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A bird's eye view of the Quality Fair.

Hundreds of U faculty and staff filled the atrium of the McNamara Alumni Center in Minneapolis for the U's first Quality Fair Jan. 25.

Quality Fair generates big energy

About 800 people attended the U-wide event

By Gayla Marty

Brief, Jan. 31, 2007

The buzz was big in the atrium of the McNamara Alumni Center last Thursday morning at the University's first-ever Quality Fair. About 800 people--munching on mini-donuts, cheese curds, and cotton candy--packed in to the sunny space and swarmed more than 50 exhibitors. They talked over serious-looking posters, some decked out with such noisemakers as Hotwheels cars on a tiny racetrack (Parking and Transportation Services) and a ticking clock (the service-hours study). In the background, a familiar voice of the University--J. B. Eckert, sporting a maroon-and-gold tie and matching blazer--announced doorprize drawings underway.

When President Bruininks stepped to the podium, the decibels didn't drop. He talked right over the buzz to a couple hundred fair-goers sitting down for a rest.

"I can't tell you how exciting it is for me to come here today," Bruininks said. "I hope you steal all the best ideas you can find here and put them to really good use back where you work!

UMR exhibitor Jay Hesley talks to a staff member in front of his poster and table, with the McNamara atrium in the background.
U of M-Rochester exhibitor Jay Hesley explained a project designed to enroll more prospective students by giving them better, faster service.

"This is all about alignment--connecting the dots--connecting the spirit of reform and innovation to the high aspirational goals of the University of Minnesota," he continued. "I want to profoundly thank all of you for working thousands and thousands of hours to create the ideas, the innovations, and the improvements that will ensure that the University continues as a great university, and evolves into one of the best public research university systems in the world."

The Quality Fair was organized to share information about improvement projects across all University campuses, departments, and units. Exhibitors included teams from Crookston and Rochester as well as two each from Duluth and Morris. All the exhibits showed how to identify problems, establish goals, manage change, and make improvements that support the U's strategic objectives.

POSTER WINNERS

1 - Standardization of Services
, University Services, #23
2 - UMD's Strategic Approach to Improving Retention and Graduation Rates, U of M-Duluth, #36
3 - Best Value Procurement in Capital Planning and Management, Capital Planning and Project Management, University Services, #20
4 - Boosting Quality at the School of Dentistry, School of Dentistry, #14

Honorable Mention

* Student Feedback on Online Courses, U of M-Crookston, #15
* Producing Elegant Cross-College Workflow, College of Liberal Arts, Twin Cities, #28
* Service Hours Study, Office of Human Resources, #30
* The Adaptable Orientation, Medical School, #41

It's all part of the goal of transforming the U. The poster sessions were designated for their focus on producing exceptional students, faculty and staff, organization, and innovation...with many crossing over into two or even three categories. Prizes were awarded (see box, right)--eight units will receive certificates, and the top four will also receive $100 toward holding a celebration with their units. The top two winners will present their posters at the President's Executive Committee meeting in February or March.

Focus on leadership

In a keynote presentation to a full room, consultant Doug Lennick spoke about "breakthrough leadership"--aligning personal values, aspirations, and actions with organizational strategy and culture. Lennick--a former student at the U's Morris and Twin Cities campuses and a former vice president at what is now Ameriprise--is the acclaimed author of The Simple Genius (You), How to Get What You Want and Remain True to Yourself, and (with coauthor Fred Kiel) Moral Intelligence: Enhancing Business Performance and Leadership Success.

Leadership can be defined simply as influencing others, he said, and "followership" as being influenced by others. By those definitions, everybody is both a leader and follower in various circumstances. He led the audience in a true-false quiz to explore factors that affect leadership, following, and performance at work.

"A 'values-right' culture is a function of selection as well as leadership," he stressed. "Who we select [as employees] matters." He cited research that shows moral and emotional competencies are even more important to performance than intellectual and technical competencies.

Lennick also recommended playing a "freeze game" several times a day--"hitting the pause button and asking yourself, 'What am I thinking right now? What am I feeling? What am I doing? Is it consistent and aligned with my principles, values, and beliefs?'"--as a way of becoming aware, managing actions and leadership more effectively, and growing toward a closer alignment of one's ideal and real selves.

Two smiling Facilities Management employees stand next to their poster exhibit.
Facilities Management staff members Mary Santori and Rob Tunell, Twin Cities campus, described a comprehensive initiative to become a more customer-focused organization.

Two breakout sessions drew active participation and discussion. One featured a "balanced scorecard" methodology for actually getting strategic plans to and through the implementation stage. The scorecard method was described by Barbara Possin, vice president of system quality and strategic alignment at St. Mary's Duluth Clinic Health System.

The other breakout session focused on student engagement and service learning--and how to measure it. Twin Cities campus staff members Laurel Hirt, Career and Community Learning Center, and June Nobbe, director of student engagement and leadership, led the session.

Lennick's presentation is now available on the Web, and the others will be available Feb. 5. See the video highlights.

What's next

In the planning stages, this year's committee wasn't sure how the U community would respond. They tentatively hoped to attract perhaps 300 people.

It's clear that the fair tapped into a need to share and a desire to hear about what others around the U's campuses are trying and finding successful on the path to ever greater improvement.

"If half of winning is showing up, then this great university is ready to win," said Scott Martens, director of the Office of Service and Continuous Improvement (OSCI). "With more than 800 people from the academic and administrative sides from every campus in our system showing up here today, this is a great sign that the University is ready to move forward with transformation."

OSCI and the improvement liaisons are in the process of evaluating this year's fair and have already started talking about how they can top it next year.

The University's first Quality Fair was sponsored by the OSCI and the improvement liaison group, with key assistance from coordinator Joyce Wascoe and OSCI assistant Mary Swords. The fair was designed to help OSCI carry out its goals related to knowledge dissemination and helping to build a culture of excellence.