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Scott Martens, director, Office of Service and Continuous Improvement.

Scott Martens brings energy and 19 years of experience from the public and private sectors to his new position at the University of Minnesota.

Building business cases for the U

Meet Scott Martens, director of the new Office of Service and Continuous Improvement

By Gayla Marty

From Brief, September 29, 2004

The view from the small office on the fourth floor of Morrill Hall is mostly Minnesota sky, in all its moods, above the orange terra cotta roof of Pillsbury Hall. The sky is something Scott Martens knows well. For ten years, he flew S-3B Vikings for the U.S. Navy. That's where he got hooked on continuous improvement.

Martens took his energy and passion from the Navy to the private sector, most recently as senior program director for business transformation at American Express Financial Services. Since 2000, he's also been teaching operations management in the Carlson School of Management in an adjunct capacity.

Scott Martens

>BBA, accounting, Iowa State U, 1985
>MS, management, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, 1993
>Certified public accountant (CPA); certified professional logistician (CPL)

>U.S. Navy, active duty 1986-96; reserves 1997-present
>General Electric, 1997-99
>Ceridian, 1999-2000
>American Express Financial Advisers, 2000-04
>Senior lecturer, Carlson School of Management, 2000-present

In June this year, Martens joined the U administration as director of the new Office of Service and Continuous Improvement. The office is an outgrowth of an initiative launched by President Bruininks in 2002 and informed by four faculty-staff task force reports.

In his 2004 State of the University speech, Bruininks said he wants the University to be known as much for its service and business innovation as for its high quality research and education.

It's a vision that suits Martens perfectly.

"The very things that led me to serve in the Navy also bring me to the U of M," says Martens. "First, I love a challenge. This is a huge organization, which is very exciting. In addition to that, I feel it's important to contribute and give back. This is one of the great public institutions that allows us to maintain and improve our way of life."

As costs of running the University have gone up and state and federal dollars have tightened, budget cuts have become ever more painful. Public stewardship has become a high priority. Many cost-saving measures and service improvements have been made--for example, squeezing more value out of the U's investment in technology.

"The U has been doing many great things," says Martens. "We want to celebrate our past success and build from there."

Applying the improvement tradition to the business of the U

It could be said that the very concept of a university grew out of the quest for continuous improvement, and the land-grant university embedded service into its mission. So it's no surprise that the mission of the new office sounds familiar. Every day, research designed to test hypotheses and measure change is at work in U labs and offices.

Office of Service and Continuous Improvement


To serve as a catalyst and mentor for sustainable improvement throughout the University--

>working with leadership and the U community to energize and enable a culture of continuous improvement

>working collaboratively with units to help identify and realize sustainable improvements in value, service, and productivity.

What the new office does is apply that method to the business of the University itself.

"With many of our past successes, we'll never know the full magnitude of their impact," Martens says. "On projects going forward, we want to fully understand what we are trying to improve, the base line we start from, and where we end up."

Martens is putting his skills and energy to use capturing U success stories, getting involved in improvement work already underway, and identifying new opportunities. So far, he's focused on the Twin Cities campus. He'll travel to the other campuses, beginning with Duluth in October.

"This office is no silver bullet, for goodness sake," Martens says. "We're not leading projects, for the most part. We're scoping out opportunities and building business cases and supporting some project work through more of a consulting-type relationship."

The office will eventually include about five people to crunch the numbers and build the business cases that the president needs to describe the University's challenges and successes effectively, within the U and externally to the legislature and business community.

Two committees guide its work: the president's executive committee, which identifies, prioritizes, and provides resources for strategic improvements; and a new advisory committee of internal U members and business community leaders.

"We all have a part"

Favorite reads on leadership

Cigars, Whiskey, and Winning: Leadership Lessons from General Ulysses S. Grant
By Al Kaltman
Prentice Hall, 1998

What It Takes to Be #1: Vince Lombardi on Leadership
By Vince Lombardi, Jr.
McGraw-Hill, 2003

Martens reads widely from disciplines that inform the work of service and continuous improvement: in addition to business--engineering, psychology, and communications. He also "devours magazines and newspapers, passionately," he says.

One of his favorite topics is leadership.

"It's critical to realize that each and every one of us is a leader in some capacity, both in our personal and professional lives," he says. "We all have a part. We all have a responsibility for transformation and for the future success of this great university."

Scott Martens can be contacted at or 612-626-8005.

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