University Process for Decision-Making & Change (UPDMC)

Decision Making

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The accompanying draft report (now located in supporting documents) provides members of the Wilkes Community with a major update on the work of the University Process for Decision Making & Change (UPDMC) Committee and introduces “Steps to Excellence,” rigorous and inclusive approach for decision making and change that the Committee strongly recommends the University adopt. 

In March, after widespread expressions of community concern about the inclusiveness and quality of decision-making and change at Wilkes, the University leadership formed the UPDMC Committee. We were charged as follows: 

The committee is to develop a common decision making/change process for the university. The work of the group will begin with a definition of the role of faculty, administration, staff and students in decision making at the University, drawing on the principles enunciated by the AAUP and the literature on inclusive decision making. The process design will also define steps for decision-making and change that will be used in all university decisions. Membership will include three faculty, a department chair, a dean, a vice president, the Provost, two staff members, a student, and be chaired by the president. (Appendix A lists committee members.)  

At our first meeting, we reviewed the ‘Joint Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities’ 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) as a foundation for our work. The Joint Statement provides a common framework for accepted responsibility and interaction in a system of shared governance in higher education.

Shortly thereafter, the UPDMC Committee reached out to the campus community to get direct feedback regarding feelings and experiences related to decision-making processes at Wilkes. A cross-section of students, faculty, staff and administration were represented across six focus groups, which were facilitated by UPDMC Committee members. While focus group feedback served to strengthen our resolve to carry out that which the committee was already charged, it also clarified a related need: to strengthen the quality and timeliness of communication in the decision-making/change process.   

Taking all of this information into account, along with additional research into decision-making processes at other institutions and relevant readings related to shared governance and process improvement/change management, the UPDMC Committee developed a process to be followed for decision-making and change at Wilkes. We call the process “Steps to Excellence”. The process consists of a prescribed set of steps that the UPDMC Committee believes should be used in all decision making and change efforts at the University, within reason. We plan to apply the approach outlined in “Steps to Excellence” in achieving its formal adoption. 

Since we are proposing that “Steps to Excellence” be used for all decision-making and change at Wilkes, it only makes sense that we would follow the proposed process toward achieving our intended outcome as well. We believe we have successfully completed both Steps 1 and 2 of the process, (Engage People and Define the Problem, respectively). We have brought together a committee with representation of each area that will be affected by the outcome (Engage People). We have also clarified the issues through holding the focus groups and synthesizing feedback into a clear definition the problem. At each step of the process, we have sought, or plan to seek feedback from stakeholders towards making more sound decisions.

We believe we are now toward the end of Step 3 (Explore Possible Solutions).  We will present our draft report, first to members of the focus groups, to elicit their feedback. Then, at the campus convocation later in August, we will again present the draft report, this time to the campus community, along with any suggestions for revision, collected to date.  An opportunity to provide feedback on the proposed process will be provided as well, following Convocation.   

  • After consideration of all collected feedback, we will revise the process. We will then present the process to appropriate decision-making committees and the Board of Trustees for review and comment, and then prepare a final version of the process for pilot testing.
  • We plan to move next to Step 4, (Test a Promising Solution), pilot testing the “Steps to Excellence” approach during the fall semester on two major campus decisions, yet to be identified. This test will be used to determine the efficacy of the process and identify issues with it, before it is officially adopted in January 2010. We have been assured by the administration that the decision-making committees involved in the pilot test of “Steps to Excellence” will receive support throughout their work to ensure that their decision making/change processes are in accord with best practices.
  • Once the process has been successfully tested and adopted, we will then move to Step 5 (Communicate the Decision), then followed by Step 6 (Implement) of the “Steps to Excellence” approach. Accompanying these final steps will be specific recommendations for fully incorporating the approach into University decision-making and change efforts and for supporting committees in its use. This support will include the development of a key group of university community members well-versed in the methodology of “Steps to Excellence” as well as a set of “tools” to enhance the work of the committees using this approach. (Both internal and external resources for this support.)
  • The UPDMC Committee has also concluded that some of the problems with decision-making and change at the University stem from a committee structure that is complex, overlapping and in need of transparency and revision.  The Committee recommends that Cabinet, the Deans and the FAC undertake a review next year of all Faculty and University standing committees to ascertain their charges, analyze where there is overlap and duplication, make specific recommendations for new committee charges, and where appropriate, propose their elimination. 

Should you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding the work of the University Process for Decision-Making & Change Committee, please feel free to contact any member of the committee.

University Process for Decision-Making & Change (UPDMC) Committee