Thursday, September 27, 2018

There's always room to improve: Continuous Improvement in UVAFinance

Probably nobody would argue with the idea that we can always strive to become better, and that focusing on improvement is a positive thing to do. What we don't always think about is how, if we really want to see tangible improvement results, we have to have a strategy.

That's where a culture of Continuous Improvement comes in.

Read more after the jump!

What is Continuous Improvement?

It's a way of life, a mindset that we all must adopt -- a commitment to positive change. In our respective roles, we are in the best position to identify what improvements need to be made to the processes we work with. 

The basics of Continuous Improvement

Start at the top and the bottom: Leadership reinforces and models the approach and assists by supplying resources and removing barriers. Everyone in the organization sees identification of opportunities for improvement as their job.

Identify Standard Work: You can't identify what should be improved and measure the impact of the improvement if you don't know what the process is. Define the process best practice first, then look for improvement opportunities.

Control the Process of Change:
Make changes in a gradual, systemic way to avoid chaos and "change for the sake of change."

Document the Change:
Document the results and impact of the change, as well as the process used to achieve it. This speeds the pace of improvement at the organization because we can build upon our successes.

Recognize Engagement: Recognizing and rewarding employees who are engaged in improvement efforts is vital if a culture of improvement is to thrive. Suggestions and ideas for improvement are to be welcomed!

The 1099 Process: An example of Continuous Improvement

During the process of preparing for the implementation of Total Supplier Management in Procurement and Supplier Diversity Services, the project team realized that the process for handling 1099s could use some improvement.

Because of confusion in the schools and units about the types of vendors and services the University pays, Accounts Payable was spending a lot of time, reviewing every payment request in certain categories line by line, to make sure everything was coded correctly in accordance with IRS rules about 1099-MISCs.

One of the problems is with the expenditure types, which are not intuitive nor obvious to those in the field. With some dedicated work and feedback from schools and units over three months, Linda Mayo and Brenda Nalley, partnering with Tanya Rahman and Shelly Winston Bowers, clarified and presented instructions on choosing the correct expenditure type and the 1099-MISC process.

Now expenditure types are easier to understand: stakeholders have a greater understanding of how 1099-MISC information links to the overall procurement process and can more easily choose the correct type. This will streamline the review required by the AP team and getting 1099-MISC forms out to vendors.

In the light of continuous improvement, the material has been made an online class both on the PSDS website and in the employee self-service learning (OLM). Additionally, more work is being done so the expenditure type information such as the best way to process payments through PSDS, if an expenditure type must first be addressed with the Fixed Asset Accounting group or if the type will produce a 1099-MISC for the vendor will be available in one central location.

It was a small, incremental change that made work easier for everyone and improved a process in which it was easy to make mistakes.

Pioneers of Continuous Improvement

UVAFinance's Administrative Services Group is currently pioneering the Continuous Improvement mindset with their kanban board in the VP Finance Suite. 
The ASG Team and their Kanban board

Judy DiVita, the Senior for Finance and Administration and leader of the ASG team, says the team felt it was especially important to model Continuous Improvement because of their work to support all of UVAFinancel, with a goal of seamless behind-the-scenes service.

The Kanban board is not only a way to track their processes, identify improvements, and measure their outcomes, but it's also a transparent look into their processes that anyone can view.

Find out more

The Finance Online Community is a great place to learn more about Continuous Improvement and get engaged in the process. A good place to start is this post by DiVita:

You can also check out these episodes of the UVAFinance Podcast, Finance Matters:

Improving the Way We Work

Lean Concepts:

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