On April 30, 2008, Maury Cotter, Director, Office of Quality Improvement, University of Wisconsin-Madison and immediate past president, National Consortium for Continuous Improvement in Higher Education (NCCI), spoke to the approximately 220 attendees at the annual Quality Issues Forum about “Making Change Happen from Wherever You Sit”.
Ms. Cotter began by noting the 20 year history that Penn Sate and University of Wisconsin share in integrating planning, assessment, and improvement in both academic and administrative areas. She pointed out that both Penn State and Wisconsin have been pursuing these initiatives for the ‘right’ reasons, for improvement and advancement, not in response to budgetary needs. But she also pointed out that, as a result of shifting and declining funding sources, rising expectations and focus on accountability, changes in demographics, advances in technology, and increasing competition, these efforts in higher education need to continue.
Penn State has many strengths to build on to continue these initiatives. No other university can match Penn State’s record for sustained team-based improvement efforts. Additionally, innovation and improvement is part of Penn State’s culture, there is leadership at many levels, and history provides continuity and momentum. Ms. Cotter highlighted several tools that can be used to further innovation and improvement efforts:
- Use your circle of influence and be a leader from where you are
- Infuse change initiatives into your daily work and regular meetings
- Pilot small changes, and nurture them where the environment is receptive to change
- Draw people toward change through a clear vision of the future and stories they can relate to
Ms. Cotter concluded by relating this approach to change to jazz, being on the edge between order and chaos. She encouraged listeners to use that flexibility to determine the most effective way to move forward, to play the culture rather than fighting it.
View the slides from her presentation.
Since 1991, more than 800 continuous quality improvement teams and other quality initiatives have registered on the Office of Planning and Institutional Assessment’s database. New teams may register in the OPIA database. Members of teams formed between May 2008 and March 2009 will be invited to next year’s Quality Issues Forum to be held in the Nittany Lion Inn in 2009.