COrE energizes departments seeking organizational change

 By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs

23 August 00 | "We have a wonderfully dedicated, loyal, intelligent and hardworking staff. But our policies are often too restrictive and our processes too complicated. We need to review all aspects of how we conduct our business, with the aim of streamlining decision-making and assuring that our processes are truly aimed at providing speedy, efficient and friendly services to everyone."

It was these words, spoken by Chancellor Berdahl during his 1998 inauguration speech, which, nearly one year later, gave birth to Berkeley's Center for Organizational Effectiveness.

Known as COrE, the center was established, in part, to help the campus reduce bureaucracy. Now well into its second year, COrE has worked with more than 30 units, partnering with them to plan and improve their operations.

COrE offers academic and administrative departments several services - problem identification; strategic planning; process improvement; self-assessment; priority setting and action planning; meeting and decision-making effectiveness - to help departments improve their organizational effectiveness.

Two new methods COrE has brought to Berkeley are the Excellence in Higher Education organizational assessment program and the Ford RAPID process improvement tool.

Ron Coley, assistant vice chancellor for business and administrative services, encouraged his units to take advantage of these tools. His director of mail services, Bill McCart, did just that, participating in both programs to increase his department's efficiency.

"Though the demands for our services are increasing, our staffing and budget are not," said McCart. "We needed to find a way to maximize our efforts."

The first step: Bringing together several of his managers and staff to participate in an Excellence in Higher Education assessment workshop. Using group discussion and other exercises, the facilitator led the group through a self-evaluation process, which was used to develop of list of strengths and problem areas. After more discussion, the list of improvables was narrowed down to three top issues. Strategies were then developed by participants to address these areas.

The main concerns for mail services included improving cross training of staff, reliability of service and productivity.

McCart then took it a step further, utilizing the Ford RAPID process improvement program to develop action plans that addressed the issues outlined in the first assessment.

For mail services, this meant removing the barriers between staff who processed incoming and outgoing mail, balancing workloads, and rotating people to various functions, as needed, to meet work-flow demands.

"Our staff are now versed in a broader range of tasks, we are better able to respond to unexpected staffing shortages and have increased productivity," said McCart. "The workshops are something every department on campus can benefit from."

These programs are successful, said Phyllis Hoffman, COrE director, because they are comprehensive, emphasize turning ideas into action, outline attainable goals and rely heavily on participant input.

"Those closest to the work are best able to come up with solutions," she said. "What we do is assist departments in solving their own problems. We aren't fix-it people who come in and tell people what's wrong with their operations."

COrE facilitators focus on the process, assessing the functions and structure of a particular unit, not individual jobs or people, said Hoffman. Using small group discussion, anonymous surveys and other techniques ensure everyone has room to speak.

To further assist departments with organizational effectiveness, COrE collaborates with other campus resources, such as the Office of Human Resources, CARE Services and the Ombuds office. By approaching issues from many fronts, departments are better able to come up with solutions, said Hoffman.

COrE's services are recommended for groups whose leaders and staff are committed to embarking upon change. Says Hoffman, "although it's not always easy, it's well worth the effort."



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