Category 8: Planning Continuous Improvement


8P1MCC’s Key Planning Processes. MCC’s primary planning process is a 5-year strategic planning cycle conducted by the President and Executive Cabinet. When President Richard Shaink arrived at MCC in 2000, one of his first priorities for the College was to develop the Board’s goal of a long-range vision and a strategic plan for the future. MCC’s external environmental scanning process began in July 2000 with five community sessions held at various locations throughout the service district. Two college employee internal planning sessions were held in October and November of 2000. A similar process was used to develop the current plan. MCC’s strategic planning for 2007-2012 began with a foundation built on a Board initiated desire for a learning-centered college, the cultural shift associated with Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) and Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI), and MCC’s previous 2001-2006 Strategic Plan.

With this as the foundation, administrators and faculty conducted community surveys, six community town hall meetings, and four student town hall meetings to learn more about community and student needs. In addition, staff began environmental scans of area economic drivers, demographic patterns, as well as college financial and enrollment trends. As Executive Cabinet members reviewed data, overarching patterns began to take shape and goals were formed. To verify the overarching goals that resulted, the strategic planning group garnered input from students, faculty and staff, the Board of Trustees, community members, and state legislative leaders while undertaking revisions based on suggestions from these stakeholders.

The strategic planning group sought to garner input from numerous college stakeholders, as well as external data sources. The group analyzed and synthesized this information to create a model strategic plan suitable for additional input from members of the college community, and ultimately, for presentation to the Board of Trustees for its approval. The 2007-2012 MCC Strategic Plan is widely distributed in an easy-to-use cardstock pamphlet and may be found here:

8P2and8P6Selection of Short- and Long-Term Strategies. Long term strategies are set during the strategic planning process; for the past two cycles, the strategic plan has been a five-year period (2001-2006 and 2007-2012). During these cycles, the larger components of the strategic plan have been termed "Strategic Goals." On an annual basis, the short-term components underpinning the strategic goals are termed "Enabling Objectives." For examples of "overarching" or "strategic goals," see Figure O-2; for a selection of "enabling objectives," see Figure O-3. The annual review of enabling objectives is timed to coordinate with the end of the fiscal year and budgeting for the next cycle:

1-0 Student Learning & Success
2-0 Technology Initiatives
3-0 Systems Improvement
4-0 Economic Development
5-0 Human Resources Development
6-0 Institutional Image & Community Relations
7-0 Budget/Finance
Figure 8-1 MCC Strategic Planning Categories (2007-2012)

These seven strategic planning categories are also built into the coding structure of MCC’s AQIP Systems Portfolio database; enabling objectives have budget, strategic planning, and AQIP question category numbers assigned to them in this database.

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8P3Development of Action Plans. Since joining AQIP in November of 2005, MCC has consciously used the Action Project process as a model for organizing key action plans. As part of our participation in AQIP, we maintain three "official" Action Projects which are listed in the AQIP Action Project Directory. MCC has twice received helpful and positive feedback on the progress made toward these formally-stated Action Project goals. It should be noted that MCC initially selected projects that were quite large in scope; in consultation with AQIP staff, peers at other AQIP institutions, as well as internal members of our various quality efforts, our future Action Projects will focus on shorter and more distinct project goals. Still, MCC has made considerable progress toward its AQIP Action Projects; two of the original project Teams have made formal recommendations to EC which have been approved and are in various stages of implementation.

MCC uses a formal 7-step process for all AQIP projects; these stages are also used to track the progress toward the Team’s goals. These 7 steps are quite common in CQI and were introduced to MCC during a series of on-site training sessions conducted by Carol Tyler, former director of the quality program at Fox Valley Technical College. Further details regarding this training may be found in 8I1 below. The 7 steps have been useful in providing a framework for quality work on our campus:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Identify area for improvement Define current situation Analyze current situation Develop an improvement theory Implement best strategies Monitor results Adjust, standardize, or plan further
Figure 8-2 MCC’s 7-Step Quality Process

The following table lists the current AQIP Action Projects underway at MCC:

Project Name Description Status
Professional Development The goal of this project is to implement a system that supports and encourages professional development and provides opportunities to improve the knowledge, skills, and abilities of all employees. STEP 6: Formal recommendation implemented by EC
Experiential Education The goal of this project is that cooperative education and other experiential learning opportunities be expanded in all areas of the college curriculum. STEP 5: Formal recommendation made to EC; action pending.
Degree Audit The goal of this project is to design and implement a degree audit system in order to promote accurate advising, course selection and accomplishment of student requirements to complete MCC degree programs, including appropriate course choices related to their educational goals. STEP 5: Currently building new programs in Degree Audit; testing and rollout pending.
Figure 8-3 MCC’s Current AQIP Action Projects

MCC has also contracted with its ERP vendor, Datatel, to provide action planning services related to its systems and technology usage:

Strategic Priorities Priority Objective
Student Services – Financial Aid Consulting
Pell and Loan Processing 1 Reduce loan processing time from 20-25 minutes per loan request
Award Packaging 2 Automate the current manual process. Setup, review and implement the delivered functionality
Satisfactory Academic Process 3 Automate the current manual process. Setup, review and implement the delivered functionality
Award Process 4 Reduce manual award processing time. Utilize and award functionality
Review/revise Online Application 5 Technical consulting/mentoring
Financial Aid Audit 6 Audit of FA processes and use of Colleague
Communications Management 7 Increased utilization—i.e. electronic communications
ISIR Processing 8 Review delivered functionality & recommend workflow
Award Maintenance 9 Automate award changes based on enrollment status
Accounts Payable/Purchasing Audit 1 Business process review, review eChecks functionality and audit of Colleague usage
Budget Management Training 2 Automate award changes based on enrollment status
Human Resources
IPEDS Processing Total Compensation Statement Automate Payroll Vouchers 1 Automate manual processes via available functionality
Online Pay Advices & W-2s 2 Automate manual processes via online available functionality
Human Resources and Payroll Audit 3 Business process review and audit of Colleague usage
Academic Affairs
Communications Management 1 Host regional workshop + follow up consulting for each participating MCC office
Advancement Office
Colleague Advancement 1 Migrate from Benefactor to Colleague Advancement
Figure 8-4 2009 Datatel Action Planning Project Description

8P4Alignment of Planning Processes. A number of well-developed planning processes exist at MCC. In many cases, these processes stand alone and are not coordinated and aligned in a central "plan of plans." One goal of the newly-created department of Planning, Research and Quality is to develop a robust planning taxonomy for the institution as a whole. While no centralized depository or formal coordination of plans currently exists, the annual process of enabling objectives described in 8P5 below does serve to align MCC’s planning processes to a significant degree.

8P5Objectives and Goals at MCC. An ongoing process of goal and objective development and tracking is initiated by the President’s Office on an annual basis. Each of the "enabling objectives" are tied to an "overarching goal" in the 5-year strategic plan. For examples of enabling objectives, see Figure O-3. Under the direction of the President and EC members, managers develop and define their own objectives and select measures and performance targets. These are then compiled into an annual set of enabling objectives and presented to the Board of Trustees by the President. Enabling objectives are entered into a central Access database; beginning in 2009, the enabling objectives are also tied to the coding structure of the 2008 AQIP Systems Portfolio questions. This design is intended to aid in the maintenance of this and future Systems Portfolios.

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8P7Risk Assessment in Planning. Risk is factored into a number of ongoing processes at MCC, including labor relations, facilities, public safety, instruction, and administration. The college holds a variety of insurance policies to plan for and mediate risk to its human and physical capital. MCC Board Policy directs the President to maintain risk management policies:

4620 Risk Management

General: The Board of Trustees directs the president or his/her designee to develop, implement, and administer a comprehensive risk management plan to provide adequate and reasonable protection and safety to the College, its facilities, the Board of Trustees, the employees, the students and the general public.

Approved: December 16, 1996
Revised: April 24, 2000

Figure 8-5 MCC Board Policy 4620: Risk Management

In April of 2009, MCC created and filled a new position entitled Supervisor of Purchasing and Risk Management. MCC’s office of Physical Plant also has a Risk Management Coordinator. MCC is currently investigating ways in which its existing risk management processes can be aligned and communicated in a more effective manner, including the possibility of forming a cross-functional AQIP Action Project team to study and act on the issue. Because so many areas of the college assess and plan for risk in such a wide variety of ways, a cross-functional team could be of great value to the institution. In addition, the issue of risk management seems particularly well-suited to analysis and action through the CQI process.

Well-documented examples of risk assessment in planning certainly do exist. Perhaps the most detailed analytical model of risk assessment in place at present is the 7-year operating forecast that has become part of the annual budgeting cycle. Since MCC’s 2000 NCA/HLC Self Study, when accounting and finance was identified as a weakness and made the subject of a 2003 focused re-evaluation visit, stronger financial controls and modeling for changes in revenues and expenditures has become a mature practice in our organization. Presentations demonstrating an analytical look at financial risk dating from 2002-2009 may be accessed here:

The most current 7-year forecast anticipates risk by modeling changes to expenditures due to salary and benefit costs, as well as changes to revenue streams such as tuition, fees, property taxes, and state appropriations. This forecast is prepared by the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and was presented to the Board of Trustees in January 2009:

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The most current Accounting/Finance 7-year forecast presentation may be viewed here:

8P8Development of Human Capacity to Address Change. A recognition of the changing nature of higher education and MCC’s environment is built into our hiring and recruitment processes, which are described in greater detail in 4P3, 4P4, and 4P5. In addition, the need to create a culture of responsiveness and change is built into the 2007-2012 Strategic Plan itself, particularly in section 5-0 Human Resources Development. The organizational strategies and action plans described in this section must be supported by efforts to nurture staff capabilities. As recognized in question O8 of the Organizational Overview, the infusion of new people and renewed enthusiasm, as well as a renewed commitment to professional development, are key opportunities for MCC.

8R1and8R4Effectiveness and Benchmarking of Planning Processes and Systems. While MCC engages in a variety of useful planning activities at the institutional and departmental level, few measures of the effectiveness of these processes are collected and analyzed regularly. In November of 2008, the department of Planning, Research and Quality was created. Under the direction of an Executive Dean, this department was created to align the college’s various planning processes with AQIP and institution-wide quality initiatives. The Executive Dean of Planning, Research and Quality also serves as MCC’s AQIP liaison. Operationally, MCC finds its planning processes to be effective, but few consistent or objective measures exist to demonstrate this. A goal of the new department is to develop and encourage measurements of planning processes and systems across campus. At present, MCC has no benchmarking data that demonstrate how its processes for Planning Continuous Improvement compare to the results of other organizations.

8R2Performance Results for Organizational Planning. MCC tracks the goals and objectives set forth in the 2007-2012 Strategic Plan in a central database; at present, no specific performance results exist apart from department-level accomplishments. A more centralized approach to tracking and analyzing performance for organizational planning is an opportunity for MCC to improve its planning processes.

8R3Target Setting for Organizational Planning. MCC’s most specific performance targets are set for financial planning by Accounting/Finance and approved by EC and the Board. Budget-related targets include the Board Policy to limit overall general fund spending for salaries and benefits to no more than 77% of the total expenditure. The 7-year budget forecast also provides trend data and projections for revenue as well as expenses. Introduced in 2003, the Board Compensation Philosophy is an example of a specific performance target built into institutional policy:

5100 Compensation Philosophy

General: Total compensation (as measured by the combined economic value of wages and benefits) should reflect the College and Community’s ability to pay and the Board’s desire to compete effectively in the various labor markets in which the College recruits. External market data will be taken into consideration in the design and administration of compensation and benefit programs. The Board recognizes that employee compensation and benefits represent the most significant expenditure in the college budget, given the role of human resources in accomplishing the goals of the College.

The following basic policy statements apply:
  1. The Board has determined based on long-term budget projections, and other related budget data, that total compensation/benefits should not exceed 77% of the total operating budget.
  2. The President is directed to review all budget proposals and labor agreements with specific emphasis on total compensation and recommend only actions that fall within the 77% maximum and that will preserve the College’s long-term fiscal stability.
  3. Supplemental staff may be engaged by administration to accommodate needs such as variations in the workload, covering short-term non-reoccurring tasks, or consulting services.
  4. Benefit plans will periodically be reviewed and, if necessary, bid out to ensure that program design is consistent with this policy and that the price paid for such benefits is appropriate.
  5. Compensation and benefit programs should be structured to facilitate recruitment and retention of high quality, dedicated faculty and staff.
Figure 8-7 MCC Board Policy 5100 Compensation Philosophy

While many areas and departments set specific targets for performance on an annual basis, no comprehensive system for setting targets for performance exists on an institution-wide basis. An in-depth discussion of MCC’s 7-year budget forecast can be found in 8P7.

8R5Measures and Evaluation of Planning Processes. While a number of informal or indirect measures could point to effectiveness in MCC’s organizational planning processes, no institution-wide process exists to collect evidence on the impact of strategic planning. MCC’s strategic planning process is measured and evaluated on an annual basis when "enabling objectives" are developed by department managers and submitted to the appropriate cabinet member for consideration by EC. These objectives are compiled as part of the strategic planning process and presented to the Board of Trustees on an annual basis. Some but not all of the department-level planning processes in use on campus contain measures for evaluation.

It is anticipated that the initial three AQIP Action Projects will be completed and "retired" in the 2009-2010 school year. The process for identifying future Action Projects and other strategic initiatives is in development and will be finalized and implemented during this year. The Datatel 3-year Action Plan has provided a blueprint for the development and deployment of modules and functionality within the college ERP system. Additionally, 3 and 5-year enrollment trend data show projections of expected increases in students taking credit courses and a flat projection for students taking non-credit courses except in the burgeoning Workforce Development division. Increasing student needs in developmental, transfer and occupational courses will stretch the college’s limited resources. Curriculum development and alignment are high priorities in all instructional areas of the college.

8I1Recent Improvements in Continuous Improvement. During the 2006-2007 academic year, MCC conducted the first of several training sessions on the use of quality tools in process improvement. The initial participants were either leaders or members of currently-working AQIP Action Project teams. Below is a list of the training modules introduced to the college; these sessions were designed by Carol Tyler, formerly of Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, WI. The initial training modules, which are still used on an ad-hoc basis among working quality teams at MCC, were:

1.0 Basic Overview of Continuous Quality Improvement and the Role of Action Projects
2.0 Examples of Process Improvement Projects
3.0 A Methodology for Process Improvement
4.0 Tools for Process Improvement
5.0 A Simulation—Working Through the PI Protocol
6.0 Designing and Approach and Timeline for Action Projects
7.0 Roles and Resources
8.0 Index of Tools
Figure 8-8 Carol Tyler CQI Training Modules: 2006

The initial training for AQIP team leaders was helpful in launching the Action Project process. In particular, the methodology presented in module 3.0 was adopted as the formal method of evaluation for Action Project teams (see Figure 8-2 above for an example). To complement this training, MCC purchased several sets of Memory Jogger booklets to serve as reference materials on quality tools and processes. These resources have been widely used by quality teams. As helpful as the first two years of training proved to be, MCC’s efforts in ongoing CQI training and development could be more systematic and comprehensive.

There is room to grow and expand these recent improvements. We currently collect no performance results for Planning Continuous Improvement, and the CQI training is not repeated at regular intervals. Design is currently underway for a comprehensive series of workshops on process improvement and quality tools that will be offered on a consistent schedule.

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8I2Improvement Efforts for Planning Continuous Improvement. One way in which MCC’s culture helps to select processes for improvement can be found in the impact of AQIP outside of the three official Action Project teams listed in the directory (see Figure 8-3 above for a listing of MCC’s current official Action Projects). Based on the successful use of quality tools, formal facilitation, and cross-functional team design, the President and EC identified the need to integrate various database applications as a result of a recent Datatel conversion. The faculty assignment process in Academic Affairs became critical when the existing system no longer worked with Datatel Release 18. The former process for assignments, which was manual and spread across several functional units of the college, was inadequate for the organization’s needs. Numerous functions are impacted including HRIS, LotusNotes, Datatel, payroll, and various other systems related to employee assignments. A cross-functional Team was needed to describe, analyze, and provide solutions.

The integration of data applications related to faculty assignments now provides an efficient method for monitoring employee benefits associated with these assignments; integration will also result in better and more accurate information. In addition, a solution to the described problem was required prior to Fall of 2008. For these reasons, this project was high among the institution’s priorities.

The following table provides the project description and current status of the Data Integration/Faculty Assignments project.

Project Name Description Status
Data Integration* *not listed in AP Database The primary objective of this project is to implement credit and non-credit assignments systems that promote data integration within or, when necessary, in conjunction with Datatel. STEP 7: Datatel faculty assignments module (FASC) now in use.
Figure 8-9 Data Integration/Faculty Assignments Action Project

Like the official AQIP Action Project teams, the team maintains a quality page on MCC’s web to aid in its internal work. This page also communicates the team’s activities to the college community, and may be accessed here: