Continuous Improvement

Understand organizational needs. Make work better. Reduce frustration.

These goals define the work of Finance and Administration employees across the university. At AIP, we strive to model a culture of continuous improvement because this practice drives our ability to advance UW-Madison’s academic, research, and public service mission.

In the summer and fall of 2023, AIP Business Process Improvement Managers conducted a needs assessment with internal partners and external peer universities to identify critical capabilities AIP can administer to lead and support a thriving culture of continuous improvement. Recommendations were accepted by the VCFA in January 2024.

AIP intends to offer the following capabilities to Finance and Administration units under the VCFA: leading campus-wide process improvement, supporting unit-level continuous improvement, and providing individual coaching, along with access to relevant training, tools, and templates.

Key Definitions

Continuous Improvement

a philosophy or mindset and applied science, wherein members of the organization make ongoing incremental improvements to programs, services, and processes.

Process Improvement

usually used to describe one-off project-based efforts that address specific problems or processes with a defined start and end (sometimes called process reengineering or redesign)

AIP Capabilities

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Campus-Wide Process Improvement

  • Guiding and coaching project teams.
  • Providing a phase-based process improvement methodology and project work sequence.
  • Providing a set of project tools and templates to guide the team from kickoff through closeout and beyond to monitor improvements.
  • Coordinates best-fit training opportunities for the project team.

Unit-Level Continuous Improvement

  • An AIP Business Process Improvement Manager and/or Innovation Analyst with data analysis expertise partners closely with a Finance and Administration unit to provide hands-on coaching and support to build a daily continuous improvement practice and identity Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
  • Support with building visual management boards to monitor and control processes, tracking issue identification and resolution, KPIs, and other metrics.
  • Assistance with prioritization and sequencing of continuous improvement activities to limit work in progress and achieve results sooner.

Individual Coaching

  • One-on-one support from a continuous improvement and/or data expert in AIP for process improvement practitioners. Receive coaching on your current or future improvement efforts.
  • In a consultation, coaches can connect you to methods, tools, and templates for a best-fit approach.
  • Schedule a coaching session

 While AIP continues to ensure Workday is successfully adopted at UW-Madison, AIP Business Process Improvement Managers are engaging closely with VCFA Executive Leadership to prepare them for their role and responsibilities to lead a culture of continuous improvement.

Noteworthy Engagements

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ASU I-9 Compliance

Data-driven problem-solving improves ASU I-9 compliance

An embedded AIP business process improvement manager and innovation analysts partnered with the Office of Human Resources Administrative Services Unit (ASU) to uncover data-driven improvement opportunities for ASU-specific I-9 processing and compliance. Using a Plan-Do-Check-Act approach, the team defined the current state by capturing and analyzing current metrics, leading to seven recommended opportunity areas for improvement. Approved recommendations were put into place. The team continues to monitor changes and will be reviewing post-implementation data to recognize improvements.

Human-Centered Continuous Improvement Models

Breaking down campus silos and avoiding sunk cost bias with human-centered continuous improvement methods

In the Fall of 2022, AIP investigated various pain points and concerns from schools, colleges, and divisions related to the administrative time and complexity to obtain immigration status for new foreign national employees. An AIP business process improvement manager crossed silos to conduct stakeholder interviews from many schools, colleges, and divisions to define the trending problems by stakeholder group and understand the current state operating model. The discovery revealed parallel improvement efforts already underway, unbeknownst to other areas of campus.

An important aspect of continuous improvement is stopping to review new discoveries at every phase of a project, often called Tollgate reviews. Best practice is for teams to hold a checkpoint with the project sponsor and leaders to decide whether to proceed based on what has been learned to date. Stopping or deciding “not right now” for an improvement effort is not a failure. People often continue to invest resources into endeavors even if the current costs outweigh the overall benefits. This is known as sunk cost bias. A decision to pause or cancel an improvement effort can be a vital, brave decision to prevent wasted resources and clarify organizational priorities.

Process Maps

Process maps improve collective understanding

At the direction of UW Shared Services (UWSS), an AIP business process improvement manager and innovation analyst are creating swim lane process maps of future state Workday business processes. These maps will paint a clearer picture of who does what and when once Workday goes live. Process maps are a highly impactful process visualization tool used to understand a current state process or illustrate the future process. The maps will assist the Universities of Wisconsin, UWSS, and UW-Madison with identifying any gaps and providing other information to assist with operating model, system, or process changes needed for a successful transition to Workday in 2025.