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The Transforming the U logo

Ushering in transformational change

Report outlines ways for improving administrative service and productivity

By Rick Moore

February 7, 2006

When it comes to transforming the University of Minnesota into one of the top three public research universities in the world, U leadership recognizes that all segments of the institution must be transformed, including administrative processes and services.

In his inaugural address, President Bob Bruininks envisioned a University "known as much for its service and business innovation as for its high-quality research, education, and public service."

That vision is taking shape in the report released February 6 by the Administrative Service and Productivity Steering Committee. It gives a recommended roadmap for achieving transformational change in how administrative operations organize, support, and serve the academic enterprise. The report is posted on the Transforming the U Web site, and the committee invites comments from the University community through March 6.

The University's strategic goal and five action strategies (students, faculty and staff, culture, resources, and public engagement) guided the steering committee's work. In the report, the committee articulates its objective as:

"In support of the University of Minnesota's academic mission, we will achieve administrative operations that are the best among our peers, focused on service to faculty, students, staff, and units, and driven by performance objectives and defined results."

Since September 2005, the Administrative Service and Productivity Steering Committee and seven administrative task forces have taken on the assignment of planning implementation of administrative transformation. In order to give the University community a comprehensive picture of this transformation, the steering committee prepared a single report for comment. It presents the status of administrative task force work and identifies the priority projects essential to transforming administrative services.

The implementation plan laid out in the report is organized under four themes: people, organization/structure, information, and culture.

"University support units have been engaged in continuous improvement projects over the last decade or more, and this work is to be commended," says Kathleen O'Brien, vice president of University Services and team leader for the effort. "Now is the time to move beyond continuous improvement in the ways we support the academic enterprise. We must move into an era of transformational change."

Following is a short summary of the four critical transformational areas identified by the steering committee along with recommended implementation projects.


Investing in employees and their success is a key ingredient in achieving the University's long-term objectives. "We must create an environment," the report says, "where every individual understands what is expected, is fully engaged in his or her work, is supported to innovate and continuously improve, understands how performance will be assessed and rewarded, and has confidence in the direction of the leadership of not only their own work unit but of the overall institution."

The committee recommended implementation of the following:


Information-based decision-making is essential to increasing the performance and accountability of the U's operational and service-related activities. The current state of the U's ability to track service levels and continuous improvement is far from optimal. The committee believes that the University must create, collect, and better use information to achieve performance-based decision-making.

Projects recommended:


The steering committee said the University's historically ill-defined and unstructured approach of providing administrative support is outmoded. If the U is to achieve its vision of being a top-ranked public research university, a new integrated administrative services framework is necessary for the success of the University's transformation.

Three major projects are recommended:


Culture is a manifestation of actions and behaviors that are driven by shared aspirations, expectations, values, systems, and programs. It is embodied by individuals but means different things to different people. However defined, culture is critical to the University of Minnesota's aspiration to be one of the top three public research universities in the world within the next decade.

The committee recommends a comprehensive project be initiated:

Next steps

Based on the comments received about the report by March 6 and further consultation with the U's leadership team, the steering committee will issue a revised report on March 24. In July, the committee will provide another status report to the Board of Regents and the University community.