The Continuous Improvement Initiative at FGCU
FGCU launched the Continuous Improvement Initiative in October, 2019. Monique McKay, the Ombuds and Special Assistant to the President collaborated with Dr. Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor Emeritus of The SUNY System to create a team to learn the methodology of Continuous Improvement and apply it to problems across campus.The Continuous Improvement Team is deeply committed to improving processes to benefit our students and the people in the region we serve by using a data driven approach to examining and resolving systemic problems. The team’s work is centered around principles of fairness, equity, diversity and inclusion. The process is highly collaborative and will involve community partners interested in positive educational outcomes. Bringing continuous improvement to higher education is an exciting opportunity and has the potential to showcase FGCU as a national model of innovation for improvement in higher education.
What is Continuous Improvement?
IntroductionToggle More Info
The basic tenets of the Continuous Improvement process involve understanding a problem, defining a manageable goal/aim, identifying the drivers that could help reach that goal/aim, and then testing small ideas to change those drivers.
When done in a network, this cycle of improvement is expedited as various participants test different change ideas and share their findings with the team. Through the constant interplay of these elements, a few change ideas will rise to the top and can be scaled across a system.
Continuous Improvement & Education
In the classroom, strong teachers constantly test small changes to class activities, routines, and workflow. They observe how students interact with the material, identify where mistakes/errors occur, and adjust as they go. This on-the-fly problem solving system is so common in classrooms that many teachers do not even realize they're doing it. The expertise they are gathering are rarely taken into account when schools or districts try to solve larger, systematic problems.
In education research, researchers come up with ideas they think will improve classrooms and then set up laboratory experiments or classroom trials to test that idea. If the trial goes well enough, that idea gets put on a list of research-approved practices. While research-informed practices are important, this process can often mean that the interventions are unrealistic or disconnected from the hectic reality of many classrooms.
What if teachers themselves were the research engine - the spark of continued improvement?
What if this continuous process was applied across educational institutions?
Breaking Down the Methodology
Problem StatementToggle More Info
Understanding the problem requires evaluating many types of knowledge. It involves bringing the best research literature to bear on the problem, and sometimes, representing the process involved in the problem can illuminate some areas that are breaking down. This stage is crucial and should not be rushed. It is seen that projects require up to a year of study to fully understand the problem, its root causes, and the levers of change available to leaders.
- Why are we doing this project?
- What is the problem we are addressing?
- Who is affected?
- When is it a problem?
- Why does it matter?
- How does it affect the students/university?
Ex) The current situation is ______________, leading to _______________ (undesirable event).
Fishbone DiagramToggle More Info
The fishbone diagram is a key part of the Continuous Improvement methodology. It allows for brain storming, facilitates cause and effect analysis, and defines and simplifies the problem or situation. This concept focuses the content of the problem rather than its history or the differing interests of team members.
The simple format of the diagram allows us to focuse on the root-cause of the problem while gaining an idea of the collective knowledge and consensus of the team that is tackling the issue. Greatly resembling actual fish bones, the diagram consists of an effect or "problem in process" on the right, with a collection of causes or conditions on the left of the diagram. These causes are divided and categorized into specific themes to form the individual bones of the diagram.
Diagram Source: Gazi Sanaul Hasan via Supply Chain Leader
Please select sample below to view larger sample:
How has FGCU used this concept?
At FGCU, the Continuous Improvement Initiative Team is incorporating the fishbone diagram as an everyday tool for the tackling of both small and large issues. One issue the team has addressed during its workshops is obtaining the Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) designation for the university. For this example, our problem in process was the designation, with the bones of the diagram divided into the different categories our team thought affected our missing HSI designation.
Aim StatementToggle More Info
Creating an aim statement allows the team to come to a consensus about what needs to be done to improve, what resources are necessary to accomplish the aim, and measure whether or not improvement has occured.
A strong aim statement will answer the following questions:
- What outcome or process needs to be improved?
- For whom will it improve?
- How much will it improve?
- When will it improve?
- What tool, method, resource or system will we use to make the change?
Aim statements should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic/relevant, and timely. It should be as specific as possible and measurable. Below is an example of how an aim statement can be constructed.
Driver DiagramToggle More Info
A driver diagram is a visual display that includes several "drivers" or contributors to the problem being addressed. These drivers are what the team believes provides the most leverage to meet the goal and are within the span of control. This diagram shows the relationship between the overall goal of the project, primary/key drivers that directly contribute to the aim, secondary drivers that connect to primary drivers, and specific change ideas to test for each secondary driver.
Source: Lothian Quality, NHS
Select sample driver diagram for larger view
Selecting ChangesToggle More Info
Ideas for change often come from those working in the system, from other similar improvement efforts, or from change concepts and theory.
- What are some opportunities for change and improvement?
- What changes are you considering?
- What specific change concepts will achieve the aim?
Testing ChangesToggle More Info
- What is the objective of this particular test of change?
- What do you think will happen and why?
- How, when, where, and by whom will the change be tested?
- What data did you collect?
- What happened as you conducted the test?
- What did you observe?
- What problems or unexpected observations were encountered?
- What data did you collect?
- What does the data show?
- How does it compare to your predictions?
- Is the quality of the data adequate?
- If the test did not show ideal improvement, what modifications should be made to your change?
- What would be the plan for the next test?
- If the test showed desired improvement, what are the next steps for implementing or spreading the change?
Source: Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI)
Online ResourcesToggle More Info
Continuous Improvement ResourcesToggle More Info
BooksToggle More Info
Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better
Anthony Bryk, Louis Gomez, Alicia Grunow, Paul LeMahieu
- Using ideas borrowed from improvement science, Learning to Improve shows how a process of disciplined inquiry can be combined with the use of networks to identify, adapt, and successfully scale up promising interventions in education.
Building in Research and Evaluation
- Proposes that the act of inquiry is the way by which every living organism and all collective human life goes about continuously learning, improving and changing. This approach is explored by delving into the cyclical processes of acting, observing, questioning, feeling, reflecting, thinking, planning and acting again.
Transforming Students: Fulfilling the Promise of Higher Education
Charity Johnson, Peter Felten
- Addresses the central purpose of a college or university’s core educational mission: to shape students into engaged adults who embrace learning as a lifelong endeavor.
The Memory Jogger 2: Tools for Continuous Improvement and Effective Planning
Michael Brassard, Diane Ritter
- A guide to be used as part of a self-study program of as a reference before, during and after your training to learn the different types of continuous improvement tools and their uses.
Wolfpack: how to come together, unleash your power, and change the game
- Cry for women to claim their individual power and unite their Pack with 8 new rules that will change the game forever
Promising Care: How We Can Rescue Health Care by Improving It
- Speeches preceded by a brief commentary from a prominent figure in health care, policy, or politics who has a unique connection to that particular speech. Offers a vision for making our systems better, safer, more effective, more efficient, and more humane.
The Wisdom of Crowds
- Explores the idea that large groups of people are smarter than an elite few at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, and predicting the future.
The Power of Positive Deviance
Richard Pascale, Jerry Sternin, Monique Sternin
- Explains positive deviance as a system that requires letting go of traditional ideas about authority and power and instead allowing people to discover answers for themselves.
The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision
Fritjof Capra, Pier Luisi
- A new systematic conception of life has emerged at the forefront of science with new emphasis being giving to complexity, networks, and patterns of organization leading to a novel kind of “systematic” thinking.
Designing your life: how to build a well-lived, joyful life + Workbook
Bill Burnet, Dave Evans
- How to find what we want to do, at any age, and how to answer who we want to grow into tomorrow.
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work
Chip Heath, Dan Heath
- Introduce a four-step process designed to counteract biases of overconfidence.
Escape Fire: Designs for the Future of Health Care
- Speeches that dramatically show that we need to create a new system that guarantees that every patient has the benefit of care drawn from the best scientific. Knowledge available. Includes practical suggestions and tools that can truly transform our broken system and puts the patient at the center of the health care system.
The Checklist Manifesto
- Shows what the simple idea of the checklist reveals about the complexity of our lives and how we can deal with it. Reveals what checklists can do, what they can’t, and how they could bring about striking improvements in a variety of fields.
Your Someday Is Now
- Merges the worlds of workplace, university, non-profit advocacy, personal branding and work life integration. Explains how to integrate your career and life goals, seize opportunities enhance personal brand, and attain peace of mind.
Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries
- Offers engaging accounts of breakthrough innovators at work, and a whole new way of thinking about how to navigate uncertain situations and unleash our untapped creative powers.
Tribe of Mentors
- Shares secrets for success, happiness and meaning.
If you'd like to learn more about Continuous Improvement at FGCU, contact Monique Mckay at the University Ombuds Office.
Edwards Hall 211B
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