Frequently Ask Questions

Why Process Improvement Initiatives?
The focus is major administrative processes, and particularly those that cut across many units, in an effort to realize significant gains in efficiency and effectiveness. Improving business processes enables you to increase your responsiveness to your customers and the productivity of your employees doing the work. 

This work was initiated by the President's office and the members of the Executive Council in early December 2009 to review and improve major process improvements across the entire institution.

Is this part of a larger university-wide effort and/or linked to the university strategic plan?
Yes. the university strategic plan (http://www.memphis.edu/presweb/pdfs/plan.pdf) sets the course for its second century and provides a vision of being recognized as one of America's great metropolitan research universities.

The strategic plan encompasses six goals: Student Success; Research and Creativity; Access and Diversity; Partnerships; Campus Culture and Service Excellence; and Sense of Place. Student success, research, and creativity are at the core of the university's purpose as it educates students through the advancement of knowledge and expression. Access and diversity reflect its mission and values by expanding educational opportunities in an environment that embraces differences. These goals cannot be accomplished without proper support – embracing shared governance, a commitment to open decision making and adhering to standards of high quality service. The realization of each of these goals also requires a safe, healthy, and inviting community – a sense of place. Together these six goals mutually reinforce one another to become an integral part of a dynamic, effective plan.

This initiative is a core strategy of the Campus Culture and Service Excellence goal.

What can senior leaders and administrators do to encourage project success?
Support the projects! Without your help, the project will take longer (and time is critical) or will not be successful. Research on change efforts in organizations suggests that teams whose projects are driven and heavily supported by top management are more likely to succeed. Over time, we will develop opportunities for leadership to visibly demonstrate support for this work.

What will be the biggest obstacle to our success in major process improvement?
Research indicates that resistance to change within the organization is six times more often the primary obstacle. Resistance comes in many forms, including organizational inertia, culture, front-line resistance and management resistance. It can be both passive and overt.

How will this impact faculty and staff?
Many will be asked to be involved in the work of process improvement. More generally, we will all be required to do things differently, and sometimes do different things in our work.

How will this affect my job here at the University?
Projects are aimed at reducing the excess time you spend on a process, freeing you up to focus on other important tasks. That will reduce work beyond normal hours that you spend today. As a process is improved, you may find that you no longer need to spend time on a step as it has been eliminated, or that you now do it differently (e.g. deal only with exceptions).

That is a natural part of improvement and we should all be preparing to accept changes like that going forward.

How is these initiatives different from other improvement projects that the University has done in the past?
These are different because we are focused on improvements that cut across the administrative units of the University. While many units, departments and divisions have very successfully improved or sustained highly effective processes, we haven't yet achieved the meaningful review and improvement of administrative processes that cut across the entire institution. As a result, we have not yet been able to capture the major gains in efficiency and effectiveness that we believe are possible. That is the focus of this effort: major gains across the institution.