An interview of Nancy McKinney by Delia Clark.
1: What lead you to undertake business improvement projects? Why did you choose the methodology provided by TOP?
The gift operations project was about how we process philanthropic gifts at Berkeley. The way we’re talking about gift operations in University Development and Alumni Relations (UDAR) is that we need to double our volume in the next fundraising campaign in a resource constrained environment. We know that we are not going to be doubling our resources so we need to find better ways to do our work. We also know that we don’t provide yet the best donor experience that we could. A flawless donor experience is what we would like to provide. Those are our two drivers. We need to be more efficient and more effective and provide a better experience for our donors.
The approach: Gift processing is an extraordinarily complicated area of endeavor on the campus. It seems like doing just a little piece of it; like let’s just focus on one small part of it and see what we could improve. Well that might in and of itself create some benefits and, I’d like to think that we do that all the time anyway. It seemed that in order to make the sort of transformational change that we need to make here, that we need to be much more holistic about it and take on the whole thing. And we knew we couldn’t do that ourselves and that we needed support from colleagues who really understand the goals and techniques of process work.
2: What benefits have you realized from your projects?
During the project we developed over 60 process maps which were provided to the industry experts we engaged with to review our operations and recommend changes, thereby reducing the cost of that consulting contract because our current work processes were already documented.
We Learned a lot. Staff who were not previously exposed to this kind of process work gained some new insights into how to think about what they do every day. The Voice of the Customer information that was collected has caused us to be more focused on customer service. And I know for example that it’s being used in the arena of coaching, feedback and performance management. As far as figuring out what the process could look like in the future, it provided a really good foundation for everyone who was involved in it to be ready when we do start designing the new processes.
3: What impacts, other than process improvement, have you seen from this work?
People are using a somewhat different vocabulary. I used outcomes to think about budget and how we should be staffed. Because we have a better understanding of how work is being done today we are better positioned to respond when new ideas come up about how gifts might come into the campus. For example our colleagues are looking for new ways to raise money and bring things in. One campus unit center was approached by an outside vendor that had a new online giving product. As you know everyone at Berkeley is very entrepreneurial. They were approached about being in a pilot and were keen on the idea of doing that. Because we have a better understanding now of our internal processes we were able to say to them, if we were to agree to doing that then here is how much more things would get complicated here. We have a better foundation for negotiating new things. Things are already complex enough. Let’s not add to the complexity. Let me explain to you how it is done now and let’s make sure that anything we add to it doesn’t make it even more complex.
4: What other options, or possibilities, do you see, for process improvement in your organization?
When a fundraiser works with a donor on a gift, for example a major gift of 25k or more. There’s a lot of documentation that goes into it. We want to make sure that we understand what the donor’s intent is and we have different ways of documenting it. If a donor makes a pledge to give we have a pledge document. If a donor makes a pledge or an outright gift that sets up a new fund we have something called fund terms. One of the things that we’re looking at doing is reviewing all of the different types of upfront donor documentation and developing what you might think of as one very large mail merge. So, the frontline fundraiser would go through a series of prompts which ask a variety of questions about the details of the gift and then the system would create the gift document. And then rather than printing it off and sending it to the donor and having the donor sign it and then getting a bunch of internal signatures on the campus, we would use DocuSign to route it. So this is going from a very fragmented paper based process to something that is very streamlined and technologically supported.
5: How do think the campus would benefit from embracing a continuous improvement mindset? What should we do to get there?
Once people see it in action and see the value of it I think they become converted to the idea that it is a good thing. The way to get people to embrace continuous improvement is actually to break it down into really small things. Thinking about how can we demonstrate, around a fairly small process, that the improvements are a good thing? Going back to the very first project we worked on together in 2010 which was the Chancellor’s acknowledgement letter. A couple of the people that worked with me when I first joined the university were very change averse. They thought the process was just fine. They really didn’t see the need to do any of that kind of process work. One was still here when you worked with us and because we were able to demonstrate to her that her work was going to be more manageable, that she was going to have greater satisfaction because she wasn’t always going to feel so far behind. We were able to use that work ultimately to hire another person because we demonstrated that we made the process as efficient as we could and we still couldn’t keep up with the volume; and the volume is a good thing by the way, so we need more help with this. I think encouraging managers to do small process improvement projects for team members and helping people see what’s in it for them and other stakeholders is what we need to do.
6: What additional help or resources do you need to continue with your process improvement plans?
I’ve been spending a lot of time with your colleagues lately. Paul Carroll is going to be working Irene Kim and I and a couple of other of Irene’s direct reports and our direct reports on the leadership assessment, which we’re really excited about.
In addition, David Sconce and Paul came to the UDAR management team retreat and did some change management content work with us. And now that I have some recommendations from our consultants I would really like for David to help me with the change management piece.
So, the way to think about the answer to that question…Process improvement work in and of itself may be very successful. That you can go through the effort of analyzing your process. You can see what your issues are, where your pain points are, and what your customers are saying. And you internally can create the vision for what the new process should look like, everyone buys into it and, you implement it and it’s very successful. But, it may be that you need other pieces to be successful. One piece would be the change management piece that really helps you to create the case for change. Because maybe while you’re doing your process improvement work not everybody sees why anything needs to change. So really taking your pain points and your voice of the customer and illuminating them into a case for change. And then you need good leadership, and that could be leadership at all levels, to implement the change successfully.
So if those are three pillars of the work that’s done in TOP then I think that they really have to work in combination to make process improvement successful.