Penn Stateís approach to innovation and improvement, initially referred to as Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI), has been defined as a people-based management system that applies to all levels of an organization. It is designed to continually improve the performance of that organization, with its focus on exceeding customer expectations by using data to incrementally improve key processes. Similar approaches with different names have evolved as technology and knowledge have advanced, but the basic concepts continue: a team familiar with a process using process performance data to improve efficiency or effectiveness for the stakeholders. While the focus may begin with the goal of incremental improvement of an existing process, actual results may also include reengineering (redesigning a process from the ground up) and innovation (introducing new processes).

Penn Stateís initial application of continuous quality improvement was bottom-up, to improve front-line processes. A later approach has been to use the same model and tools from a more top-down perspective to implement planning strategies and initiatives.

There are four key roles for an effective innovation and improvement initiative:

  • Sponsor: The sponsor usually initiates the process, in advance identifies requirements and constraints regarding the improvement, and has the authority to implement the improvement. The sponsor is not a regular member of the team.
  • Team Leader: The team leader is the coordinator of the teamís administrative activities and the central point of contact for communication between the sponsor and the team. The team leader does not have decision-making authority regarding the teamís project; decisions are made by the team as a whole.
  • Team Members: Team members are those who are both familiar with the process being improved and who will be impacted by the changes implemented.
  • Team Facilitator: The team facilitator helps the team have effective meetings and use appropriate tools to make quality decisions. The team facilitator remains neutral regarding the actual analysis and recommendations of the team.

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