Governance, Policy and Process Documents
Steps to Excellence
A process for sound decision-making and change at Wilkes University
Statement of Purpose
Shared governance has been a distinctive tradition in higher education since early in the twentieth century. This tradition assumes that faculty should have a substantive role in decision-making. Going beyond this tradition, the American Association of University Professors, American Council for Education and Association of Governing Boards joint Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities holds that all affected constituencies should be appropriately included in university decisions. Wilkes University recognizes the wisdom of this statement because such inclusiveness leads to enhanced understanding of and commitment to university decisions. These decisions are more sound, helping to ensure the long-term success of the University.
The purpose for establishing Steps to Excellence:
1. Clear articulation - Decision-making processes are most effective when they are clearly articulated and easily understood; This articulation should reduce confusion over the roles, responsibilities and authority of those involved.
2. Representation - In a system of shared governance, decision-making power is shared with those most affected by the decision. Wilkes community members need to be appropriately represented in the decision-making process when they will be affected by the outcome.
3. Communication - Clear lines of communication need to be established before, during and after decisions are made, to ensure proper flow of information to and from decision-making bodies.
Guiding Principles of Steps to Excellence:
1. Established lines of authority (as outlined in the ‘Statement on Governance of Colleges and Universities’ jointly formulated by the American Association of University Professors [AAUP], the American Council on Education [ACE], and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities And Colleges [AGB]) will be respected and followed.
2. Representation from and communication with all affected stakeholders will be actively sought at throughout the decision-making process. This is essential in order to assure their participation in and understanding of decisions or change that affects them.
3. A change management process and tools will be used to guide decision-making and change processes toward more sound and inclusive decisions.
Note on the Value of Committees
Committee/group work should establish a clear scope for the work, including desired outcomes, a timeline and an evaluation of available resources to address the problem.
Important Consideration for using this process
Decision-making/change management is a dynamic process. Situations and needs will continuously change. To ensure that decisions remain a good fit, they should be revisited periodically, particularly as outcomes show either inadequate improvements or declines in performance.
Steps to Excellence
STEP 1 - Engage People – Identify and include not only those stakeholders involved in the implementation of the decision, but also those who will be affected by it.
STEP 2 – Define the Problem – Clearly define the topic or problem. The committee should seek the feedback of representatives from all parties identified in STEP 1, so that all relevant perspectives are considered. Measurable outcomes for a successful solution should be determined, as well as criteria for assessing these outcomes.
STEP 3 - Explore Possible Solutions – Research best practices to address the topic/problem and select the option best suited to addressing it. Should the “best practices” approach not be applicable, the committee should develop solution options that best address the defined topic/problem. Multiple solution options should be considered, along with the likely outcomes (both positive and negative) of implementing each. The Wilkes culture should be a consideration. The success of the proposed solution should be assessed using the outcomes and measures identified in STEP 2.
STEP 4 - Test a Promising Solution – Test the most promising solution with those affected by the decision to see if it adequately achieves the outcomes identified in STEP 2. If the objectives are not adequately met, the committee will evaluate why it did not work and take steps to improve it, testing a newly proposed solution. If the objectives are met, the committee may move to the next step. It may become necessary to stress the importance of deciding upon a best solution, rather than a perfect solution, to move forward. If the proposed solution cannot be tested, the decision should be vetted with stakeholders before implementation.
STEP 5 - Communicate Decision – Communicate the solution to those affected and to the larger organization. Communication should include a clear rationale for the decision (such as a cost-benefit analysis) as well as any other information necessary to make the implementation successful.
STEP 6 - Implement - Implement the decision or change as appropriate, based upon the strategy agreed upon by the committee.
*At each step, care should be taken to solicit and consider stakeholder feedback to inform the decision/change effort.
- The problem will need to be identified before engaging people, but defined after they are at the table.
- Facilitation of the process, while not mandatory, may be a useful resource for groups struggling to move forward. To engage a facilitator, please contact Brian Boget via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Documentation of the process is essential for recording and communicating the decision reached. It is also a critical tool for keeping track of problems and issues that arise during the process and how they were addressed.
Steps to Excellence was developed by the University Process for Decision-Making and Change (UPDMC) Committee. For additional information on their process, please click on the following link: /about-wilkes/university-process-for-decision-making-change-updmc/index.aspx to go to the UPDMC portal page.