assessment plan, said Gloria Regalbuto-Bentley, vice president for organizational development, but in trying to align performance to institutional goals, it was clear that there was no concrete strategic plan either. Implementing a process to solve these issues has been slow, admitted Regalbuto-Bentley, "but it has helped us know where we are going and to get there at a steady pace. We've also had to overcome faculty reluctance based on an existing assessment process."

Creating an Appetite for Change

The final session dealt with how continuous improvement can be used to build a change culture. Challenge 2010 consultant Brent Ruben explained how his work at Rutgers and the experience of Louise Sandmeyer at Penn State had helped inform the Challenge 2010.

Sandmeyer, who also served as a Challenge 2010 consultant and recently retired as Penn State's executive director of the office of planning and institutional assessment, explained that Penn State eventually merged the office of strategic planning with its continuous quality initiative. "We've been able to focus most staff on the university's vision and keep the big picture in mind," she explained. "But, to create an appetite for change, you don't want to have a set menu. You want a buffet that entices employee engagement and provides a dessert table that's in public view."

Projects in this area included pilot programs at several California State University (CSU) campuses.

  • California State University. Kenneth DeVane, quality improvement project manager, business solutions services, explained that the university's several campuses were already involved in Baldrige/EHE, but "we weren't developing any traction." By sending representative staff to Baldrige and other conferences focused on organizations with similar missions as CSU, "we learned about facilitator preparation, leadership skills and commitment, and other elements that have helped staff to better use these continuous improvement tools."

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