Administrative efficiency: Getting better, with room for improvement

Task force reporting on campus feedback

The President’s Task Force on Efficiency reached a milestone in November, marking five years since being established by President Bruce Benson. Fresh feedback from the campus communities indicates that plenty of progress toward improved efficiency has been realized – while room for improvement remains in some areas.

The feedback was collected in a March 2013 survey, which now is being summarized for campus and governance groups. At the Jan. 23 Faculty Council meeting at 1800 Grant St., the findings were presented by Leonard Dinegar, senior vice president and chief of staff, and Dan Montez, director of the Office of Policy and Efficiency.

Survey respondents indicated widespread progress has been made in revising, eliminating and simplifying university policies, procedures, and processes, and in how system administration communicates the changes with the CU community. Some 81 percent said they’ve seen progress in streamlining, and 73 percent have seen improved communication.

The survey also indicates that more work needs to be done in providing appropriate tools and training required by faculty and staff in order to implement policies and procedures, and in increasing cooperation and coordination among system administration and its operating units, campuses and affiliates. About 51 percent of survey respondents reported progress being made in those areas.

The task force summarized three key findings that survey respondents collectively identified:

  • It is important for system administration to strive to understand campus needs and perspectives and to seek input from the campuses and end-users as policies, procedures or processes are developed.
  • Much progress has been made on policies; now, system administration must focus on process improvement opportunities and challenge the mindset of, “We’ve always done it that way.”
  • System Administration should increase awareness and share information on the system and campus efficiency and effectiveness efforts with leadership and with the campuses, faculty and staff. Everyone across CU can benefit from these efforts, as a great idea on one campus might help another campus.

The survey summary also revisited a list of Top 10 aggravators identified by the campuses in 2009. Of these 10, eight have seen significant improvement, according to between 51 percent and 80 percent of respondents. The remaining two registered lower numbers:

  • “The administrative burden on campuses is problematic. There are too many requirements for faculty to complete non-academic tasks and the burden placed on staff is unwieldy – we are not staffed to operate at a best-practice level in all areas.” Only 41 percent indicated significant improvement since 2009; 59 percent said this area either has not changed or gotten worse since then.
  • “Hiring processes are too cumbersome, time consuming and confusing.” Only 47 percent said this area has gotten better since 2009; 53 percent indicated it’s the same or worse since then.

The survey also indicated issues of concern can vary greatly when splitting responses of faculty and staff. For instance, Dinegar said, staff members tended to indicate there’s not enough training available, while faculty said there’s too much required training.

“There’s also the issue of how we train,” Montez said. “Everyone learns differently. We have a bank of online courses, but not everyone may like that way of learning.”

The survey indicated widespread understanding of how the task force has streamlined Administrative Policy Statements (APS): The number of APSs has dropped from 210 to 88 since November 2008; the number of pages in those policies has dwindled from 650 to 270.

“People recognize that we’ve made a lot of progress on policies, so the next big frontier is process improvements,” Montez said. “There’s a lot of grassroots efforts going on at campuses, and we’re ripe for a lot more work in that area.”

Further communication from the survey will be shared in the weeks ahead. Feedback and suggestions for the Office of Policy and Efficiency always may be submitted to its website.