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Upping Organizational Effectiveness, Banishing Bureaucracy

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Upping Organizational Effectiveness, Banishing Bureaucracy
New CORE Program to Assist in Making Campus Operations More Responsive, Less Cumbersome

By Marie Felde, Office of the Chancellor
Posted April 7, 1999

In his inaugural address a year ago, Chancellor Berdahl said Berkeley defined itself by excellence in all it undertook, but he also noted there was work to do to make some campus operations more responsive and less cumbersome.

To help accomplish this, the Center for Organizational Effectiveness was established in March. CORE, as it is called, reports to the Office of the Chancellor under the direction of Assistant Chancellor John Cummins.

"By streamlining processes throughout campus we want to make people's work life easier and more meaningful," said Cummins. "Over time, we want to give everyone at Berkeley a better sense of how their hard work relates to this campus's goals and mission."

Some campus departments are leaders in strategic planning, said Berdahl, and others provide exceptional service. The intent of CORE, he said, is to build on the excellent work already underway and to help in those areas where unnecessary and burdensome bureaucracy is working against meeting campus goals.

"We need to make the easy things easy so that we have the time and energy to spend on the hard things -- and we have plenty of hard things to do," said Berdahl.

As a first step, Berdahl has directed CORE staff to recommend ways to make the Chancellor's Cabinet meetings and his calendar scheduling more efficient and effective.

The Academic Senate's Committee on Research has also asked CORE to help it streamline its grant administration, which typically requires a great deal of time and paperwork.

"We will be building on what Berkeley does, not starting new things," said Maury Cotter with CORE. "The office will work as a partner, providing consulting services in strategic planning and process improvement," she said.

Cotter is on leave from her job as director of the Office of Quality Improvement at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to help set up Berkeley's new office. Phyllis Hoffman, director of administrative services for the University Health Service, is serving as CORE's acting director.

The Center for Organizational Effectiveness is the result of an effort that began in April 1998, when Berdahl brought together influential faculty, staff and students to form the Chancellor's Exploratory Committee on Continuous Improvement.

At the group's first meeting last May, Berdahl made it clear that one important charge -- perhaps the most important -- was to determine whether Berkeley, with its independent-minded climate, would be open to a campuswide improvement program.

In late February, after nine months of extensive research, personal interviews, visits to major research universities, and a look at what has worked and what hasn't at Berkeley, committee members reported back to Berdahl.

Despite committee members' nearly universal skepticism at the start, they concluded that an ongoing, coordinated effort to improve operational effectiveness was not only possible at Berkeley, but with the right approach, could be extremely valuable.

"I guess you could say I'm optimistically skeptical," Paul Licht, dean of the Division of Biological Sciences, told the chancellor. Licht said he came to the committee "jaded by more than 30 years of rhetoric that had not been translated into action."

Berdahl praised the work of the committee: "Your combination of a willingness to try, and healthy skepticism, is exactly the mix we should have. I don't want true believers -- universities and societies do not function best if they are led by true believers."

For such a program to work, the committee told the chancellor, the effort must involve a sustained, long-term commitment to building both the mechanisms and the relationships essential for continuous improvement.

"The university is ready for this because we want to be better -- that is very clear," said committee chair Ron Coley, assistant vice chancellor, Business and Administrative Services. "There is an extraordinary capacity and will to improve."

"During the committee's research, we found that we needed to undertake some pilot projects to assess the appropriateness of some of the tools for change that are available," he said.

One method to quickly improve operational processeses, called a FORD RAPID, was undertaken by four BAS operations -- business contracts, vendor payments, mail processing and printing and copy services.

In another pilot project, four BAS units undertook an organizational assessment involving a thorough self-assessment from the leadership down.

In each case, said Coley, "we saw great success and recommended that these kinds of resources should be part of a comprehensive program available to address campus needs."

For informatoin or to obtain a copy of the report, with recommendations from the Chancellor's Exploratory Committee on Continuous Improvement, contact CORE at its temporary location in 117 Wheeler Hall or call 642-0787.


April 7 - 13, 1999 (Volume 27, Number 29)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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