Learning about Recent Team Improvement Initiatives
At the Quality Advocates session on January 28, 2011, Barbara Sherlock, Senior Planning and Improvement Associate, led a panel including Mary Lou D’Allegro, Senior Director, Planning, Research & Assessment, Penn State Berks; Richard Killian, Manager, Research Accounting and; Kim Baran, Coordinator, Global Engineering Education, College of Engineering to discuss what their three units have done to operate more efficiently and effectively.
The panel discussion focused on three questions: 1) What started the improvement initiative for your team? 2) How did your team approach the project? and 3) What results has your team seen?
What started the improvement initiative for your unit?
Penn State Berks did not want the development of their strategic plan to be another plan that “collects dust on a shelf” but wanted to see its implementation. To help facilitate the process and to hold units accountable, Penn State Berks wanted to create something simpler than the 60-page plan to track the implementation progress; thus the development of a scorecard. A scorecard, D’Allegro said, “translates the mission and goals, specifically, the outcomes associated with the mission and goals, and communicates the statuses of the measurable outcomes.” Sharing similar sentiments as D’Allegro, Killian of Research Accounting said, “What gets measured gets done. What gets rewarded gets well done.” To better track the effectiveness and efficiency of their office, Research Accounting also developed a scorecard to track progress on their objectives to improve service to research units within the University and the sponsoring agencies. Research Accounting felt it was important to create the scorecard to establish a baseline to demonstrate where improvement has occurred and where improvements can be made.
College of Engineering wanted to improve the effectiveness of their recruiting events and activities with the goals of keeping costs low, looking at recruiting with forward-thinking approaches, increasing the number of quality applicants to the college, improving the quality of information presented, and allowing students to make informed decisions about the best university for them. The College of Engineering was looking for ways to decrease the costs of recruiting students while increasing the number of quality applicants.
How did your team approach the project?
The Strategic Planning Council at Penn State Berks created a scorecard to capture the extent each action step’s measurable outcome(s) was met. Berks currently uses three strategic plan scorecards, one for each year of strategic plan implementation. The Strategic Plan Advocates, a CQI Team, are responsible for reporting the progress of each action step.The scorecard is updated five times a year. The scorecard is disseminated monthly at the Strategic Planning Council, Divisions meetings and through the intranet. Elements of the scorecard are also integrated into Penn State Berks Dashboard.
Research Accounting based their scorecard on the traditional model designed to communicate and monitor performance-based strategies and uses the four perspectives introduced by Kaplan & Norton (1996)— Customer, Financial, Internal-process, and Learning & Growth. For Killian’s team, the financial measures were more easily defined and measurable, whereas the softer measures (e.g., customer and business processes) were more difficult to quantify. Yet, in creating their scorecard, Killian did not want to create a goal without a measure.
The College of Engineering had no data available regarding the impact of their recruiting events and activities on students’ decisions to attend and wanted to be intentional in making data-driven decisions. Before Baran’s team gathered information, they first defined recruiting, identified the recruiting groups at Penn State (e.g., Admissions, College of Engineering, etc.), and identified recruiting methods. Part of the data collection process included conducting student focus groups, surveying first-year engineering students, looking at admissions data, and collecting data on costs of current publications. After reviewing the data, Baran’s team based their recommendations on two general themes: 1) Transition from face to face to more online sharing of information and 2) When possible include current students in the recruiting process.
What results has your team seen?
Each team has begun to see the fruits of their labor. D’Allegro mentioned that with the scorecard Penn State Berks now knows the extent and steps to realizing their strategic plan and also who is responsible for the plan. The scorecard also made it easier to identify priorities for administrative discussions and budgeting and anticipate external factors that will affect progress. This in turn has made budgeting less painful, because the allocation of resources must align with the scorecard and strategic plan.
With their scorecard, Research Accounting has been able to make decisions that are more data driven. For example, in their old system, Research Accounting processed invoices in alpha numeric order. With the scorecard, they have been able to identify the largest invoices and process them first. Overall, Killian has noticed increased productivity in his unit as the scorecard has provided the employees a greater sense of urgency and pride in their work.
The College of Engineering has increased their use of technology and virtual access, and reduced actual student visit events, the number and variety of hard copy publications, and the related event and publication costs. Through redesign of events such as Prospective Student Visits, Accepted Student Programs, Spend a Summer Day, and Scholar’s Day, the college has seen significant decreases in faculty and staff time and publication costs while applications for 2010 still increased 8.8% from 2009.
In the question and answer period following the presentation, the panelists responded to audience inquiry about their next steps. For the teams utilizing scorecards, both D’Allegro and Killian are seeking ways to move from static scorecard to a dynamic scorecard, where data are updated in a more timely fashion. Baran’s group hopes to implement other recommendations that came from her CQI team.
The underlying theme among the three groups is the utilization of data to support decision-making or to track progress within the unit. Yet, the three groups did not haphazardly collect data, but were intentional in defining their goals, objectives, and measures such that the data collected was meaningful. No doubt, this attention to detail helped each of these teams to achieve their goals of increasing efficiency and effectiveness in their unit.
For more information on these and over 900 other teams, visit the Team Data base at the Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment.
More information on scorecard:
Kaplan, R.S, & Norton, D. P. (1996). The balanced scorecard. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press
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