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Continuous Improvement

Continuous Improvement, Six Sigma

2020: A Look Back – A Look Ahead

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 McNeely Hall


We’ve come a long way! 2020 Vision began in the spring of 2010, born of the idea that our college would be faced with many significant challenges in the years ahead,challenges that would require new perspectives and a skillset more amenable to a dynamic environment.  We recognized the pressures of declining enrollments, diminishing resources, and increased competition. We knew that over time, there would cease to be business as usual, replaced by persistent change and reinvention.

In four years, we have accomplished much, and we’ve done so in a spirit of continuous improvement. What precisely does that mean?  Well, it starts with recognizing the legitimacy of seeking out new and different ways of doing things. It acknowledges that our traditional processes and procedures, no matter how thoughtfully devised, must always be evaluated in the light of new factors.  Changes in people, technology, organization, and markets drive the need to improve our work processes. 

The desire to change must be coupled with the will and the talent to design and effect change. To that end, we have a small legion of folks who’ve undergone training in continuous improvement disciplines including basic quality and process tools to Six Sigma Green Belt and Certified Professional Project Management training. We’ve launched several projects, most fairly small but none unimportant, where team members have been given real opportunities to employ their newly-acquired skills. We have successfully completed a number of them and achieved cost reductions, improved processes, and better reliability.

We’ve accomplished all this in a way that has become a growing part of our culture.  Our initiatives are no longer as threatening as they were at first.  Our methodical approach to evaluating work processes, interviewing process owners, and devising alternative approaches is now accepted as a worthwhile way to improve the organization.  We’ve accomplished our goals in a way that benefits the culture of our college and prepares us for any new challenge that might come our way.

What might those changes be? The university has a new President, is about to have a new Provost, a new VP of Enrollment, and a new Associate VP of HR.  Sometime in the future, we will have a new VP, Technology and VP, Development.  There is a project to create a new centralized Graduate Admissions Services function. Our college will have a new Dean.  The President is developing a new strategy for the university, and I suspect our new Dean will drive a new strategy for our college. It might be safe to assume that a lot of things will change. And many of those changes will fundamentally change how work gets done. 

That’s what we have accomplished. We are ready for change. We have the trained people, the discipline, the tools and the will to take on change and master it.  We have the ability to respond positively and enthusiastically to the prospect of change, and not be intimidated or overwhelmed by it. We’ve built a legion of change masters, and for that I thank all of you for your faith in this effort and your engagement in the process!

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Administrative, Continuous Improvement, Six Sigma

2020 Vision Project Update: Events Process

eventssignDuring a recent Faculty/Staff meeting we learned that over one hundred OCB sponsored events are conducted each year. In response to this information, a new 2020 Vision group was formed to assess the costs associated with running program events on campus. Our focus is to develop a better understanding of how events are currently planned and conducted in the college. With this information our group will be able to evaluate the expenses associated with ordering food and tech support, as well as the costs of having staff plan and coordinate these events. Our group identified ten events from a wide range of centers and programs, and grouped them into categories based on the number of projected attendees. After we have retrieved all of the data, our group will determine the costs to plan, coordinate and staff events in each category.  

Interviews have been conducted with key stakeholders, and we have worked with them to outline specific event processes. Our next steps include working with Shared Services to determine the amount of time they spend on each event. This will give us a more holistic picture of the events process. Ultimately, this project will give OCB’s leadership team further insight into the resources spent on each event, as well as helping program and center staff in future planning.

Studio portrait of Corey Getchell

Events Process Team Leader Corey Getchell

Events Process Team:

Jessica Kluntz, Brittney Wolf, Amy Klein, and Shannon Vanderheyden

Administrative, Continuous Improvement

April Ad Launch for Evening MBA

msp campus smallIn April 2014, the college will launch a new marketing campaigned designed to reinvigorate the Evening UST MBA brand. With support from the Board of Governors and with funding provided by a generous grant, Dean Puto has engaged CarmichaelLynchSpong – the 2013 creative agency of the year – to raise awareness of the unique attributes of our part-time MBA program. This new campaign builds upon the college’s extensive research on the Twin Cities MBA marketplace and has been designed to differentiate ourselves from the competition. OCB faculty and staff can expect to be introduced to the campaign in its entirety in early April with a series of tools, tips and techniques we can all use to integrate the campaign into our daily routines, whether that involves teaching, recruiting or simply interacting with an external audience.

At the same time, the college is also well on its way to finalizing all the elements of a lead nurturing initiative for the Evening UST MBA program. This initiative has been designed to convert more of our web visitors, event participants and general inquiries into “sales ready” recruits. The lead nurturing project will “close the gap” we have seen between marketing success (i.e. marketing and advertising driving traffic to our websites) and enrollment growth. It capitalizes on the skills of our recruiters by providing a more systematic approach to nurturing potential recruits from their first visit, whether that visit involves a web page, event attendance, or phone call/email.


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2020 Team members, Continuous Improvement

Debbie Battis: 2020 Team Member

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“One development that I have noticed since the 20/20 Vision project began is a culture shift. Along with the monetary savings that the college has enjoyed, staff and faculty have developed a new mind set toward how they perform their job functions. Many staff members are rethinking what they do, how they do it and why it is being done. They are constantly looking for opportunities for improvement, not just in large projects, but functions that they perform every day.”

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Continuous Improvement, Faculty, Six Sigma

Faculty Profile Pages Project

Churchill plans quote Opus College of Business has been updating the faculty profile pages and the faculty directory for the OCB website. This nearly completed update was accomplished through the efforts of a Continuous Improvement (CI) group that was formed in the fall of 2012. We all know how long-term projects can get buried under the avalanche of daily emails, phone calls and other activities. We stayed on track through regular meetings and updates in SharePoint.

The CI team used three of the tools that we learned during our Six Sigma training – discovery interviews, a fishbone diagram and process mapping. We then used Microsoft Project to create a timeline to stay on task for a project that will have extended over almost two years before completion.  

The first thing we did was to identify and interview the major stakeholders – faculty, students, administrators and members of the media. Using post-it notes we wrote down the issues that came forward in these interviews. These were grouped in categories. Using these categories we created a fishbone diagram which really looks like a fishbone. The spine of the project was updating the look and content of the profile pages. On the spine we listed the post-it note categories and the bones were all of the issues. We color-coded these issues by the ease in which they could be addressed. Doing this gave us a clear picture of where the problems were and the actions/approvals that were necessary to complete the tasks. At the same time we created a process map which allowed us to look at how profile pages are created for new faculty and how their information is kept current. Again, we were able to see where the bottlenecks were and how they could be fixed.

The profile page team worked through the fall of 2012 and the spring of 2013. A few tasks remain to be completed as we get ready to transition to TerminalFour (T4), the university’s new content management system. As a team, we held weekly meetings from September, 2012 through January, 2013 and then moved to once every three weeks through July, 2013. These  were 15 minute meetings  conducted by conference call between campuses and took the form of “stand-up” meetings. The idea is that if everyone stands during a meeting everyone is likely to stay on task and the meeting can be finished quickly. As the time nears for our transition to T4, the team will be pulled together again to be certain everything is ready to go forward.

The current profile pages were given a first update which included adding a narrative bio for each faculty member and a new photo. The final updates will happen after OCB has converted to a new content management system for our website. Watch for the updated pages, we anticipate the new look will appear near the end of February, 2014!

Members of the 2020 Faculty Profile Pages Project team: Suzanne Krzmarzick, Lisa Burke, Jess Durant, Sandy Beach, Joyce Wilking, Cindy Lorah, Jean Gabler and Bob Gaffney.

Posted by Suzanne Krzmarzick

2020 Team members, Continuous Improvement

Susie Eckstein: 2020 Team Member

“One of the things I enjoyed the most as a graduate student was the constant generation of new ideas, often sparked in class, about how to make meaningful changes to the work I was doing. Now that I am done with my MBA, being part of the 2020 Vision project training helped me to keep thinking of things to be improved in my daily work and on a bigger scale with college-wide operations. I have a whole notepad page of ideas that came up just during training, alone. Kennedy quoteIt’s easy to get into the ‘this is how it has always been done’ mindset especially after doing certain things for a while. The 2020 Vision project and the work the team is doing is a reminder to keep thinking about how we can all make UST even better.”

2020 Team members, Administrative, Continuous Improvement, Six Sigma

To Print or Not To Print: 2020 Printer & Copier Project

I was a member of the original 2020 Vision Task Force created in March 2010 to look at the future of Opus College of Business. Our mission was to identify assets and find ways to better utilize and strengthen them. Here is a quote from those meeting minutes, “Therefore the purpose of the 2020 Vision Task Force was to research and make recommendations for OCB to make us more efficient in our use of resources.”

One of the first projects identified as clear and fixable was the OCB use of printers and copiers.  The goals of this project were first to identify all MFDs (multifunction devices) and printers in use by OCB and second to reduce total printing costs.  Working with IRT, a group of staff visited each department and mapped out the location of all printers and copiers. MARCO representatives did an assessment of all UST owned or leased equipment to make sure that we had the right machines in the right locations to meet the needs of all faculty and staff.  Recommendations were made for changes and the remainder of the MFD changes will be made in summer 2014 when leases come up for renewal. OCB will no longer purchase printer cartridges for individually owned printers. 

We  then looked at individual printer usage.  In fall 2012, a copy request form was created in our Intranet site (SharePoint) and faculty were encouraged to use that form to send copy requests to their department coordinators. The coordinators determined the appropriate copy method.  OCB usage numbers were posted near all copiers and printers and everyone was encouraged to reduce costs by choosing not to print or by printing everything two-sided.  All printers and MFDs are to be set with duplex printing as the default.  If your printer/MFD doesn’t default to duplex when printing, please let us know.

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2020 Team members, Continuous Improvement

Pam Phairas: 2020 Team Member

 no print Pam“My department, Graduate Records and Data Management, made the decision some time ago to go paperless.  Not an easy task.  I input data for hundreds of Graduation Applications every year and used to print these and keep them in four large binders at my desk.  Working with IRT, we found a way to perform the very same function online. . . without paper.  Paperless has worked quite well for a year and I don’t anticipate problems in the future.”

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2020 Team members, Continuous Improvement

Introducing the New Cohort of 2020 Task Force Members

The 2020 Vision team is growing!  We would like to introduce our newest team members.  After the introduction and training seminars, they are ready to join our quarterly meetings and dig into the number of continuous improvement projects.  Each member will bring unique attributes from numerous departments within the Opus College of Business.  Join us in welcoming them to the team!

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Tanisha Andrews                                           Evening MBA Administration

Tiffany Cork                                                    Evening and Full Time Recruit & Admissions

Susan Eckstein                                               Evening MBA Recruit & Admissions

Clark Gregor                                                   OCB Marketing Activities

Hannah Hedegard                                        Full-Time MBA Recruit & Admissions

DeAnn Kautzmann                                       OCB Grad Record & Data Management

Jessica Kluntz                                                MS Degree in Real Estate

Alexandra Lapides                                        Evening MBA Student Life

Keith Pille                                                       OCB Technology and Web

Susan Thoma                                                 Full-Time MBA Recruit & Admissions

Continuous Improvement, Project Nominations

2020 Project Ideas

There’s always room for improvement. Do you have an idea for a 2020 Vision Project?  If so, here is how you can submit your project ideas. 

We ask that you complete the nomination form found on Sharepoint by clicking this link: Continuous Improvement Project Nomination Form. It can be found under OCB Favorite Links on the Opus College of Business Intranet (Sharepoint site). The nomination form will be reviewed and then passed on to John McCall and John Olson for approval.  Once approved, the nominator will be notified.  At that point, I will put together a team and nominate a team leader.  Teams and leaders will be chosen with the assistance of the project nominator, John McCall, and other department supervisors who might be impacted.  Once a team is formed, we will hold a kick off meeting and the project will begin. 

 Depending on resource availability, not all approved projects will begin right away.  Approved projects will be waitlisted and prioritized.  Prioritization of projects will depend on complexity, sustainability, and relationship to strategic goals. Don’t worry; nominating a project does not mean that you will be asked to lead the project team. If you have questions or concerns with the nomination process; feel free to contact me directly; 651-962-4611. Below is the Project Nomination Process.