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Quality Fair 2011


42 posters each tell a story of U of M improvement projects

By Adam Overland

QualityFair Carlson 165
A view of the 2011 Quality Fair, held this year in the Carlson School atrium.

February 15, 2011

I suppose it was only a matter of time before a Ferris wheel was introduced at the U's annual Quality Fair. After all, it is a "fair." Now in its fifth year, the 2011 fair tackled the theme "Working together, learning from each other," with a keynote address by UMR chancellor Stephen Lehmkuhle.

While traditional fair foods (deep-fried anything and everything on-a-stick) were absent, plenty of apples, bananas, clementines, and other fairly healthy snacks were available to fair-goers—some 700 or more from around the U.

The centerpieces of the program were 42 posters demonstrating University of Minnesota improvement projects, each with a story far beyond the 2-D depth of the posters. And indeed, one of the posters, "Survey coordination in full swing," by the Office of Planning and Analysis, used a Ferris wheel design complete with twinkling holiday lights to emphasize the carnival-like atmosphere of the more than 2,000 surveys conducted annually at the U.

In years past, we've seen projects ranging from computer programs that have made it easier for students to find and apply for the scholarships that they're most likely to get, to balance-ball chairs and web-based ergonomic self-assessment tools for those of us perpetually tied to our chairs. Most of the projects either improving a process, saving a whole lot of money, or both.

This year's winning posters/programs (the top four were selected by a panel of judges):
1.    Improving office space utilization, Facilities Management
2.    Principal investigator dashboard, MN Center for Twin and Family Research
3.    Collaboration for paperless application excel-lence, Nursing
4.    Student Unions and Activities touch screen directories, Student Unions and Activities

Change

I imagine it's very difficult to judge a poster, and to do justice to the work behind each entry. Suffice to say there is more to each entry than meets the eye. Incidentally, this rang true when I unexpectedly stumbled on a poster that included a reference to, and copies of, an article I'd written for Brief months ago, "It's not glamorous work, but it saves." The project is in essence a fantastic, cost-savings one, but with an incredibly boring name—the Strategic Sourcing Program.* But that's just it—there's so much more to most of this work, and the Quality Fair is really a chance to showcase what's behind the curtain.

And the winners are…
The Principal investigator dashboard project (2nd place) developed by the Center for Twin and Family Research marked the latest evolution in helping researchers stay accountable to the specific aims promised within their research grants. Progress and resource consumption that was once tracked on corkboards, and later via intranet, have in the latest incarnation moved to easy-to-read graphs, with visual, up-to-the-minute data. One judge remarked, "The poster demonstrated how all PI research resources can be tied together into one place—including multiple EFS modules. It has high potential for an enterprise-wide application."

Facilities Management's poster (1st place) displayed what may soon be coming to a cubicle near you. Space at the University is limited and expensive, second only to cost of salaries. So FM has been testing a little feng shui. They remodeled two outdated spaces in Donhowe, focusing on improving use of space, staff effectiveness, and aesthetic appeal. In the end, space utilization improved by 40 percent with some cost savings to boot.

Touch screen directories developed by Student Unions (4th place) offered high-tech maps of all activities in Coffman Union. Where visitors would once direct questions to the building's information desk staff, they can now see dynamic and time-sensitive details using a touch-sensitive screen to show happenings, and where and when they are taking place in the building.

The Nursing school project (3rd place) resulted in a streamlined undergraduate admission's process that eliminated some small steps and about 100 hours and thousands of dollars in faculty and staff time. All of the projects will be reviewed for applicability University-wide.

QualityFair poster 165 HR assistant dept. director Susan Rafferty and Office of Institutional Research assistant dept. director Leonard Goldfine presented a poster on the redesign of the PULSE survey. You can learn more about these projects and the 38 others, ranging from an Employee rewards, recognition, and appreciation study, to environmental sustainability successes at the U, and a whole lot more, online at Quality Fair 2011.

Keynote
UMR chancellor Stephen Lehmkuhle's keynote is also available online. His talk focused on the urgency of collaboration, describing the forces that are changing higher education, the power of networks, the impact of collaborative leadership, and the development of a shared vision. It began with a video you can find on YouTube, called Karl Fisch's, "Did you know?"

The message was essentially one of change—it's coming, whether we like it or not. Other than an unsettling soundtrack featuring some sort of rave-music mix that felt out of place without a strobe light and various neon accessories, the video did contain some startling statistics:

  • One in four workers today are working for a company they've been employed with for less than one year, and one in two are working for a company they've been with for less than five years;
  • The top 10 jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004;
  • In 2002, Nintendo invested more than $140 million in research and development—the U.S. federal government spent less than half that on research and innovation in education.

The video left the audience with a challenge:

Name this country:

Richest in the world, largest military, center of world business and finance, strongest education system, highest standard of living, currency is the world standard of value.

Answer: England, in 1900.

Change is coming. Adaptability and quality improvements are the keys to future success.


*As of Dec. 30, 2010, the Strategic Sourcing Program had implemented $6.4 million in annual savings.