Ushering in transformational change
Report outlines ways for improving administrative service and productivity
By Rick Moore
February 7, 2006
When it comes to transforming the University of Minnesota into one of the top three public research universities in the world, U leadership recognizes that all segments of the institution must be transformed, including administrative processes and services.
In his inaugural address, President Bob Bruininks envisioned a University "known as much for its service and business innovation as for its high-quality research, education, and public service."
That vision is taking shape in the report released February 6 by the Administrative Service and Productivity Steering Committee. It gives a recommended roadmap for achieving transformational change in how administrative operations organize, support, and serve the academic enterprise. The report is posted on the Transforming the U Web site, and the committee invites comments from the University community through March 6.
The University's strategic goal and five action strategies (students, faculty and staff, culture, resources, and public engagement) guided the steering committee's work. In the report, the committee articulates its objective as:
"In support of the University of Minnesota's academic mission, we will achieve administrative operations that are the best among our peers, focused on service to faculty, students, staff, and units, and driven by performance objectives and defined results."
Since September 2005, the Administrative Service and Productivity Steering Committee and seven administrative task forces have taken on the assignment of planning implementation of administrative transformation. In order to give the University community a comprehensive picture of this transformation, the steering committee prepared a single report for comment. It presents the status of administrative task force work and identifies the priority projects essential to transforming administrative services.
The implementation plan laid out in the report is organized under four themes: people, organization/structure, information, and culture.
"University support units have been engaged in continuous improvement projects over the last decade or more, and this work is to be commended," says Kathleen O'Brien, vice president of University Services and team leader for the effort. "Now is the time to move beyond continuous improvement in the ways we support the academic enterprise. We must move into an era of transformational change."
Following is a short summary of the four critical transformational areas identified by the steering committee along with recommended implementation projects.
Investing in employees and their success is a key ingredient in achieving the University's long-term objectives. "We must create an environment," the report says, "where every individual understands what is expected, is fully engaged in his or her work, is supported to innovate and continuously improve, understands how performance will be assessed and rewarded, and has confidence in the direction of the leadership of not only their own work unit but of the overall institution."
The committee recommended implementation of the following:
- Strengthen the leadership skills of managers, supervisors, and
This will strengthen managerial and leadership capabilities by identifying, agreeing upon, and implementing key competencies for supervisors, managers, and leaders.
- Invest in a "strong start" for all employees.
This will ensure that new employees receive appropriate assistance and information to orient them to the U as a community, acquaint them with critical resources, and heighten understanding of what is expected of them.
- Improve performance management systems for staff.
This will ensure that every employee receives regular feedback on performance and understands the expectation of continuously upgrading his or her knowledge and skills.
- Enhance classification and compensation systems across all job
This will ensure that pay philosophies for each employee group are clearly articulated, that internal and external market compensation information is up to date and accessible, and that job classifications for each employee group are simplified and current.
Information-based decision-making is essential to increasing the performance and accountability of the U's operational and service-related activities. The current state of the U's ability to track service levels and continuous improvement is far from optimal. The committee believes that the University must create, collect, and better use information to achieve performance-based decision-making.
- Single enterprise/best practice identification and advancement
This will create a process to systematically identify, analyze, and advance single-enterprise and best-practice tools, techniques, and systems, with a review process to assess ongoing effectiveness.
- Internal budget model.
This project is building a transparent and responsive budget model that supports the values of the U, allows for long-term financial investments, and addresses the overhead needs of the University, while providing reliable, stable, and predictable incentives for sound financial planning and strong fiscal management.
- Enterprise financial system.
This will replace old technology and overhaul many University financial processes and reporting mechanisms and will also provide the U more data-gathering flexibility in an increasingly complex and demanding internal and external reporting environment.
- Strengthen the compact process to integrate planning,
performance, and budgets.
This will integrate planning, decision-making, resource allocation, and performance metrics into a comprehensive system for all colleges, campus, and units.
- Reliable management data support.
This will review management and operational performance data needs of University decision-makers and implement necessary changes.
The steering committee said the University's historically ill-defined and unstructured approach of providing administrative support is outmoded. If the U is to achieve its vision of being a top-ranked public research university, a new integrated administrative services framework is necessary for the success of the University's transformation.
Three major projects are recommended:
- New administrative services model.
This will clearly define the responsibilities of central units, colleges, and departments; identify areas for sharing and clustering administrative services to support multiple units; integrate the delivery of administrative services from central to colleges to departments; and delineate system roles and responsibilities.
- Administrative policy review and simplification.
This will include clarifying delegations of authority, eliminating conflicts between internal policies or with external regulatory requirements, redrafting administrative policies in a consistent and easily accessible format, and communicating them clearly to faculty, staff, students, and the public.
- Facilities Management transformation.
This will entail Facilities Management changing its focus from managing buildings to providing services for faculty, staff, students, and academic programs that use those buildings and other facilities.
Culture is a manifestation of actions and behaviors that are driven by shared aspirations, expectations, values, systems, and programs. It is embodied by individuals but means different things to different people. However defined, culture is critical to the University of Minnesota's aspiration to be one of the top three public research universities in the world within the next decade.
The committee recommends a comprehensive project be initiated:
- Define and communicate a culture that supports and reflects the University's aspiration to become one of the best public research universities in the world.
Based on the comments received about the report by March 6 and further consultation with the U's leadership team, the steering committee will issue a revised report on March 24. In July, the committee will provide another status report to the Board of Regents and the University community.