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Attribution for Aligned Yellow Bricks at National Consortium.
Monday, February 19, 2007  12:23:00 PM

by Bob Woodward

Author, Bob Woodward, receives attribution for his work "Aligned Yellow Bricks" at National Consortium for Continuous Improvement in Higher Education, by Larry Gould, Ph.D. (Provost) and C.B. Crawford, Ph.D. (Assitant Provost for Quality Management).

Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006


From Thinking about Quality Improvement to Implementation: Strategically Enveloping Departments and Leaders in the Institutional Quality Management Endeavor

Larry Gould, Ph.D. Provost, C. B. Crawford, Ph.D. Assistant Provost for Quality Management, Fort Hays State University, 600 Park St., Hays, KS 67601, (785) 6284531

A Paper Presented to the 2006 Annual Conference of the National Consortium for Continuous Improvement in Higher Education.

Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006



The implementation of quality improvement is an ongoing challenge for any learning organization. This presentation explores and explains one institution’s strategy in attempting to build and sustain momentum toward achievement of full involvement of all academic departments in a quality improvement process. More specifically, this panel will address the requisite approach to change, training, data, strategy, and operational details in mobilizing a longterm continuous improvement culture shift over a threeyear time period. The primary focus is on the importance of leveraging points of change to achieve the necessary organizational alignment of people, systems and cultures to produce various kinds of institutional level value. Preliminary results will be shared.

Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006


I. Introduction

Quality improvement is a journey, not a destination. Within the context of higher education, this journey is often littered with random detours. Planned quality improvement often gives way to more pressing budget necessities, and ad hoc change is sometimes resentful and unsettling. It’s no surprise then that higher education, the selfproclaimed “ivory tower”, is slow to respond to improvement opportunities. Cultural change must not only be orchestrated, it must be well planned, communicated, based on sound thinking, and embedded in the deepest layers of the cultural milieu.

When institutions of higher education actually accomplish significant cultural evolution it is generally an artifact of two variables: timing, motivation and good planning. In our case, these factors provided a rich environment for a successful quality improvement effort. The consideration of timing was generally influenced by a staged fouryear model: Year of Academic Leadership (0405), Year of the Department 1 (0506), Year of the Department 2 (0607), and a Year of Strategic Alignment (0708).  This fouryear commitment seeks to improve departments through the following leverage points for change:

1. Build a common knowledge base for academic leaders, Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006


2. Provide incentive for department leadership and faculty to work intensively on a limited scope quality improvement agenda the academic audit (Massy, 2003),

3. Support the continuing operation through timely knowledge sharing and regular reporting/feedback,

4. Enlarge the agenda to include horizontally and vertically aligned department/college goals.

Upon completion of the staged model it is anticipated that departments will have both the knowledge and experience to engage in continuous strategic improvement.

II. Institutional Level Value Proposition

Perhaps the most important motivation for our adoption of a quality improvement approach was to create institutional value and strategic focus above and beyond more traditional management practices in higher education. In the words of Norton and Russell (2004), “the whole point of an organization is to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts—to create synergies”. Quality improvement was seen by FHSU faculty and administration as the management approach to produce this integration and synergy. Two observations follow from this dictum.

First, the creation of organizational synergy and integration is not a question of having ample resources in terms of monies and technology.

Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006


Both are necessary, but not sufficient in any way for creating the kind of synergy that moves an institution of higher education from “good to great.”  Rather, institutional level value is generated by leadership skills, endless and clever communication strategies, good planning, recognizing the importance of systems and processes and understanding that a variety of cultures shape and serve as the building blocks for the overall organizational culture.  Based on a quality improvement perspective, it would not be out of order to claim that the primary source of all value in an organization are wellconstructed, highly performing systems and processes. This leads to the second observation about the relationship between institutional level values and organizational synergy and wholeness. A quality improvement initiative depends on the timing and full performance of all “cylinders” in the organizational engine. In other words, the people, systems and cultures at all levels and in all parts of the organization must be conditioned and shaped to contribute to the spirit and implementation of a quality management initiative.

FHSU realized several years ago that the production of other institutional level value propositions, e.g. creating a service-oriented climate, developing and enhancing new global strategic partnerships, introducing a mobile learning environment, becoming marketsmart as well as missiondriven, and so on, could only be accomplished by facilitating the organization’s implementation of its quality improvement culture. Based on

Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006


insight and direction suggested by Kaplan and Norton’s work on the StrategyFocused Organization (2000), the decision was made to employ a plan which capitalized on various “leverage points” for educating faculty, staff and middle level administrators about the nature and processes of quality improvement at the department/program levels. The ultimate goal is to facilitate the institution’s adoption and desired implementation of a quality management accreditation track known as the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) by aligning the people, systems and cultures in departments and colleges with the organizational level value proposition about the worth of quality improvement. The question derived from this value proposition becomes “what leverage points for change could be used to facilitate this implementation process?”

III. Identifying Leverage Points for Change (LPC)

Implementing continuous improvement through topdown models is fraught with difficulty, but the impetus nearly always comes from executive-level leadership. Top driven implementations often result in resentment and unmotivated responses, and department driven improvement is generally nested in discipline or market specific considerations rendering such action uncoordinated and ad hoc, despite positive outcomes. By developing good planning at the top (Provost’s Council working in concert with department chairs) and identify “leverage points for change” in the multiple cultures of

Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006


the university context, FHSU begin its effort to scale the development of a quality improvement culture to a new level.

LPC: Year of Academic Leadership

In early 2004, the Provost’s Council commissioned planning for a series of discussion topics deemed beneficial to new deans and chairs. As the discussion matured, it was readily evident that many of the topics originally devised for new personnel, had substantive value for current and even “veteran” chairs. Beginning in June 2004, the Dean/Chair Orientation series was introduced to all chairs and deans with the objective of improving human capital and departmental/college leadership.

Table 1. Topics, Speaker and Schedule for Dean/Chair Orientation.

Topic *                 Speaker                Date

Orientation to the Orientation Team 07/13/04

Role of the Dean and Chair Gould 07/13/04

Class Schedule/Virtual College/Summer School

Faber 07/13/04

Academic Calendar Crawford 07/20/04

Ongoing Role of Dean and Chair Gould 08/19/04

Tenure and Promotion Processes Faber, Parker, Ganstrom 08/19/04

Action Plans/Department Improvement Brungardt 09/02/04

AQIP for the Department/College Crawford 09/02/04

Searches and Hiring Crowley 09/16/04

Research and Service Responsibilities Heinrichs 09/16/04

Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006


Budget Responsibilities Barnett, Briggs 09/30/04

Strategic Planning Gould 09/30/04

Open Discussion 10/14/04

Teaching Evaluation Process Patrick , Weigel 10/28/04

Course Management Crawford, Schumacher 10/28/04

Refocus on Recruiting Students Schieferecke, Linn, Karlin, Rackaway & various chairs 11/15/04

University Policies Gould, Powell, Parker 11/11/04

Academic Advising/Grade Appeals Griffin, Linn 12/02/04

Promotion Process Luehrs 12/02/04

International Virtual College Operations Elliott 12/17/04

International Students Solko 12/17/04

Affinity Diagrams Schmidt 01/13/05

Merit Procedures Finck 01/13/05

Council of Chairs and First Principles Gould, Crawford 01/27/05

Dept/College Annual Report Crawford, Gould 01/27/05

College of Business & Leadership Strategic Plan, Williams 02/10/05

Linking Department, College, and University Missions Briggs, Williams 02/10/05

Course Scheduling and Conflicts Arnhold, Nichols 02/24/05

Curriculum and General Education Faber, Holmes 02/24/05

Faculty Orientation Process Cline, Haggard, Haggard 03/10/05

Virtual College: Operations and Paperwork, King 03/10/05

Graduate Council, Graduate Faculty Jackson 03/31/05

Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006


Department Annual Report Crawford 04/14/05

Council of Chairs Briggs 04/28/05

* Video and presentations available at

Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006


LPC: Year of the Department (YOTD)

Simultaneously with the delivery of the Year of Academic Leadership, programming, planning and implementation for a “year of the department” was conceived as a second leverage point for change. The initial goal would be to facilitate an understanding of quality improvement in general and AQIP in particular as part of an overall cultural transformation. The focus of the concept was on encouraging faculty to work through their own disciplines and academic programs while learning about and using educational quality processes relevant to faculty roles and responsibilities. Most administrators realize that potentially the most successful way to embed change in the institution’s culture is to work through a faculty member ‘s discipline. In addition, the assignment of a common strategic task for all faculty in this case, an academic audit to be carried out in each department on one academic program, was made to create “horizontal alignment” across the participating departments and faculty. Similarly, the emphasis on learning about educational quality processes in the disciplinary and curricular world of each faculty member was conceived as a device for developing “vertical alignment” with the institutional value proposition, i.e. quality mprovement and AQIP.

In Spring and Summer 2005, the Provost’s Council approved the plan and communicated it to department chairs for a January 2006 implementation. Feedback revealed that due to prior strategic planning and

Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006


goal setting, several departments (9 of 30) would not be able to commit the necessary effort to completion of the department goals during the Year of the Department. In addition, a few departments were engaging in a pilot program for mobile computing, necessitating an equally important university priority. Upon completion of planning and early implementation, 21 departments signed onto the 18 month Year of the Department 1 (Jan 06 – Jul 07) and 9 departments signed onto the 12 month Year of the Department 2 (Aug 06 - Jul 07). Table 2 details the scheduled rollout and quality improvement seminars associated with the YOTD.

Table 2. Topics, Speaker, and Schedule for Year of the Department.

Topic * Speaker Date

2006 Year of the Department Rollout Presentation Gould, Crawford 01/25/06

Affinity Diagrams, Mapping and Measuring Process Crawford 03/03/06 (repeated)

Academic Audit Crawford 03/08/06 (repeated)

YOTD Refresher Jump Start TBD Fall 2006

Learning Objectives TBD Fall 2006

Advanced Assessment/Best Practice TBD Fall 2006

Curriculum Mapping TBD Fall 2006

* Video and presentations available at

The primary activity involved during the Year of the Department 1 and 2 centered on a full academic audit of at least one of the degree programs offered by the department. The academic audit process is well explored in the quality literature, with Bill Massy (2003) as the primary proponent.

Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006


Essentially, Massy proposes a fivestep model where departments pull apart relevant processes and realign them to meet emerging markets, changing students, and rapidly expanding disciplinespecific knowledge bases.

Specifically, Massy advocates the following process model (see YOTD brochure):

1. Desired learning outcomes

2. Design of the curricula

3. Design of teaching and learning processes for selected courses/programs

4. Student learning assessment

5. Results and feedback for quality assurance

While every department has engaged in ongoing curriculum improvement, three exigent circumstances made the academic audit an appropriate methodology for leveraged change:

· Required periodic reflection on the program Affinity Diagram,

· Rapid expansion of distance education with varying levels of maturity,

· Assessment mandate with inconsistent application and uncoordinated, decentralized accountability.

Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006


IV. Providing Context and Shaping Perspectives

Chartering Process

In early 2004, the Provost’s Council began discussions about the development of a Division of Academic Affairs initiative which might address the results of a survey indicating only about 25% of responding faculty could actually explain the meaning and importance of AQIP. It was felt that the enterprise level value proposition would never be realized unless individual faculty and staff could embrace and employ quality management as a way of institutional life. Equally important, it was understood that the success of strategic planning initiatives, Regents’ Performance Agreement goals and AQIP action projects were dependent on communicating and aligning department and college level activities and programming with institutional change and culture. In other words, as Bob Woodward in Aligned Yellow Bricks: The Road Back to Kansas (2005) points out, you need some way to “preserve a strategic vision in a tactical storm.” The question remained, however, “what was the best way to get all stakeholders to first understand the strategic direction embedded in the university’s accreditation track?” Communicating the institutional value proposition through engagement in a disciplinary task was seen as not only the answer to that question, but also the way to produce vertical alignment of activities and effort from top to bottom and even beyond to the Regents’ level. The YOTD was seen as the vehicle to carry the message and the leverage point for producing the

Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006


essential change. One quick note is in order. Because AQIP and quality management is imbued with the lexicon and feeling of a business culture, it was felt that naming the initiative YOTD would lessen resistance and suggest the idea that disciplinary life was a natural home for quality management processes. It was a way of dealing with just one of the many subcultures that constitute the larger campus culture.

Although the setting of boundaries and the defining of individual and faculty team roles and responsibilities continued as discussion items in the Provost’s Council, there was another concern. Turnover in department chairs and the loss of two college deans suggested that an initiative of this magnitude would not be successful without informed and permanent leadership. Thus, the launch date for YOTD was delayed until the previously described Year of Academic Leadership was complete. The important point to emphasize here is that the “chartering process” proceeded simultaneously with the implementation of leadership training. Again, the activities associated with the Year of Academic Leadership are identified in Table 1.

As carried out by the Provost’s Council, the boundary setting and role definition was embedded in a continually revised charter statement and shared with department chairs through the college deans as the project was conceptualized. The attached brochure is the final draft of that document and describes the entire range of considerations that conditioned the

Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006


eventual launch of this 18-month long effort to manage a major change in the mindset of the institution’s faculty.

Linking the Institutional Value Proposition with the Department

As noted in the preceding comments and the attached brochure, a specific goal of the YOTD initiative is to make the university’s AQIP accreditation activities relevant to individual faculty members by helping them understand “educational quality processes” (Massey, 2003) at the department level, how these processes are a daily part of what they do, and how participation in department quality processes are an essential part of academic citizenship and institutional quality improvement. Beyond communicating the institutional value proposition about the nature, meaning and strategic importance of quality management and AQIP accreditation, this project also represents an opportunity for faculty to learn about the concept of an “academic audit” without the pressure of a fullscale program review process condensed into one semester with financial and statistical analyses to divert attention from curricular improvements. An ancillary objective is to use the findings of the audit not for accountability purposes but to generate real improvement in revising learning outcomes, assessment techniques and stimulate experimentation with redesign of multiple section and large enrollment courses.

Several tools have been employed to create both vertical and horizontal alignment and linkage with the institutional value proposition.

Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006


Although the full complement of resources can be found on the back of the YOTD brochure and accessed via the FHSU quality management web site, it is important to emphasize the critical role played by the university’s affinity diagram process, the strategic plan for assessment, the use of performance scorecards and the Regents’ performance agreement approach. But the important point is not the fact that these tools link what is going on at the department level with the institution level. Rather, the key outcome to be emphasized is the new value being created through these synergies. When departments revise their affinity diagrams to improve curricular offerings, the university stands to improve its attractiveness to students, parents, donors and others because of revisions in the product lines, the introduction of new programming, more efficient courses and so on. This is the real translation of value from YOTD to the institutional level.

V. Managing the Mood: Improving Faculty Sentiment

About YOTD and Quality Improvement

All too often, change initiatives in higher education are not accompanied by compelling reasons, rewards or incentives for those whom you want to endorse and support the change. Even if a receptive climate for change is generated early in a project or program, the opportunity for losing momentum and real progress becomes more likely if it doesn’t look like the change is in the best interests of those most impacted. With YOTD, it will be

Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006


easy to return to business as usual (the “this too will pass” syndrome or the bad medicine routine “hold your nose and take your dose”) unless the results transcend the ordinary and faculty feel their sacrifice has been worth it.

YOTD has been developed with two crucial incentives for making the change stick. First, new monies have been assigned to YOTD. The idea is to create a new class of strategic expenditure that is different from routine department or college operational or capital spending. The Office of the Provost has told department chairs and faculty that action plans for funding initiatives that result from YOTD will be welcome and carefully evaluated.

This doesn’t mean that any and every request should or will be funded. If a department faculty collectively decide after conducting an academic audit, however, that a course with multiple sections can be more efficiently and effectively taught by the application of some technological tool (computer-assisted instruction), they simply need to develop an action plan and submit it. In so doing, they know the money will not be drained from the regular department budget or the chair will end up deferring some other needed item in the annual strategic planning process. The Provost’s Council has tried to create a process that allocates resources to the YOTD as a strategic lever for change.

Second, departments have been told that if any of the assessment improvements derived from the YOTD process are significant enough to

Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006


become goals in the university’s performance agreement with the Kansas Board of Regents, the university will support the change effort in various ways. For example, if a local assessment tool needs to be developed or a commercial assessment instrument is required (e.g., ICT Literacy Test), resources (e.g., monies, reassigned time, external expertise) will be allocated for these items. The goal is to produce value chain integration. If YOTD can produce a link between the conduct of academic audits in department programming and the need to identify initiatives to submit under the “Improving Learner Outcomes” required goal in the Regents’ performance agreement process, the synergy will produce unrealized value from a strategy that is seemingly aimed at the department only. It is this type of effort that also reemphasizes the importance of the “academic compact” or more precisely, the belief that no faculty member wants to be a part of an unsuccessful institution. By generating improvements in assessment approaches and techniques that can be used at the Regents’ level, faculty are exercising a type of intangible citizenship that simply cannot be undervalued.

Gould, Crawford – NCCI 2006


VI. References

Crawford, C. B. & Gould, L. V. (2005). Using Performance Chain Analysis as an Informational, Strategic, and Managerial Tool. Paper Presented at the 2005 National Consortium for Continuous Improvement in Higher Education Annual Conference in Baltimore, MD.

Kaplan, R. S, & Norton, D. P. (2006). Alignment: Using the Balanced Scorecard to Create Corporate Synergies. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Kaplan, R. S, & Norton, D. P. (2000). The Strategy Focused Organization: How Balanced Scorecard Companies Thrive in the New Business Environment. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Massy, W. (2003). Honoring the Trust: Quality and Cost Containment in Higher Education. Williston, VT: Anker Publishing.

Norton, D. P. & Russell, R. H. (2004) Balanced Scorecard Report, September-October, (6) 5, 15.

Woodward, B. (2005). Aligned Yellow Bricks: The Road Back to Kansas. iUniverse.

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