Retired Action Project 1

Strengthening Continuous Improvement Processes and Awareness through Mini-Projects

Describe this Action Project's goal in 100 words or fewer:

Faculty, staff, and administrators will learn continuous improvement processes through participation in thirty mini-projects aimed at improving college processes, services to students, or students' learning outcomes. Mini-projects will stem from the collaboration of intra-departmental or cross-departmental teams which identify a problem or an opportunity they would like to address. Mini-projects will have outcomes that can be achieved within one to six months.

Primary Goals:

  1. Inform and train faculty, staff, and administrators regarding quality improvement practices.

  2. Improve college processes, students' learning outcomes, or services to students and support the college's mission, vision, and goals.

Identify the single AQIP Category which the Action Project will most affect or impact:

Primary Category: Planning Continuous Improvement

Describe briefly your institution's reasons for taking on this Action Project now -- why the project and its goals are high among your current priorities:

Although the college currently uses many continuous improvement processes, those processes are not always consistent and not all employees are aware of continuous improvement procedures and tools. This situation was made evident through the results of the AQIP Examiner survey. The action project will give faculty, staff, and administrators an opportunity to learn continuous improvement practices and tools while participating in mini-projects of their choice. The creation and implementation of thirty mini-projects over three years will serve to continuously improve the college in a variety of areas.

List the organizational areas - -institutional departments, programs, divisions, or units -- most affected by or involved in this Action Project:

Eventually, all areas of the college will be affected by this action project. The action project team will be affected first as will those individuals willing to participate in pilot mini-projects. Over a three-year period, the majority of faculty, staff, and administrators will participate in one or more mini-projects affecting multiple aspects college processes, students' learning outcomes and services to students.

Name and describe briefly the key organizational process(es) that you expect this Action Project to change or improve:

This action project is focused on affecting processes related to college processes, students' learning outcomes, and services to students.

Explain the rationale for the length of time planned for this Action Project (from kickoff to target completion):

  1. Participation in AQIP, and specifically in a mini-project, will become part of the annual goal-setting portion of employee evaluations.

  2. The action project team will keep focus on this project by regular communication with the college's faculty, staff, administration, and trustees through personal contact, email, written reports in the AQIP newsletter, and updates at department, division, and college-wide meetings. This constant, consistent, stream of information should maintain focus on the action project and encourage broad participation.

  3. Each year the results of completed projects will be celebrated and reported. An annual luncheon or other type of event will bring together all of the mini-project participants to share their accomplishments with the college community.

Describe how you plan to monitor how successfully your efforts on this Action Project are progressing:

  1. Percent of college faculty, staff, and administrators participating in continuous improvement practices through mini-projects.

  2. Formative evaluation of the overall project during year two will measure success of processes for soliciting, initiating, and completing mini-projects to determine if changes are needed to improve project outcomes.

Describe the overall "outcome" measures or indicators that will tell you whether this Action Project has been a success or failure in achieving its goals:

  1. Total number of mini-projects attempted.

  2. Total number of mini-projects completed.

  3. Each mini-project will have a set of measurable goals and outcomes that will be shared with the college community.

  4. Comparison of selected AQIP Examiner results prior to year one and following year three of the Action Project.

Other information (e.g., publicity, sponsor or champion, etc.):

  1. The action project team will be trained in continuous improvement processes.

  2. The process for selecting mini-projects will be established along with procedures for measuring results and sharing those results with the college community.

  3. Five pilot mini-projects will allow for refining of processes and training "internal consultants."

  4. Five additional mini-projects will be completed or initiated following the pilot period.

  5. The outcomes of the mini-projects will be shared and celebrated with faculty, staff, and administrators.

  6. At least 15% of faculty, staff, and administrators will participate in a pilot mini-project or a regular mini-project during year one. (Note: Percentages will be calculated on the basis of participation of full-time faculty, staff, and administrators. Part-time faculty and staff will be encouraged, but not required, to participate in mini-projects.)

  7. Any remaining mini-projects from year one will be completed.

  8. Ten additional mini-projects will be initiated and completed.

  9. Outcomes will be shared and celebrated with faculty, staff, and administrators.

  10. Formative evaluation of the overall project will result in improved procedures.

  11. An additional 20% of faculty, staff, and administrators will participate in one or more mini-projects during year two.

  12. Ten mini-projects will be initiated and completed.

  13. Outcomes will be shared with faculty, staff, and administrators.

  14. An additional 30% of faculty, staff and administrators will participate in one or more mini-projects during year three bringing the total level of participation to at least 65%.

  15. Results of AQIP Examiner completed at the end of year three will show a positive increase in responses to items related to planning continuous improvement, measuring effectiveness, and collaboration when compared with the initial results prior to the action project.

  16. AQIP Examiner results for the items noted earlier will meet or exceed the Higher Learning Commission norms for those items.

Annual Update: 2007-09-14

Describe the past year's accomplishments and the current status of this Action Project.

Our goal during 2006-2007 was to initiate and complete 10 additional mini-projects in order to reach a collective goal of 30 mini-projects over the three-year duration of this action project. We also wanted to complete any mini-projects from previous years that were carried over. One project from 2004-2005, creation of an online, paperless requisition process, is now again active and nearing completion. One project from 2005-2006, creation of guidelines for campus art display, is still in progress and nearing completion. Three projects from 2005-2006 were completed:

  1. Physical Therapy Licensure Exam research;

  2. expanded marketing to attract transfer students;

  3. campus security policy review.

One project, creation of a wellness curriculum, was retired and replaced with a similar project that had more achievable goals. That project was completed. For 2006-2007 eight new mini-projects were initiated. Two were completed or are 90% complete:

  1. a pilot program for online course support sites for regular delivery courses, and

  2. creation of a common format for standing committee agendas and minutes along with an online storage system for all standing committee minutes.

Four mini-projects are still in progress and are at least 50% complete:

  1. tracking and retention of non-continuing health program students,

  2. creation of a referral process for non-successful developmental education students,

  3. development of an online component for the college bookstore, and

  4. improving services in computer labs.

Two projects have stalled:

  1. creation of an instructor's manual for online faculty, and

  2. a project to improve accuracy of distribution and collection of keys to employees.

For the three-year period, we did not quite reach our goal of a total of 30 mini-projects. In all, 29 projects were attempted between 2004 and 2007. Of those, 15 were completed or are 90% complete, 10 are still in progress, and 4 have been dropped or withdrawn for various reasons.

Describe how the institution involved people in work on this Action Project.

We asked faculty and staff to submit ideas for mini-projects so that they could improve processes and services to students in areas where they saw a need. This empowered employees to make changes cross-departmentally and also act on their own initiative to continually improve our college. Our goal was to train at least 65% of our full-time employees in continuous improvement processes through their participation in mini-projects. We exceeded that goal and trained 108 or approximately 71% of our 153 full-time employees through this project. Additionally, many employees served on multiple mini-project teams which enhanced both their participation and helped make this process "business as usual" at our college.

Describe your planned next steps for this Action Project.

  1. We will retire this Action Project in December 2007 rather than September 2007 as originally planned. We want allow some additional time to complete projects that are still in progress.

  2. We will have a final celebration of this Action Project during our "in-service" days in November.

  3. We plan to continue using the mini-project process in a new action project aimed at responding to stakeholder feedback received through surveys such as the AQIP Examiner and the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CSSE).

  4. We also plan to share our experience with this project at the "Think Tank" session during our next Strategy Forum in October. We believe that this project is a good way to involve many employees actively in continuous improvement processes.

Describe any "effective practice(s)" that resulted from your work on this Action Project.

We feel the mini-project process was effective. We essentially miniaturized the AQIP Action Project process. A mini-project coordination team reviewed each project, offered feedback, and tracked results. This project allowed us to focus on 29 different processes at the college, form cross-departmental teams, and try to improve those processes. We weren't successful in every case, but with 71% of our faculty and staff participating in at least one mini-project (and often several), we succeeded in involving our faculty and staff in AQIP and continuous improvement in general. We also noted an increase in positive response for ALL of the indicators on the AQIP Examiner survey report for Category 8: Planning Continuous Improvement. For example, the mean for "translating our strategic objectives into concrete, achievable action plans" improved from 2.8 in 2004 to 3.06 in 2007. Likewise, "communicating our strategies and action plans throughout the organization" improved from 2.69 in 2004 to 2.75 in 2007.

What challenges, if any, are you still facing in regards to this Action Project?

Our only challenge at this point is to complete those mini-projects which are still in progress. We are tracking this and will be in contact with all project leaders during the next two months to encourage them to finish up their work. We are confident that at least seven of the ten incomplete projects can be finished by December.

If you would like to discuss the possibility of AQIP providing you help to stimulate progress on this action project, explain your need(s) here and tell us who to contact and when?

No assistance is needed at this time.


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