1. Insights from Baldrige Award-Winning University’s New Chancellor

    May 2, 2020 by BPIR.com Limited

    Originally posted on Blogrige by Christine Schaefer

    Nearly two decades ago, the University of Wisconsin-Stout (UW-Stout) became the nation’s first four-year university to earn the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. A few years ago, we interviewed leaders of the state polytechnic university so we could share how they’ve continued to leverage the Baldrige framework for continuous improvement and innovation.

    As a new chancellor assumed leadership of UW-Stout this year, we asked her about her views and aims for the Baldrige Award-winning university in regard to continuous improvement and excellence. The interview with UW-Stout Chancellor Dr. Katherine Frank follows.

    Could you please tell us about your past organizational leadership experiences and how you aim to benefit UW-Stout?

    I have spent my career in higher education at public, comprehensive universities. I began as an assistant professor of English and director of composition, and I took a traditional leadership route through academic affairs: department chair, dean, provost, chancellor. One of my profound leadership experiences was serving as faculty senate president at Colorado State University-Pueblo during a time when complex issues were discussed and long-lasting decisions were made. That experience strengthened my commitment to visionary, transparent leadership and to inclusive decision making and an organizational culture that builds trust and confidence.

    I am most proud of my involvement in decisions that continue to positively impact institutions and communities. For example, I hired several personnel who have become exceptional leaders, and I initiated the formation of the School of the Arts at Northern Kentucky University and the creation of an associate provost of extended learning and outreach [position] at Central Washington University. The former has strengthened fundraising, programs, and visibility, and the latter has improved online programming and outreach efforts.

    The effectiveness and uniqueness of the institution is truly the sum of its parts. As a result, I believe effective leadership depends on reciprocal relationships across the institution’s internal and external network, as well as on valuing people to leverage everyone’s passions, strengths, and expertise. In addition, my training as a humanist and my experience at other public institutions enable me to view UW-Stout’s polytechnic mission from a different vantage point and to provide a fresh perspective to the institution and our stakeholders. I bring a new way of seeing to the institution, and this helps to inform the conversation and work moving forward and creates an environment for success.

    Tell us about how your first weeks of serving as chancellor may have impacted your perspective on your goals for UW-Stout?

    Within a few days of taking office as chancellor at UW-Stout, I found myself leading an institution during an international crisis. Entering the current crisis a week after arriving at UW-Stout was difficult, but it allowed me to see the talent and dedication at the institution. I am surrounded by an incredible leadership team and privileged to work with such remarkable and generous students and faculty and staff members. This experience reminded me of the importance of valuing people and of providing support not only through this crisis, but well beyond it. Recovery will depend on our ability to take what we have learned and apply it going forward. One thing we have learned is that we must take time to communicate, learn from, motivate, and support one another through various channels. This moment has forced us to find the space and time for such connection and to think about how to foster it going forward.

    Leading through a crisis has also helped us to identify opportunities for improvement in our approaches and deployment. Through multiple avenues for two-way communication, we are tracking gaps and barriers in processes, policies, and procedures. We are developing action plans to address them as part of our recovery plan and integrating them into our strategic planning process. In addition, we are working on a case study so we can share our key learning with others.

    What do you see as the value for a university today of using the Baldrige Excellence Framework (including the Education Criteria for Performance Excellence)?

    Baldrige provides a nonprescriptive framework based on key factors important to the organization. We appreciate that it is not a one-size-fits-all or checklist approach to performance excellence.

    This approach helps us during good times—as well as challenging times like we face today. It keeps us focused on what is most important when making decisions about how to invest our time and limited resources.

    Baldrige also informs our approach to visioning and strategy development. At our spring Visioning Session to kick off our next strategic plan, we plan to share our organizational profile, examine core competencies, and refine our performance-improvement and process-improvement processes.

    Plus, the Baldrige framework is beneficial in that we can learn from sectors outside of higher education. Communication and direct contact with stakeholders are key, and we have adopted an approach that draws from the health care sector’s use of “rounding.” Although my plans for face-to-face visits with all academic departments, student organizations, and others have been prevented by the current quarantine, I continue to focus on communication. I hold open office hours twice a week via Microsoft Teams, meet with academic departments and other units remotely, and record messages for student organizations conducting virtual celebrations. The current crisis has reminded us of the importance of communication, collaboration, and community building, and I have spent much of my time connecting in various ways with different constituent groups.

    How do you view UW-Stout’s status as the first and (to-date) only four-year university in the nation to have earned a Baldrige Award?

    We are extremely proud of our status. It is important to share our story so others can learn from us, and it is important to participate in Baldrige events so we can learn from others and continue to improve.

    Against the backdrop of current challenges, our strengths in planning and our commitment to shared governance have become even more evident and essential. We are well equipped to systematically track and fill gaps, which will maximize our effectiveness during this period of operational adjustment and during the recovery process. Collecting formative assessment from all institutional stakeholders has been a priority; it has increased our agility in addressing concerns quickly and will remain a priority.

    Looking ahead, what’s next for UW-Stout in terms of continuous improvement and innovation?

    In summer 2020, we will fully launch the University Benchmark Project, a national initiative for data sharing and benchmarking at the unit level. In addition, in alignment with our ambitious vision statement to be an international leader, we will explore opportunities to enhance our international presence, including through the expansion of programs and initiatives. We are also enhancing our strategy development process, including changing our longer-term planning horizon to ten years. This change will help us stimulate and incorporate more innovation and promote more intelligent risk taking.

    To help boost morale during this challenging time, ignite innovation, and plan for recovery, we established a modest innovation fund. Faculty and staff members have been invited to submit proposals for projects that will address issues associated with the pandemic and have a lasting, positive impact on the university community. Proposals will be vetted by a committee, which will make recommendations to the chancellor for possible funding.

    What would you say to leaders of other education organizations that are using or considering the Baldrige framework to improve their operational effectiveness and promote academic excellence?

    Use it! You don’t have to start by submitting a [Baldrige Award] application or by becoming a Baldrige examiner. You can implement the Baldrige framework in small steps. Start by completing an Organizational Profile, by attending conferences and workshops hosted by your state Baldrige program, or by talking with Baldrige Award recipients. In fact, we plan to bring together people within higher education to talk about how the Baldrige framework can help educational organizations learn and grow at the fall 2020 Baldrige conference.


  2. Baldrige award-winning university breaks ground (again) with benchmarking project

    October 4, 2018 by BPIR.com Limited


    By Jennanelson02 [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

    Originally posted on Blogrige by Christine Schaefer

    An assistant chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout—a Baldrige Award recipient—helped develop a national benchmarking project that will soon provide comparative data for the nation’s universities to better measure their performance.The project will involve collecting data for performance measures of nonacademic support units within four-year, post-secondary education institutions in the United States. Meridith Wentz, who directs UW-Stout’s office of Planning, Assessment, Research and Quality (PARQ), is playing a leading role in the effort in partnership with the National Higher Education Benchmarking Institute (NHEBI) at Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Overland Park, Kansas.

    JCCC Executive Director of Institutional Effectiveness, Planning, and Research John Clayton, who oversees the NHEBI, recently conveyed that he is excited by the prospect of the partnership with UW-Stout. “The Benchmarking Institute has provided this kind of data to the two-year college sector for 15 years,” he said. “Since 2004, over 400 two-year colleges have relied on us to provide comparative data on many key indicators to improve efficiency, institutional effectiveness, and student outcomes.”

    Wentz, who is also a senior Baldrige examiner, has overseen several other ground-breaking improvement efforts at her university in recent years. One example, is UW-Stout’s annual “You Said, We Did” institutional improvements based on faculty and staff input.

    “She described the new benchmarking project as “another example of how the Baldrige program has helped [our university] grow and improve.”

    Project Scope and Measures
    Asked how many other universities will be involved in the benchmarking project, Wentz responded, “For the first year [the university’s fiscal year 2019, which begins this fall], we’re targeting 25 to 50 other four-year universities. The long-term goal is to involve over 300 institutions per year.” She added that the NHEBI previously launched a similar initiative involving two-year colleges that has “consistently had 250 colleges per year” reporting data.

    Wentz provided two examples of standard measures for the project, as follows:

    • Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs) allocated to the work of a support unit within a university. Data for this measure will be split between centralized and decentralized staff members, she explained, given that (beyond staff members working full-time in such a unit) universities often have some personnel based in other administrative units on campus who help support the work of centralized units.
    • Budget allocated to the work of a support unit, split by personnel and non-personnel and by centralized and decentralized

    The project also will collect data for outcome metrics, she said, citing as an example the retention rate of faculty and staff members as a measure associated with a university’s Human Resources office.

    Project Phases
    As stated in a recent UW-Stout news story, Wentz said a stimulus for the project was the “need to make our [internal] review process more meaningful using benchmarking data.” Faced with a lack of comparative results to provide context for her office’s performance measurements of UW-Stout support units, Wentz decided to help develop such data. “We wanted to provide more meaningful data for continuous improvement,” she said.

    Wentz and her PARQ colleagues Frank Oakgrove and Elena Carroll are currently developing metrics for the NHEBI project, to be refined based on input from a national advisory board. Data collection for the project will be launched in early November, and the plan is to have results available for use by other universities by mid-February, according to Wentz.


  3. Just doing nothing gets you nothing

    August 24, 2016 by BPIR.com Limited

     

    Originally posted on Blogrige by Dawn Marie Bailey

    When just beginning something-be it a journey for improvement or an initiative to ensure you are prepared and fortified for unavoidable challenges-it’s best to start small, just one step at a time.

    At the upcoming Baldrige regional conference in Chicago, Melanie Taylor, deputy superintendent, curriculum and instruction, at Baldrige Award recipient Iredell-Statesville Schools, will outline how to start small on a Baldrige journey—and why such a journey is so important for educators, as well as for others.

    To help an organization get started, Taylor said she plans to touch on key areas; for example,

    • the Organizational Profile
    • Are We Making Progress?
    • Baldrige Excellence Builder

    “I’m going to talk about starting small,” said Taylor. “You’ve got to get started in order to improve. Just doing nothing gets you nothing. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.”

    Through a series of questions, I asked Taylor to give me some background on her topic “How to Get Started on Your Baldrige Journey?” and what learnings she intended to share with the regional conference audience.

    What do you feel is the value of a Baldrige journey?

    Baldrige provides some established, proven criteria to help you. Start with a self-assessment to gain a better understanding of how well you’re communicating your goals, mission, vision, and values internally and externally. Baldrige resources also provide considerations on developing relationships that give you an opportunity to network and benchmark with other organizations and learn best practices. It’s an opportunity to grow and improve what you’re already doing. You may think you’re doing well, but how does that compare to others?

    What are your top tips for using Baldrige resources to support education?

    The Baldrige framework helps with identification and alignment of key processes to get everyone in your organization moving in the same direction and focused on the things that matter. By getting everyone around the table up front, you’re able to be more effective. We’ve also been able to become more efficient, especially on the operations side. This is especially important in light of the cuts that many states (at least North Carolina) have seen in recent years.

    The Baldrige framework also has considerations for measurement and comparisons. By really looking at your data and that of other similar districts that may be outperforming you with similar subgroups or in certain areas, you’re able to identify exemplars to learn best practices.

    It’s helpful to get someone in your organization trained on the Baldrige framework relatively early on. You’ll need some experts on board to help with clarification and to help move the processes along.

    It’s also important for leadership to be bought in and to model behaviors for staff. At Iredell-Statesville Schools, senior leadership was great at modeling expectations. We trained/implemented Baldrige thinking all the way down to the kid/classroom level, so it was pervasive at all levels of the organization. If kindergartners can understand and utilize Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA; continuous improvement), anyone can do it.

    What else might participants learn at your conference session?

    My focus will really be on processes for schools to take home. While I’m always happy to share our district experiences and my personal reflections, my focus will be on ways to get started on your journey and the importance of doing something.


  4. School boards and the Baldrige Framework = Excellent results

    April 16, 2016 by BPIR.com Limited

     

    Originally posted on Blogrige by Christine Schaefer

    The 2013 Baldrige Award-winning Pewaukee School District of Wisconsin began using the Education Criteria for Performance Excellence (part of the Baldrige Excellence Framework) at the prompting of a school board member, according to its superintendent, JoAnn Sternke. Larry Dux—then clerk of the Pewaukee School District Board of Education—was familiar with the Baldrige framework’s value to the business sector from his work. Dux believed his school district could benefit just as for-profit organizations had from adopting a systems approach to improving its performance, among other Baldrige core concepts.

    He was right. As Sternke’s high-performing school system has since demonstrated, the Baldrige Education Criteria can be used as a self-assessment tool by a school and, better yet, the entire school system to improve performance in all key areas. Those include leadership and governance systems; strategic planning and development; approaches to engaging and supporting students, stakeholders, and employees; knowledge and data management as well as performance measurement; operations; and results.

    Sternke and Liz Menzer—a longtime school board member and a leader in both Wisconsin’s Baldrige-based program and the nationwide network of local programs known as the Alliance for Performance Excellence—presented earlier this week on the Baldrige framework’s benefits to school boards at the 2016 annual meeting of the National School Boards Association (NSBA). I recently asked them to share some key information about their presentation for readers of the Baldrige blog.

    As background, Sternke noted that NSBA has identified the following as core skill areas that effective boards of education need to ensure that all students achieve at high levels: vision, accountability, policy, community leadership, and relationships.

    “These five dovetail beautifully with the Baldrige framework,” said Sternke. “In fact, the Baldrige framework supports and makes these concepts become actionable. This is the focus of our presentation at the National School Board Association conference (held in Boston, April 9–11).”

    When asked why school boards can find the Baldrige framework valuable, Menzer responded, “Ensuring that public education will meet emerging challenges requires a clear vision for the work and operations of school boards in the future. The Baldrige framework can help boards shape proactive strategies that make school board members more relevant, credible, and effective leaders of public education.”

    Sternke and Menzer each shared examples of the value they described, based on their respective experiences in school communities in Wisconsin.

    “Using the Baldrige framework has helped our organization better utilize people, plan, and use processes to achieve [desired] results,” said Sternke. “Our board and our senior leaders clearly know their roles and their key work as we pursue our mission to open the door to each child’s future.”

    For her part, Menzer said, “Using the framework has made us more data-driven, and this makes us better decision makers. It also makes us better ambassadors for public education because we can be less anecdotal and more factual about the good things going on in our public schools.”

    Sternke and Menzer also provided their answers for three questions school boards are likely to ask about adopting the Baldrige framework, as follows:

    1. Does adopting the Baldrige framework add more work for school boards?

    Menzer: “No, it just organizes your work and provides focus.”

    2. How do you get started?

    Sternke: “The state-level, Baldrige-based programs of the Alliance (see link above) throughout the country can be great resources for educational leaders. In fact, Pewaukee School District got started with the support of the Wisconsin Center for Performance Excellence, which is headed by Liz Menzer.”

    3. What’s the board’s role and the superintendent’s role in pursuing school/district improvement?

    Sternke and Menzer: “One of the nice things about using Key Work of School Boards along with the Baldrige Excellence Framework is that these resources provide clear direction about governance versus operations. The first clearly presents differing roles that superintendents and school board members hold in education organizations that function optimally. These roles are supported by the Baldrige framework, which aligns the focus for all and also identifies the line between leadership (the work of senior leaders) and governance (the work of the board).”