Organizational Excellence: Targeting Strategic Priorities and Serving the Academic Mission

Organizational Excellence: Targeting Strategic Priorities and Serving the Academic Mission

In the contemporary competitive environment of higher education, nearly all universities face a similar challenge: how to wisely manage their resources to ensure excellence in providing the very best academic opportunities for faculty and students.

In an effort to meet this challenge, “Organizational Excellence” has emerged as a priority during the University of Virginia’s strategic planning process. Adopting Organizational Excellence should enhance organizational capacity across academic and administrative service areas, thereby enabling excellence in our core missions of education, research and scholarship.

The program design reflects the contributions of several Strategic Planning Workgroups, particularly the Streamlining, Synergy and Resources groups. In the course of its work, each group sought an array of input from faculty, staff, students and alumni. This feedback helped shape the vision of Organizational Excellence.

“Organizational Excellence is an ongoing program designed to achieve institutional goals and priorities through resource alignment and optimization to support our mission,” said Pat Hogan, executive vice president and chief operating officer. “We are aspiring not only to world-class teaching and research, but also to world-class performance in effectiveness and efficiency of the organization. Excellence in every aspect of the University is essential to leverage our core strengths and distinctions and meet the goals of our strategic plan.”

The Organizational Excellence program is governed by a “Leadership Council” of faculty and administrators chaired by Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School of Education.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to help lead and frame this effort, which I believe can be extraordinarily valuable to supporting the teaching, research, and service missions of the University,” Pianta said. “As a longtime faculty member here, I have great confidence that developing our capacity for organizational excellence will provide tangible benefits for our faculty, staff and students.”

The Leadership Council is charged to provide program direction and manage the project portfolio. The council provides stakeholders and the University community a conduit for identifying and prioritizing opportunities for improvement in services and leads the development of the University’s capacity for excellence.  The Leadership Council will spend considerable time analyzing the host of opportunities and defining criteria for selecting projects that are strategically aligned.

Reflecting the partnership required for this effort, the Leadership Council includes members of schools and the administration:

  • Robert Pianta, Curry School of Education (chair)
  • Virginia Evans, Central Information Technology;
  • Thomas Gorski, Audit Department;
  • Hossein Haj-Hariri, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences;
  • Dr. Christopher Holstege, Faculty Senate, School of Medicine;
  • Erika James, Darden School of Business;
  • Richard Kovatch, Business Operations;
  • David Leblang, College of Arts & Sciences;
  • James Matteo, Treasury;
  • Christina Morell, Student Affairs;
  • Rick Myers, College of Arts & Sciences;
  • Tamara Sole, University Human Resources;
  • Student member to be named

Ex officio members:

  • Milton Adams, Provost Office
  • Sarah Collie, Organizational Excellence
  • Nancy Rivers, President’s Office

The program will seek opportunities to enhance the University’s stewardship of all its resources – from financial to facilities to technological to human resources – and align its processes, technology and people to support institutional priorities. Potential opportunities identified include improved research administration and long-term space planning and management.

Specific project teams will be composed of faculty members, administrators and staff selected for their perspective and expertise. Engagement of members of the University community will be a critical element for success.

“The diverse membership of the council speaks to the collaborative nature of this initiative, and I am pleased to participate as a representative of the Faculty Senate,” Holstege said. “The Faculty Senate will provide an indispensable venue for expansion of the council’s dialogue with representative faculty from each school.”

Executive sponsorship will be led by Hogan, Executive Vice President and Provost John Simon,  Vice President for Management and Budget Colette Sheehy, and Harry Harding, dean of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy The executive sponsors will lend a high-level vision, overall strategic direction, and final authority to the ongoing work.

In an effort to ensure a pan-institutional perspective, collaboration and coordination, Hogan named Sarah L. Collie as assistant vice president for organizational excellence. Collie has served as assistant vice president for Management and Budget/director of State Governmental Relations at U.Va. since 2005. Lee Baszczewski, director of Process Simplification since 2011, will transition to work with the Organizational Excellence office.

“Sarah brings to this new role more than 20 years of higher education experience in various academic and administrative roles and a background in change and improvement,” Hogan said. “She is active in the national quality and improvement community in higher education, which provides access to a wealth of resources and contacts.”

Collie said she looks forward to partnering with faculty and staff to advance their work and further strengthen the University. “This program builds upon the University’s long-term commitment to continuous improvement and the many successful school and unit efforts to enhance performance,” she said. “This is an opportunity to make a great university even greater.”

The Organizational Excellence office will provide coordination among the executive sponsors, Leadership Council and project teams to execute strategy and initiatives. The Leadership Council met in early August to establish a shared understanding of its charge and begin discussing opportunities for focus. The Leadership Council is committed to engaging the University community and will openly communicate about its activities through meetings, progress reports and a website that will house relevant information, including project documents.

“In order to continue to deliver a high-quality academic experience, attract leading faculty, and further distinguish the University, we need a culture of sustained excellence,” Simon said. “Organizational Excellence provides a collaborative, disciplined and thoughtful approach.”

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