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COrE: Partnering for change
The Center for Organizational Effectiveness works with senior staff to improve processes affecting the entire campus. One desired outcome is less time spent managing crises

| 23 July 2003

When Chancellor Robert Berdahl arrived at Berkeley in 1997, he was awed by the campus’s academic excellence but dismayed by its burdensome bureaucracy.

“A level of tolerance for inefficiencies — which many refer to as ‘The Berkeley Way’ — had become an accepted part of our culture,” he says. “We need to examine all aspects of how we conduct our business, with the aim of streamlining decision making and infusing our campus community with a service orientation.”

Determined to improve the university’s organizational effectiveness, Berdahl — based on recommendations formed by an exploratory committee — created the Center for Organizational Effectiveness, or COrE.

Since its inception in 1999, COrE has consulted with more than 100 departments and units across campus — from the Office of Lab Animal Care and the School of Public Health to the Registrar’s Office and the College of Letters and Science. The overall goal: to help decrease time spent responding to crises and increase time spent contributing to the campus’s mission.

Depending on the needs of their clients, COrE staff provide a number of services, including organizational assessment, work-process improvement, strategic and action planning, and referrals.

More recently, however, COrE has begun to shift its primary focus to projects and initiatives that have a campuswide impact.

“In the beginning, we tried to touch as many people as we could, to build momentum and establish credibility on campus,” says Phyllis Hoffman, COrE director. “But now we are looking for long-term, sustainable change across the university, and that can’t be done as effectively on a department-by-department basis.”

While working with various individual departments over the last four years, COrE staff found that many groups were confronting similar hurdles, says Hoffman. By concentrating its work at this new, overarching level, COrE can better address systemic issues and improve organizational effectiveness throughout the campus, she says.

For example, COrE has worked extensively with the Staff Infra-structure Steering Committee (SISC) to help it redesign the campus’s antiquated job-classification system and develop more consistent performance-management and career-advancement programs. The office has also organized the Chancellor’s Cabinet planning retreats since 2000 and provided follow-through for actions and initiatives agreed to during the retreats.

“We help these project teams frame the discussion and prioritize the issues at hand, then provide them with the approaches and tools they need to effectively address these issues,” says Hoffman of COrE’s participation. “One of our goals is to help Berkeley’s senior staff lead with focus, continuity, consistency, and accountability.”

While COrE’s approach is now broader, the center is still serving individual departments and units in collaboration with internal resources — such as the Office of Human Resources, CARE Services, and the Controller’s Office — as well as external consultants. COrE can also provide resources and referrals to individual staff who are interested in improving organizational effectiveness within their own departments.

“I think we’ve made terrific progress in helping the campus become more effective — both within individual groups and on larger campuswide projects — and there’s still a ways to go,” says Hoffman. “COrE is in this for the long haul. We want to help create an institution that increasingly focuses its creativity, energy and resources on the issues that really matter to our campus community — learning, discovery, and engagement.”