Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Call for a Master White Paper for the California State University System

This is a call for contributors to a Master White Paper authored by CSU faculty, reflective of the values and vision of faculty and of the interests of students and the larger community for higher education. This MWP would be not only a thorough critique of the CSU Chancellor’s Office’s plan but a fully worked out alternative to his plan. It would be an alternative narrative, as the CFA’s White Paper has called for. This Master White Paper would include, besides a vision and a critique, a proposed system budget, a funding mechanism to support that plan, and a radically different allotment of power within the CSU.

In particular, this MWP would call for a dramatic cutback in the number, power, pay and purpose of administrative positions within the system based on the principle that a) in times of crisis the most important functions must be safeguarded - such as teaching, scholarship, and access for students - functions that are at the heart of the universities, and the least important functions - such as the burgeoning and overpaid high administrative posts - should be cut first, and b) even if we were not in the throes of a budget crisis, the growth of administrative posts in number, their share of resources, their agenda, and their power vis a vis faculty and students in recent decades and years has been detrimental to the CSU system and its official purpose of being a part (along with the UC system) of providing the best possible higher educational system for California.

We would propose, in contrast to the prevailing ethic that high administrative posts, such as Chancellor and Presidents, must be paid very large salaries in order to attract (i.e., bribe) the best talent to serve in education, while faculty are expected to serve principally for the love of education, that these high administrative posts be filled with those whose first and foremost purpose is to serve education and not primarily for the power, prestige, pay and perks. We will push for the same ethic that faculty are expected to live by to be explicitly the criteria for administrators and that the pay for high administrators be cut substantially and be tied to a formula relative to faculty pay. We expect that such a change would attract a very different kind of person to these administrative posts and that the relationship between administration and faculty will become cooperative rather than adversarial, benefiting the system, the state and the nation as a whole.

The current crisis and the top administrators’ tack in response to this crisis – reducing student access, exploding class size, slashing departments, programs and faculty positions and pay while refusing to even entertain the idea that administrative ranks should be culled – shows that we are, like it or not, embroiled in a war over the future of the CSU (and UC) systems with our top administrators. If the policies that led to this debacle in the first place are allowed to carry the day, then the nature of California’s higher educational system, once the pride of the state and the nation, will be irrevocably damaged. We rise in defense of a precious resource and refuse to allow the Chancellor’s destructive vision to prevail. We do so not only on behalf of all higher education faculty, not only on behalf of current and future students, not only on behalf of California’s higher education, but on behalf of all those who are experiencing the invidious impact of policies that elevate private interests over the public good. When those who claim leadership do so in a way that is profoundly harmful to those that they lead, then the led must take on the mantle of leadership themselves. That is the task that stands before us.

This MWP should include at least the following major elements.

1) A concentrated but detailed history of the actions and statements of high administration officials, beginning with Reed and continuing on through and including campus presidents and provosts, that shows their underlying philosophy and the gulf between their view about higher education and that of faculty/students/community. One recent indication of this is Reed’s initiative to invite, pay undoubtedly high consultant fees for, and impose Sir Michael Barber’s "Deliverology" on the CSU, his call for more courses to be taught by faculty (“if people taught one more class a semester, the efficiency of that is tremendous” – see text of this article at the end) as a “solution,” his assertions that even full-time faculty work essentially part-time, his history of destroying tenure in Florida, his wasteful spending on bad projects such as the approximately half a billion dollar boondoggle of People Soft, self-dealing (the series of raises for himself and others in his ranks), corruption, lack of accountability and proper supervision, etc. Adopting “Deliverology,” incredibly and absurdly, as a way of accelerating time to graduation at a time when massive budget cuts are wrecking havoc on the schools, is consistent with the views embodied in the East Bay CSU President’s July 24, 2009 White Paper that seeks to eliminate a 'seat-time’ model for a ‘proficiency-based’ model - that is, impose the neoliberal solution of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) on higher education. This approach of theirs of treating education as if it were an assembly line process and knowledge as a “deliverable” shows their lack of understanding of how teaching and learning occurs and the relationships that need to be fostered and nurtured in a real educational process. We need to expose, delegitimate, and seek to relieve of their duties these folks and their agenda.

2) A detailing of administrative bloat and how it's grown over the last many years.

3) A counter-vision that places academic services at the heart of and the essence of what the universities should be about and that preserves them as the means for disadvantaged and those who want to get an education to do so. This counter-vision necessarily involves the rejection of the now dominant and creeping business model for education.

4) Advocates a dramatic and sharp cut in administrative tasks, ranks, pay, and power so that the really necessary administrative tasks such as registrar and bursar are maintained and the presence of high-handed administration is scaled back tremendously. This means that we would be going after very different people for administrative posts and that we would fire those now in charge, with the exception of those who are willing to accept the new terms and new pay.

5) The direction of top administration’s efforts both before this crisis and in this crisis has been to adopt measures in the CSU that have already, regrettably, been adopted at the K-12 level – as exemplified by NCLB in which teaching to the test rather than helping students learn how to learn and think become the main content of educators’ work. The defense of higher education necessarily involves a thorough critique of the underlying philosophy of NCLB and the corollary erroneous view that higher education should be viewed as a business, with students as our customers and professors as service providers.

6) A proposal of what should be kept and what changed and that offers an alternative budget, including the advocacy of AB 656. We should propose a budget with AB 656 and a budget if AB 656 doesn't pass. This proposal could and should include a formula that links faculty to administrative pay and the size of administrative ranks relative to faculty. This would be counter-posed to the vision that Reed et al have for the "crisis" and what the university system would look like if they get their way.

In short, we have to show why those in charge now are incompetent and dangerous and uncover their underlying philosophy and counter it with a very different philosophy. This MWP would be part of a counter-offensive of a PR campaign statewide.

Since the campaign to eliminate programs et al is already underway, we are aiming for this MWP to be completed, at least in fairly well fleshed out, if not entirely detailed, form in March 2010. We have twenty-three campuses in the CSU system. If even one person per campus participates actively in putting this MWP together, we will have a very substantial team to bring this to completion. We also can draw upon the contributions of scores of people who can add to this effort, even in the form of small additions such as suggested phrases or evidence.

Please post comments here and/or send an email to ddloo@csupomona.edu.

November 5, 2009
College Leaders Offer Blunt Advice for Campuses Hit by Hard Times
By Goldie Blumenstyk
New York
Chronicle of Higher Education

"Dumb public policies," like mandatory-sentencing laws that drive up states' costs for prisons and leave less for education, may be part of the reason colleges are in such financial straits, the leader of the California State University system said at a forum here on Thursday, but that's just a piece of the problem.

The bigger issue is that most colleges are too concerned with trying to compete for prestige rather than serve their students and their communities, said Cal State's chancellor, Charles B. Reed. He and Arizona State University's president, Michael M. Crow, spoke on a panel at the "Smart Leadership in Difficult Times" forum, sponsored by the TIAA-CREF Institute.

"Public higher education has done it to itself with generic state institutions" that all try to do the same thing, Mr. Crow told the gathering of 130-plus college presidents and other leaders. The duplication of expenses among so many colleges that are "insufficiently differentiated" adds to states' costs and leaves legislators and other potential supporters with little inspiration to support colleges when they come looking for money, said Mr. Crow. "People fall asleep," he said.

Mr. Reed noted that the racial and economic diversity of the Cal State system's 440,000 students reflects a wave of changing student demographics across the country. Rather than worry about how they rank against their peers, he said, "public universities need to get off their campuses" and into local schools˜"way down to the fifth and sixth grade"˜to help ensure that young people prepare for college before it's too late and they drop out.

The two leaders' comments came during a panel called "What's the New Normal?" Both Mr. Reed and Mr. Crow offered their typically blunt assessments.

"The sky is not falling. We just have less money," said Mr. Crow.

"We're never going to go back to the way it's been for the last 20 years," said Mr. Reed.

Mr. Reed said he had been criticized by faculty members for not lobbying harder in the state capital for money. "Well, you know what? There isn't any money in Sacramento," he said.

Instead, Cal State and the State of California will have to find money by becoming more entrepreneurial, more creative, and more efficient, he said. For example, "if people taught one more class a semester, the efficiency of that is tremendous."

Another idea, Mr. Reed said, is to eliminate 12th grade˜"the biggest waste of time" for many students˜and reallocate those resources for schools and colleges. "We need a different model," he said.

'No State of Normal'

Mr. Crow, who has overseen changes at Arizona State that include the transformation of traditional departments into interdisciplinary ones that relate to contemporary issues, said worrying about getting back to "normal" isn't productive. For universities, "there should be no state of normal," he said. They should be innovating and adapting all the time.

Arizona State is doing that, he said, by seeking more support from nearby cities and from the local business community, with a new research effort called ASU Challenges.

The meeting, which continues on Friday, also featured advice from several other college leaders on managing change.

J. Michael Adams, president of Fairleigh Dickinson University, said college leaders should remember that "the real agents of change are faculty." Wise presidents, he suggested, would do well to let the most dynamic and powerful faculty members lead new ventures if they fit within the mission of the institution.

Other techniques work, too, Mr. Adams said. "One of my mentors told me, 'Money is the root of all excellence in higher education.'" At Fairleigh Dickinson, he said, a published policy says that if a staff member proposes a program that fits the need, fits the mission, and can generate revenue, "we'll fund it."

Devorah Lieberman, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Wagner College, said she had found it productive and easier to "appeal to the scholarly intellect of our faculty" to solve problems.

She has instituted monthly dinners primarily for faculty members, at which the first question is always, What have you heard? and the second is, What do you want to know?

The events have opened up communication, at times in surprising directions. "As more wine flows, the questions are shocking sometimes," she said. But that helps to clear the air of rumors, and it keeps her plugged in: "They don't leave until they tell me something I don't know."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Barber's Deliverology

Chapter 8: Deliverology: the science of delivery, or dogmatic delusion?

From John Seddon, Systems Thinking in the Public Sector: The Failure of the Reform Regime… and a Manifesto for a Better Way, Axminster, UK: Triarchy Press, 2008. Reprinted with permission from the author.

In September 2006, one of the architects of the present public-service regime wrote a newspaper article in defence of the government’s approach reform. Sir Michael Barber, first head of the No. 10 Delivery Unit, opened the piece by offering what he described as ‘the global context’ of public-sector reform to provide an answer. What ‘global context’ meant puzzled me – how can a global context help us understand how to improve public services? I was interested to find out, so I read on.

Governments, said Barber, face a productivity challenge; people want better services but don’t want to pay higher taxes. To meet the challenge, he went on, three management models have emerged: command and control, quasi-markets, and devolution and transparency.

Command and control, he suggested, ‘is often essential for a service which needs to improve from awful to adequate’. In support of his argument, Barber cited literacy in schools and waiting times for healthcare. He thinks of command and control as mandating attention to an issue. Whether learning in the classroom and healthcare have improved is open to question. Whether command and control is ever essential and can move an organisation from awful to adequate are also open to question. I shall return to these issues.

While claiming that moving services from awful to adequate has been a big achievement from the government’s point of view, Barber accepted that the public wants ‘great’ service. Great service, however, could not be mandated; it had to be ‘unleashed’. The second model is, therefore, a model for such ‘unleashing’: quasimarkets.

Health and education reforms were examples: devolution of responsibility to schools, GPs, hospitals, and more choice for the consumer – parent or patient. To foster choice, the idea was to add alternative providers of these services, for example private or voluntary-sector suppliers of healthcare treatments and city academies.

The aim was to recognise that public services while different from businesses in being universal and equitable, remained similar in management terms. I was not sure he and I would mean the same by these words. Barber offered his reader an example, presumably to clarify: ‘Chip-and-pin spread across the retail sector in not much more than a year.’ And he asked: ’How many successful innovations have spread across public services at that kind of speed?

Any the wiser? I wasn’t. What relevance has the adoption of a new security system for credit and debit cards for the improvement of public services? The only connection I can think of is the way in which new IT-dependent public services are opening services up to fraud – all the fraudster needs is knowledge of what will trigger payments as they are presenting data to a machine with rules, not a person with a brain. But I doubt Barber was making that connection.

The third model involved the ‘combination of devolution and transparency’. It applied, according to Barber, in those circumstances where neither command and control nor quasi-markets were appropriate. Government contracted with or delegated responsibility to service providers, and then published the results. This would apply ‘competitive pressure’ and thus boost performance.

The three models were apparently to be found in use around the world, making sense to an approving Barber where there was wide performance variation within a service: ‘a struggling hospital with a large deficit needs command and control whereas a successful, well-led foundation hospital is best left to the disciplines of a quasimarket.’

‘If this is the right approach, where is the controversy?’ Notwithstanding rising public expectations, six years into Mr Blair’s leadership most of the results were moving in the right direction. ‘But’, Barber said, ’there is more to the current challenges than that.’ The critical transition from command and control required ‘sophisticated strategic leadership’. What can this mean? Barber tells us that a common error is to believe that moving from command and control to a quasi-market requires ‘letting go’. In fact, he said, quoting the well-known concept of David Osborne and Ted Gaebler, it requires government to ‘steer rather than row’. (Osborne and Gaebler described central government’s role as guiding the general direction of policy, through spending agreements and service targets, while devolving delivery and governance)

For Barber, this means a change in the role of ‘officials’; but he does not elucidate who or how. Except, perhaps, for the role of the centre: the pressure from the public on government, he argues, places government in a dilemma which is best resolved by leaders putting in place excellent risk and performance management systems. And this, Barber explains, is the reason political leaders as far apart as Canada and Australia have created the equivalents of the Downing Street ‘delivery unit’.

This then is what Barber offers in the way of the promised ‘global context’: because other countries are copying the UK, it must be the right thing to do. To close his piece, Barber informs us that public service professionals need to have the mindset and capability, not just to lead radical change but to manage transformed services.

What does this mean? While many head teachers and health service managers apparently thrive with their new responsibilities, others struggle. ‘It is’, he says, ’all in the execution’. But Barber told us nothing about method.

So I turned to his book, Instruction to Deliver, to find out more. Early on he quotes the Prime Minister’s frustration:

I bear the scars on my back after two years in government. People in the public sector are more rooted in the concept ‘if it has always been done this way, it must always be done this way’ than any group of people I have come across.

Perhaps it was this frustration that led Blair to set up the PMDU to drive public-sector reform. It was based in his office, reporting directly to him. He gave its leadership to Barber, then plain ‘Mr’, who had previously been responsible for delivering the government’s literacy strategy. This had involved giving teachers precise instructions on how to teach what was called the literacy hour in their classrooms. Barber had delivered in education; perhaps his model could deliver for the public sector.

But had Barber delivered in education? Had literacy actually improved, or had children been taught to pass tests? If it had worked, had the practice of devoting specific times in the week to teach literacy been the reason for success, or was it the method (phonics) specified? It is hard to know whether the literacy hour worked and, if so, why. Certainly we have seen plenty of evidence that ought to lead us to question whether the literacy strategy has had any real impact on children’s learning.

Last year Warwick Mansell published a damning account of targets in education.

[He] sets out in comprehensive and sometimes shocking detail, the pressure on teachers to deliver the improving test statistics by which the outside world judges them is proving counter-productive. Schools have been turning increasingly into exam factories… Intellectual curiosity is stifled. And young people’s deeper cultural, moral sporting social and spiritual faculties are marginalised by a system in which all must come second to delivering improving test and exam numbers.

Others have also cast doubts on the achievement. For example, Durham University’s Peter Tymms challenged the statistical basis behind the perceived success of the literacy strategy. Tymms concluded that the statistical procedures behind the startling results on which Barber had built his reputation for delivery were faulty.

When the statistical error was corrected the results flattened out. Tymms drew parallels with the US state of Texas, where similarly spectacular results had been achieved, only for ‘the Texas miracle’ to be revealed as an illusion. He attributed the dramatic improvements to the teachers ‘teaching to the test’ and concluded that the same was happening in England.

In the early days of arguing about targets with public-sector reformers, I was struck by the frequency with which people cited the literacy strategy as evidence that targets worked. Why didn’t they mention the hundreds of other targets? Surely picking out (the same) one to claim the benefit for all should ring some alarm bells? Deliverology: by what method?

By his own admission, Barber made ‘deliverology’ up. He developed five simple questions to be asked of any leader responsible for change:

• What are you trying to do?
• How are you trying to do it?
• How do you know you are succeeding?
• If you are not succeeding, how will you change things?
• How can we [the Delivery Unit people] help you?

All plausible questions.

Barber determined there were nine key issues to be addressed in order to deliver a target:

• Accountability and leadership
• Project management
• Levers for change
• Feedback and communications
• Timetable for implementation
• Risks and constraints
• Inter-departmental collaboration
• Resources
• Benchmarking

All plausible issues.

Senior civil servants were obliged to have plans covering all of these questions and issues, and these were discussed at what Barber calls ‘stocktakes’: meetings where his own Delivery Unit personnel (rather than the civil servants responsible) presented plans and progress on chosen measures, with the prime minister in attendance. Every stocktake was minuted, actions were agreed and were to be followed up. Every public-sector service subjected to deliverology had its own ‘RAG’ status. RAG stands for ‘red amber green’, an idea first developed in the private sector. Green means on target, amber signifies a few problems, red means likely to fail. You don’t want to be red.

Deliverology had an unashamedly coercive approach. Barber tells us ministers valued coercion:

David Blunkett [as Home Secretary] …. wanted a challenging delivery report because he thought it would drive necessary change through the Home Office.

Blair wanted monthly notes. Where delivery-unit people had data they used it, where not they ‘laboured to relate interesting stories’. Barber is open about the PMDU being a ‘pressure’ on reform. His argument is that focus is sufficient – people will debate it, understand it and get better at it; as they went through the Deliverology routines they would get better at delivery. Or would they get better at coping with it? Would they get better at reporting, and is reporting the same as improvement?

As the ‘science’ of deliverology evolved, its management tools expanded. The trademark of management consulting ‘science’, the four-box model, arrived. It was called the ‘map of delivery’. By using a vertical axis representing ‘boldness of reform’ and a horizontal axis ‘quality of execution’, it is possible to classify change according to four types: not bold and low quality is no change (the status quo); not bold and good quality is ‘improved outcomes’; bold reform but low quality is ‘controversy without impact’; and bold reforms of high quality are labeled ‘transformation’.

The use of such a framework can only be to label things. It can be used to kick or to praise. Such actions presuppose that the assessments are reliable. But labeling doesn’t help achieve any change.

Delivery project managers were obliged to investigate ‘delivery chains’, the hierarchies connecting the front line and thus the user experience to the minister.
‘Delivery-chain analysis’ meant involving all players that exert influence through the chain. Data and trajectories became the order of the day. Choose a place you want to be, see where you are now; draw a line. Now you can monitor your progress. But, what did deliverology teach about method, how to get there? What are the consequences of driving delivery plans down through deliver chains?

It is no surprise that deliverology itself developed delivery problems. Barber tells us that by October 2001 – two years in – the position was poor. It was decided that a harder push was needed; individuals were to be held accountable. By the end of 2002, at the time of the third round of delivery reports, progress was no better than mixed – red remained the dominant colour on the RAG status reports. Indeed, Barber reports that in 2002 most of the graphs were moving in the wrong direction. Apparently Tony Blair was becoming concerned: ‘We can’t really afford to miss as many of these targets as seems likely’.

Barber rationalised the problem as lack of focus as reforms moved from idea to implementation. He argued that civil servants were too willing to compromise if lobby groups resisted changes. He blamed bungled implementation and bureaucrats writing regulations with no thought to what practical implementation would mean.

Certainly he was right about the latter. But rather than question the regime he invented – its purpose and methods – Barber reacted like anyone else with a target that they look like failing: bear down on and/or blame others.

Deliverology’s second ‘try-harder’ approach to was the ‘priority review process’. The idea was to change the focus from improving whole services to improving features of services that were political priorities, ‘sharply focused on the key delivery issues’.

Policing focused on street crime and health focused on waiting times. In health, accident and emergency (A+E) was chosen as a priority because, by Barber’s account, in mid-2002 nothing was happening. Delivery Unit people found and promulgated a solution: ‘see and treat’. I assume this means putting the right expertise at the front of A+E to enable people to be seen and treated, cutting out all delays. Barber remarks that like all revolutionary ideas it was so simple that you wondered why no one had thought of it before. Unfortunately, he didn’t stick with that thought. If he had, he might have come round to the idea that the regime itself was an impediment to effective change.

It might have occurred to Barber that the regime fostered compliance rather than experimentation. People in health are worried about target times not because of clinical considerations but because the regime is. Is this the right thing to worry about? I remember listening to a radio broadcast about the ambulance service a few years ago. In one region, the service had plotted the frequency of demand by geography – where people were likely to call for an ambulance – and moved their ambulances to those locations. Obviously assuming this was a ‘no-brainer’, the reporter moved to another part of the country and asked the managers why they did not do the same. ‘It wouldn’t work here,’ was the reply.

I reflected on this being a common phenomenon in all hierarchical organisations – the ‘not invented here’ syndrome. Good leaders know how to get around it. Instead of asking, ‘Why don’t you do that here?’ good leaders would ask (in this case): ‘What do you know about demand by geography?’ The answer would, of course, be not much.

The leader would then say, ‘Get the data, I’ll be back’. If there is scope for improvement offered by understanding demand data by geography, it will become apparent. But the regime sitting on top of A+E is asking not about the nature of demand but, ‘How are you doing against the targets?’ So managers will focus their ingenuity on meeting the targets rather than meeting real demand.

One way to do that is to reclassify conditions that attract ambulance emergency status (so fewer calls\ have to be met within the eight-minute target). This is the wrong thing to do and will only lead to mistakes – more people worse off.

An ambulance driver wrote to me:

My service started a process of downgrading certain types of emergencies about three years ago, ostensibly in the interests of creating responses more appropriate to the condition of the patient. But two facts give the game away: firstly, the vast majority of what management called ‘regrading’ were conditions being moved from the fastest (eight-minute) response-time target into categories that allowed more time. Secondly, a number of these jobs while not considered to be life-threatening necessarily, certainly could be construed to be limb-threatening or involved leaving patients in pain unattended for unacceptable periods of time (anything up to two hours depending on how much the service was under strain). Inevitably some potentially life threatening incidents slip through the net.

Of course, many of the jobs left in the so called ‘life-threatening’ eight-minute response time category turn out to be anything but life-threatening as well! All this because our focus continues to be on the government-imposed target instead of studying demand from the patient’s perspective.

We have been trying to bring this to the attention of senior managers and the medical director during all this time, but with little apparent result. They continue to get away with it because the public are unaware that tardy responses in these cases are not necessarily the exception and are actually designed in to a system which is basically flawed.

The gaming of classifications to meet target times is, as the correspondent suggests, simply the wrong focus. The futility of focusing on response times instead of achievement of purpose has been the subject of published research, but as the thinking behind the evident challenge offends the thinking behind the regime it is ignored.

In the latter days of Barber’s reign, the deliverology regime shifted the emphasis from top-down command and control to what was called ‘sustainable improvement, driven by the pressure of customers’. Perhaps they realised that top-down change was not sustainable, even if they could not bring themselves to accept that the whole approach was failing. Tony Blair talked of this change of emphasis as moving from ‘flogging the system’ to structural reform. Ministers and civil servants start describing this as ‘letting go’.

This was in 2004, more than three years into deliverology. For Blair this shift was a new vision of reform, involving higher standards of performance through greater customer responsiveness. The tailoring and personalisation of services, services built around customers, not producers, as usual sounded plausible. But paradoxically, it was the regime that had created the offending producer interest in the shape of the specifications industry which grew around deliverology and dictated the measures and organisational designs: the very programme that is designed to ‘deliver’ delivers the programme, not reform. This is why, in 2004, while the regime’s numbers were going up public satisfaction with services was heading in the other direction.

The shift of emphasis meant greater political focus on ‘choice’ and competition. It also meant involving citizens in the design and delivery of public services. As I shall describe later, this shift in emphasis to citizen-engagement has led to some very silly consequences.

Barber describes deliverology as ‘world-class tools and processes’. I think of it as Mickey Mouse command-and-control. That is being generous to Barber and unfair to the mouse. Deliverology’s method amounts to determining change on the basis of opinion and driving activity down into systems with no knowledge of the impact on the way the system will perform. It is tampering on a massive scale.

The plausible ideas – the questions and issues posed by deliverology – were not ideas that would foster knowledge; quite the reverse, they would foster planning, project management, reporting, rationalisation and other dysfunctional behaviours. Like all command-and-control regimes, deliverology tries to control the behaviour of people, to reduce the chances of them behaving opportunistically, but, paradoxically, it will be more likely to create and amplify such behaviours.

To review Barber’s logic: firstly, what he calls the productivity challenge – people wanting better services, without paying higher taxes. This assumes, as a command and-control thinker would, that more resources is the only way to better services. Yet the better way to improve productivity is by improving quality, as Deming taught. Ohno put it this way: if the capacity of the system is the work and its waste, the way to improve capacity is to get rid of the waste. And, as I have shown, the waste is caused by the regime. People want better services and don’t want to pay higher taxes.

Barber believes that targets, what he thinks of as a command-and-control approach, helps services improve from awful to adequate. It is a rationalisation, based more on the implicit assumption about the unwillingness of public-sector managers to act than the evidence provided by managing with targets. Having rationalised the state the public sector is in following the imposition of targets,

Barber now claims that services need a different type of intervention to go from adequate to good. Why should that be the case? How can two different strategies for improvement be relevant to any starting-place?

The consequences of ‘devolution and transparency’ – delegating services to contractors with service-level agreements – are alarming. The regime has set up factories to provide – among other things – healthcare, legal advice, consumer advice and local-authority services. In many cases, the contracts assumed (and paid for) a level of demand that was not forthcoming – an incredible waste of public funds.

Worse, as the regime measures these factories on transaction costs, they are deluded into assuming lower transaction costs means better performance. I shall return to the public-sector factory problem in Chapter 11.

Barber reported the Prime Minister’s worries about not hitting targets. One key target was the number of asylum seekers. Between April and June 2004, the number of asylum seekers fell by 13 per cent, and the number of failed asylum seekers being deported also fell. Did they fall because the process had been improved, or were more people allowed to enter so that the government could meet its target? The shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, accused the government of handing out work permits ’like confetti’ to meet the targets on asylum. I remember news reports at the time of insiders describing how they had been instructed to change the rules (to admit people); if true it would come as no surprise to a systems thinker. The targets bureaucracy takes over the management of the work; the focus becomes meeting the targets rather than improving the way the work works.

Like many who write about organisations, Barber cites Norman Dixon, a psychologist who wrote On the psychology of military incompetence. Dixon’s thesis is that military organisations knock the attributes of leadership out of people as they progress through the hierarchy, so that by the time they reach the top they are no longer fitted to leadership. Barber uses Dixon to draw a parallel with the public sector, alleging that public servants betray a ‘fundamental conservatism’, a ‘tendency to reject or ignore information which is unpalatable’, and ‘an obstinate persistence in a given task despite strong contradictory evidence’.

It is arguable that it is Barber himself who has been brought to ‘incompetence’ by ploughing onwards with nothing more than a set of plausible ideas, ignoring evidence of their lack of success and showing his own persistence in the face of contradictory evidence. One distinguishing feature of senior public-sector managers is their intelligence. Is it conceivable that resistance to deliverology might have been a reasonable reaction to stupid ideas? Any such resistance would have been amplified by being obliged to sit through a third party’s assessment of your organisation delivered in front of the Prime Minister.

Barber claims that an academic article by Steven Kelman debunks the urban myths about targets. Careful reading shows nothing of the sort. Kelman sets out to relate the PMDU’s activity to concepts in organisational change theory. His empirical work consists of interviews with people involved. The only conclusions that are evidence based are his findings that people working in the PMDU were more likely to be orientated to imposing practices, were less convinced of the front-line people’s commitment to targets, and were more sceptical about lower-level willingness voluntarily to embrace performance improvement using targets.

In other words, PMDU staff were more of the view change had to be driven by the centre. Barber’s ‘deliverology’ falls short on method. It is only method that can answer the question: how can services be improved? Barber’s de facto method is to create a bureaucracy for measuring and reporting that then deludes people into assuming improvements are real; his strategies for ‘unleashing’ only unleashed diseased and dysfunctional bureaucracies. One service where we have seen the direct effect of deliverology is the police service. Deliverology caused the establishment of bureaucracies for crime recording and reporting; as we shall see, this is not the same as policing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Perspectives on the CSU Budget Gap

Perspectives on CSU Budget Gap
July 24, 2009

By Mohammad H. Qayoumi, President
California State University, East Bay

Reprinted by permission of the author

Balancing the budget for a campus or the system should involve options for both revenue enhancement or substitution as well as cost reduction. Cost reduction can come from greater efficiencies, as well as from reducing the scope of what we do. Doing less means exactly that. Greater flexibility in the State and CSU system regulatory structure can make important contributions to both revenue enhancement and cost/work reduction. The Title 5 changes that were approved by the BOT are representative examples of the utility of needed regulatory flexibility. We need to find additional ways to expedite processes or obtain exemptions in order to act in a timely manner to reduce costs. In short, we need to move from “process- tinkering” to fundamental or transformational changes.

It is imperative to keep the long-term future of the CSU in mind as the discussion regarding cost savings proceeds and not make short-term decisions that result in unintended negative consequences. This means taking the time necessary to look at some data and (expeditiously) vet ideas that emerge from meetings, retreats and brain storming sessions to ascertain their true contribution to revenue or savings, especially changes in their operational requirements and their long-term implications and effects.

It is also important that the magnitude of the funding gap and the effects of revenue shifts and budget reductions be visible to elected officials, the general public, and students. The challenge is to identify actions that (a) have a visible impact, (b) make a financial difference, (c) affect students directly, (d) can be publicized to generate understanding and support rather than anger, and thus (e) do not cause chaos or misunderstanding. I think we can expect that average student course loads will decrease, time to degree will increase, lines (or digital queues) will get longer, and traditionally under-represented groups will be hit disproportionately harder than others.

Here are some ideas and examples which may be able to make significant and real contributions.

I. Efficiency Improvements

There four functional areas that might be good candidates for further discussion and analysis. Each of these areas are identified and briefly discussed below:

Information Technology

Most IT services could be classified as a utility. As such, the economics of utilities are such that consolidation and integration of services to a few or more preferably one entity, provides the greatest reduction in cost. With the advent of new technological capabilities such as cloud computing, cloud storage and the creation of new buying clubs by Google, Amazon, and others, the CSU has an excellent opportunity to drastically reduce its total IT costs.

I have been encouraged by the recent actions of the Information Technology Advisory Committee (ITAC) to begin the implementation of technology cost saving initiatives and broad process improvement initiatives as partners in the CSU Synergy project. ITAC has identified several potential opportunities for cost reduction across the CSU. While many of the opportunities identified may be candidates for system-wide implementation at a later time, ITAC has focused current attention on changes that could be quickly implemented by small groups of interested campuses to achieve immediate cost benefits. There are plans to investigate larger and longer-term projects by the group later this calendar year.

The immediate opportunities fall into three general implementation areas: consolidated operations and applications hosting; consolidated support and staff services; and shared expertise.

1. Consolidated operations and applications hosting

The following five projects have been identified for immediate investigation, with one or more campuses providing the selected service for multiple campuses. The effectiveness of these collaborations depends upon the robustness of the inter-campus networks already in place. The potential savings based upon economies of scale comes from combining resources. All of our campuses require most, if not all, of these services presently and providing them less than 23 different times has the potential for cost savings. Examples include the following:

• Learning Management System (LMS) hosting – potential savings are gained from licensing, number of servers needed, and staff required to support, upgrade and maintain the servers and the application.
• SharePoint hosting – potential savings from number of servers needed, maintenance and upgrade of the servers and staff required to support the applications.
• Secure Web Services – potential savings from server consolidation and staff required to maintain and support servers and applications. This integration of service could mitigate the need to duplicate expertise in the various applications that are supported.
• Virtual Labs across multiple campuses – potential savings from improved space utilization, reduced hardware and staff required to support hardware and software, and the ability to maintain applications and provide enhanced expertise.

• A Virtual Network Operations Center – the ITRP standards make it possible to consolidate network management and monitoring functions at one (or several) locations in order to provide expanded and enhanced services with the same or fewer staff resources at participating campuses.

2. Consolidated support and staff services

Two projects have been that involve direct support of specific services across campuses have been identified at this point namely:

• Voice Over IP Phone (VOIP) services – provide the opportunity to utilize the power of the network to share a single (or fewer than 23) telephone switching systems. Economies of scale in hardware costs in this consolidation would require less staff support to manage phone systems, especially since the network makes remote management possible.
• Single Source for Digital Certificates – Consolidation would require fewer physical and staff resources.

3. Shared Expertise

Two opportunities have been identified regarding shared expertise. Both projects leverage knowledge, skills and expertise at one campus to support multiple campuses, and could mitigate assigning existing staff resources to support applications.

• Shared staffing expertise and services in the areas of Information Security including information security forensics and information security officer services would allow campuses to share Information Security Officers thereby reducing the number of staff and reducing costs that not every campus can currently afford.
• Procurement leverage for large and medium sized contracts that are not currently covered by system-wide or state contracts, such as Oracle or VM Ware. This would allow the CSU to leverage the buying power of the system to negotiate more favorable pricing terms.

4. Other Opportunities

In addition to these short term shared campus initiatives, ITAC has generated the following list of several technology cost savings initiatives that are already in place at one or more campuses and could be replicated at other campuses. The implementation of these projects offers potential cost saving opportunities for reduced hardware and software, reduction or realigned staff support resources, improved physical space allocation, and, importantly, energy savings.

• Outsourcing Email
• Server Consolidation
• Server Virtualization
• Desktop Power Management
• Virtual Meetings
• Virtual Computing Labs
• Desktop Virtualization
• Online Administrative Services
• Online & Hybrid Instruction
• Open Source Software

While ITAC is focusing its planning efforts on those IT projects that could potentially result in immediate cost savings, it is apparent that there are many other cost savings opportunities across the CSU system and across local campus divisions that will likely involve and require technology service. As mentioned in the beginning of this section, there are great opportunities for increased cost savings. Given the capabilities offered by new and emerging technologies in utilizing consolidated services, individual campuses that are running their own servers, mass memory storage, or independent technical staff to meet the campus need will be missing significant opportunities for cost reductions.

Business Process

As one tries to decipher and make sense of the CSU’s bureaucratic requirements (hieroglyphics), especially looking closely at our key bulk processes, many of these processes could be defined as commodities. In other words, a lot of the variations across campuses (fossilized in organizational myth) are superficial and non-productive. Viewing these processes as commodities, they are the same regardless of the provider. Therefore, commodities are things of value with uniform quality, produced in large quantities. In this environment the differentiating factor is the cost, wherein almost all instants the cost is lowered by economies of scale.

Given the above, operations such as purchasing, accounts payable, accounts receivable, financial aid processing, student admission, student records, payroll transactions, etc. are possible candidates for such consolidation across the CSU to one or a few key locations. The CABO group should investigate these projects further.

Academic Areas

There are many opportunities for efficiency gains in the academic areas that need investigation. The fundamental change will be moving from a “seat-time” model to a “proficiency-based” model where using more sophisticated assessment tools could help us measure the students’ competency rather that the number of credits and/or faculty contact hours. Some initial thoughts for more immediate results are:

• Scrutinize and set minimum class sizes by discipline, pedagogy, mode and level of instruction systemwide.
• Assess current viability of very low SFR programs and look for opportunities to consolidate individual courses or programs within or among campuses. Online instruction and video-capture technologies can be an effective enabler of this initiative.
• Focus on degree completion time line:
o Simplify GE requirements, including fewer options to meet various area requirements.
o Simplify degree requirements by reducing option, elective and minors
o Mandate advising for undeclared students, students with excess units.
o Reduce access of financial aid to super seniors.
• Utilize an administrative service delivery model for students that focuses on more robust on-line self-services, resulting in reduced dependency on face-to-face transactions.
• Implement robust self-service for employees to complete their administrative transactions.
• Eliminate student credit hours beyond 120 semester units or 180 quarter units as requirements for graduation.

I would hope the system-wide provost meetings consider these and other approaches to enhance the efficiency and reduce instructional cost across The CSU.

II. Work Reductions

We must think about the implications of the funding gap for service delivery. We cannot assume that any unit or department can offer the same level of services in the same way as we do today. Thus, we need to think about both altering service delivery, as well as expectations of students (and others) while trying to minimize the impact on quality. Also, we need flexibility and campus autonomy in implementation. Several suggestions or ideas for consideration are as follows:

Work reduction ideas:

• The Chancellor’s Office should examine some of the mandates that require significant staff time to fulfill. Providing relief in areas that are not core functions and are not compliance items would provide significant cost savings. In the enrollment management areas, the CO could reduce the number of data elements in campus quarterly reports like ERSA and ERSS that require large amounts of staff time to complete. For example, time spent on reporting on students who have been denied admission and/or decided not to enroll or attend could be better utilized on other reports. Similarly, we should examine the opportunity to provide relief in the TPA (Teaching Performance Assessment) for colleges of education.

• The Chancellor’s Office should examine the number of routine reports and audits campuses submit each quarter or year, reducing the frequency of these reports and audits. For example, all audits not required by statute could be suspended temporarily. Our current audit practices have compounded our bureaucratic reporting juggernaut where our present auditing practices have not fundamentally improved our risk exposure. In addition, currently, there are significant overlaps among the required CSU audits, thus adding to the duplication of effort and time. It behooves us to develop a more systemic approach whereby audits will be truly “risk-based”, and less frequent. This will not only save time, but it will effectively reduce risk.

III. Revenue Enhancement/Substitution

• The system should investigate the feasibility of moving high demand programs that can justify higher fees (those professional fields with higher earning power and/or availability of employer subsidies) to self-support. The associated and related support expenses and indirect costs would also move with instructional costs and fee revenues.
• Remove annual upper limit on non-resident fees per unit.
• Charge non-resident fees per unit for students who take more than 110% of the units their degree program requires (super seniors and post-baccalaureate and graduate students as well).