ENE Memo: July 23, 2012

From the Head: 7/23

The Year Ahead: Being Accountable for Getting Things Done

As ENE continues to grow, we need to have clear, easy-to-access and simple-to-use work processes that enable us to be more effective in getting things done and more efficient in the use of our limited people resources. Routine work, even things that happen only once a year, should be accomplished without drama or the need to ask others to help or to explain things. This will free up time to deal with the truly challenging tasks—tasks that stretch us and ultimately give the most satisfaction. By streamlining, simplifying or even eliminating some processes and by taking more individual responsibility, we will not waste our time struggling to remember how things are done or asking others and wasting their time or double-handling things or reinventing processes.

Eight years ago, when ENE had a handful of PhD students, eight faculty, and a large amount of collective memory about Purdue processes (that were relatively stable and little-changing), we could afford to do things in a fairly informal way based on a strong oral tradition. In the interim, we have grown considerably; many new people (students, staff and faculty) have joined the school. Not only don't these new folks have a memory of how things were traditionally done at Purdue, but the way Purdue operates has also changed significantly and will continue to change going forward. There are many new educational initiatives, new legislative requirements, a changed operating environment with new processes and procedures, increasing demands for internal and external reporting, and so forth. Under these circumstances, it is critical that ENE has simple, clear, coherent systems and processes that we follow consistently so that we don't waste time working out what to do, how to do it or correcting things not done well the first time.

To this end, a group of staff in ENE including Lisa Tally, Amanda Jackson, Cindey Hays, Eric Holloway, and Loretta McKinnis have undertaken a "summer project" to streamline our processes and to make them easy to locate on the open web. Two summers ago we gathered together many ENE processes and put them on the ENE Intranet so that staff, faculty and students could access them. While this was partially successful, it is clear that the Intranet is a barrier for access. These and new resources will now be accessible directly from the ENE homepage. The only exception will be a very limited amount of sensitive material that will still require password access.

In keeping with the first goal of the ENE Strategic Plan - "Empower our People" - the overarching objective of this summer project was to improve our work processes so as to

  • Make the best use of everyone's time - staff, faculty and students.
  • Reduce stress, especially at peak times, and hence make work more enjoyable.
  • Make routine tasks easier, less time-consuming and less onerous for all concerned.
  • Create simple workflows that are easy to maintain and update.
  • Devolve decision making, action and accountability to the prime user.

While the first four bullets are self-explanatory, the final one requires some elaboration. The world of service work has been fundamentally changed due to the ever increasing use of information technology. Whereas in the past to do your banking you had to go to a branch office (during open hours), fill out forms, stand in line to be served, possibly have to wait for approval from a bank manager, and so on, we now simply log on from home 24/7 and do what we need to do. Similarly, the days when a manager or professional had a secretary to "type up" their letters from originals written in longhand or a personal assistant to arrange all their travel via a travel agency are gone. The new travel process being rolled out by Purdue this fall is an example of this pervasive trend to shift the work from support staff to the computer-enabled customer or end-user. The clear objective is that faculty, professional staff and graduate students will have fewer hoops to jump through, but in return they have to do the basic work and also be accountable for the outcomes.

This is also the thinking behind the fifth bullet above. My expectation is that by documenting work processes, thus making them transparent, easy to access and (hopefully) simple to use that individuals will take personal responsibility for learning how things are done and then do more of the work directly with less reliance on others to assist (unless it is absolutely necessary). The goal is to foster increased consistency and accountability. The reality is that ENE has a limited number of administrative support staff available, and we must ensure their first priority is those critical tasks that have the maximum value to the overall operation of the school through its programs. Equally, faculty who have responsibility for programs or committee leadership should not be expected to carry all the load but rather should be able to depend upon their colleagues to step up and be responsible and accountable for the work expected of them.

The new web site with the ENE processes is a work-in-progress, a proof-of-concept prototype that needs user feedback and suggested improvements so that it develops into a tool that achieves the objectives listed above. Version 1.0 will be officially released in August and then extended and improved during Fall and beyond, if necessary, based on user input.

I invite you to check out this working prototype and encourage you to make helpful suggestions regarding processes that could be eliminated (and how), things that could be made simpler or easier to understand, and things that should be added. Together we can help to reshape how things are done so as to make work easier for all of us by being more responsible for achieving individual and collective goals. 

  - david

News and Information: 7/23

Important Notice from Acting Purdue President Sands

To Purdue University faculty and staff,

The recent release of the Freeh report regarding the reporting of sexual abuse at Penn State reminds us of the need to ensure that Purdue employees know and understand their roles in the safety of those who study and work at our university, as well as those who visit.

We are particularly mindful of the need to protect children who may be on campus for any number of reasons.

Each of us at Purdue has the responsibility to do what is right to keep our University safe and to provide an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.

As a reminder, under Indiana Law, all adults are obligated to report suspected child abuse or neglect. If you are a witness to questionable activity, you must act immediately.

  • If it is an emergency, call 911.
  • If it is not an emergency, alert a senior staff member and call local police, campus police or Child Protective Services at 800-800-5556.
  • Purdue also offers a Whistleblower hotline (www.purdue.edu/hotline/ or 866-818-2620), where any potential criminal activity can be reported anonymously.

In addition, through our Office of the Vice President for Ethics and Compliance, we now offer training in how to identify, prevent and respond to sexual misconduct in various educational settings. The training is available online to all employees.

We also have instituted an interim policy on volunteers that requires background screening for volunteers on our campus. That policy can be seen at www.purdue.edu/policies/human-resources/vib2.html.

Calendar: 7/23

Fall 2012

  •     Aug 14 - ENE Research Advance (10am-3pm) - including Dean Jamieson presenting on major developments in the College.  
  •     Aug 15 - New PhD student Orientation
  •     Aug 20 - Classes Commence
  •     Aug 23 - ENE Research Seminar, ARMS BO71, 3:30pm
  •     Sept 28 - Inaugural ENE First Year Friday (A celebration of FYE)
  •     Sept 28-29 - Alumni Weekend
  •     Sept  29 - Family Day (ENE Booth)
  •     Oct 12-14 - Homecoming Weekend (ENE Booth and i2i Learning Lab Tours)
  •     Oct 24/25 - PhD Open House (TBC)
  •     Nov 1 - 2nd Annual ENE Interdisciplinary Colloquium - "Where did I leave my chariot?"
  •     Nov 2 - Engineering Education Industrial Advisory Council (E2IAC) - Theme: Research

National or Independence Days around the World

  • July 26 – Liberia – National Day
  • July 26 – Maldives - National Day
  • July 28 – Peru – National Day
  • July 30 – Vanuatu – Independence Day
To suggest content for future issues of ENE Memo, contact David Radcliffe or Lisa Tally by midday Friday for the following week's issue.