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A “Campaign for Common Sense” to Facilitate Process Improvement

“People aren’t motivated by ‘increasing efficiency,’ but the opportunity to ‘reduce frustration’ gets everyone’s attention.” – Allison Vaillancourt, vice president for HR and institutional effectiveness, University of Arizona (from her CUPA-HR Annual Conference 2013 session, “A Campaign for Common Sense – A Grassroots Approach to Organizational Change”)

Higher education institutions (and their people) aren’t necessarily known for their ability to adapt quickly and/or easily to change. But when the change could potentially make everyone’s jobs (and work lives!) easier, people are more apt to get on board. Using John Kotter’s 8-step change model, the University of Arizona’s HR organization has been successful in leading a grassroots approach to organizational change.

Kotter’s 8-step process for leading change goes something like this:
Step 1: Establish a sense of urgency
Step 2: Form a powerful coalition
Step 3: Create a Vision for Change
Step 4:  Communicate the vision
Step 5: Empower people and remove obstacles
Step 6: Generate short-term wins
Step 7: Consolidate gains and never let up
Step 8: Incorporate changes into the culture

Using these eight steps as its guiding force, University of Arizona HR set out to offer the UA community the opportunity to question current HR-related practices and propose more sensible approaches. Through focus groups, small group meetings, town halls and online tools, UA constituents were able to provide feedback about what they considered to be dysfunctional rules, outdated protocols or byzantine organizational structures. Through an online portal, anyone who so desired could report concerns or offer suggestions for process improvement, either anonymously or openly, and could view and vote on ideas that had been submitted, as well as see the progress that has been made toward implementing the idea.

As a result of this deliberate, structured, inclusive approach to change, UA HR has already implemented several changes that have simplified and streamlined several processes and work flows. As Vaillancourt stated in her conference session, “Much of what we’ve done is just plain common sense!”

Which processes could use improving in your institution? Which change processes or models have worked for you?

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  • Allison Vaillancourt

    Missy, thanks for highlighting our Campaign for Common Sense! The project is actually an institution-wide project that includes an advisory board of faculty and staff throughout the University community. We’re tackling HR issues, but also research development, graduate admissions, sustainability initiatives and more.