Quality Endeavors Issue No. 117

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February 2009

Every day, teams of people work together to improve and innovate processes and services found throughout the University. Many of these teams are recognized at the annual Quality Issues Forum, an event sponsored by the Executive Vice President and Provost and the Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment (OPIA). In 2008, more than sixty teams were recognized for their efforts. OPIA is currently soliciting names of teams to be recognized at the 2009 Forum in May.

Teams usually focus on improving processes to save money, reduce variation, provide better customer service, improve satisfaction, or reduce risk. Over time, teams are able to monitor whether the changes they made to their processes resulted in improvements. OPIA contacted teams who had been active at some point in the past five years to find out more about their results. This article highlights several of these teams.

Developing a more effective contracts and grants process for outreach, campuses, and extension was the goal of the Outreach TONIC Team (Team #644), which started in October 2004. The team’s efforts have led to more awards and increased funding for Outreach. Outreach TONIC TeamSince 2004-05, funding from awards has increased by 122 percent and the number of awards has increased by 140 percent. Initial members of the team included: Jeff Bridger, Robert Butler, Bob Igo (leader), Roger Martell, Lynn Moore, Ginny Newman, Jane Owens, Todd Roth, Joseph Segilia, Barbara Sherlock (facilitator), Jeff Smith (sponsor), Lori Stania, Elisabeth Workman, and Sharon Youtzy.

The team continues to meet and focuses on process improvement and training. Current team members include: Jeff Bridger, Elaine Brzycki, Tara Gardner, Jim Gehret, Chuck Herd, Patty Hickman , Bob Igo (team leader), Janet Patterson, Janice Pearce, Joe Segilia, Danna Smith, Elaine Stewart, Jackie Varner, and Lisa Wiedemer.

In 2007, the Risk Management Team (Team #741) met to improve the reporting process for potentially adverse events in University Health Services (UHS). The main goal was to ensure that each UHS employee understood and utilized the system for reporting adverse events and identifying action items from the event. Members of the team included: D Huddell, and Nancy LambertThe team monitored the action items that resulted from potentially adverse events and measured the time from creation of these action times to completion of them and set a goal of five weeks for completion of all items. The team found that sending reminders, providing oversight, and better tracking the progress of completion of the action items is helping them to meet this five-week goal 80-90% of the time.

The Equipment Process Review Team (Team #675) worked in 2005 to improve the processes for requesting, purchasing, inventorying, storing, installing and disposing of equipment and software in the University Libraries. The team’s work made the process more efficient and less costly by eliminating a weekly meeting that was held to review and approve requests for equipment. Team members included: Bill Bishop (leader), Marianne Guidos (facilitator), Jean McClintock, Betty Nirnberger, Mark Saussure, and Ronald Servello.Instead, paper forms now are used for the approval process. The team plans to work on an electronic version of the approval process in the future.

In 2004, the Student Aid SSN Project Team (Team #669) met to reduce the use of student Social Security Numbers (SSN) in order to diminish risk in the Office of Student Aid. The team analyzed their use of SSNs in their processes and looked for ways to incorporate the Penn State ID number instead. The team identified some areas, such as reports, screens and the internal data warehouse, where the SSN would still be needed, but eliminated usage in other areas. [W]e were able to reduce our liability and vulnerability by reducing our use of SSN in the office.

Robert Quinn
Penn State Office of Student Aid
The team has disbanded, and since that time, the Office of Student Aid has been able to eliminate the SSN from the internal data warehouse. Team members included: Laura Garver, Jean Gasparato, Anna Griswold (sponsor), Shari Howell (co-leader), Wayne Leone, Carol Lewis, Evelyn Nordberg, Bob Quinn (co-leader), Paul Simenson, Rod Smith, and Steve Stere.

The Environmental Resource Management (ERM) Academic Program Review Team (Team #764) in the College of Agricultural Sciences convened in 2007 to review the ERM program. The purpose was to identify specific goals and strategies to improve the program. As part of their work, the team met with student and faculty panels and conducted alumni surveys to gather stakeholder input. The team identified three priority action items, include obtaining more shared space, providing support for an upper level GIS, and increased development opportunities. Recently, one of these items, to obtain more centralized space for staff and students in the ERM program, was completed. Other strategies and recommendations from the team’s work are still being addressed. One of the important goals addressed by the team (and the report) was to identify and obtain more centralized space for our staff and students in the ERM program. The deans recognized this need and recently have provided a renovated suite of offices for ERM staff and better facilities for our students in a more visible location. I don’t think this would have happened without the CQI team’s efforts and recommendations.

Robert Shannon
ERM Program Coordinator
Team members included: Dennis Decoteau, Herschel Elliott, Paola Ferreri, Claire Hinrichs, Tracy Hoover, Jason Kaye, Judd Michael, Dave Mortensen, Rob Shannon (leader), Jim Shortle (sponsor), and Rich Stedman.

These are just a few examples of how improvement and innovation teams have cut costs, increased satisfaction, and provided more timely service. These types of teams can be found across the University every year. More information on these and Penn State’s other 800+ improvement teams can be found at /database/indxnumb.htm.