The University Record, July 6, 1993

Regents briefed on M-Quality

By Jane R. Elgass

A lively, fast-paced, information-packed presentation on the University’s M-Quality initiative at the Board of Regents’ June meeting yielded an enthusiastic, supportive response from Board members.

Farris W. Womack, vice president and chief financial officer, and Gilbert R. Whitaker Jr., provost and vice president for academic affairs, briefed the Regents on the reasons the University has adopted this approach and on the principles that are central to its success.

“M-Quality is no different from what outstanding managers have done for decades,” Womack said. “It just provides a system, a usable framework.”

The University has adopted this approach, Womack explained, “so we can fully utilize the skills of our people. That’s the main focus. You don’t manage people,” he stated. “You lead people. You manage things. You create an environment in which decisions are made as close as possible to the data available.”

The M-Quality initiative also will enable the University to make better use of existing resources,” Womack added. “What is new is the approach, which focuses on those we serve.”

Four principles are central to M-Quality, he told the Regents:

  • Pursuing continuous improvement.

  • Managing by fact.

  • Satisfying those we serve.

  • Respecting people and ideas.

    The principles, in turn, guide three activities:

  • Planning for excellence.

  • Establishment of quality improvement teams.

  • Pursuit of quality in daily activities.

    This latter activity, Womack noted, requires a change in the University’s culture. It will become one in which “staff are empowered to make improvements.”

    Whitaker noted that the M-Quality initiative is an evolving process, as evidenced by widespread and growing activities in the University. “As individuals learn and grow to see the value in using existing resources efficiently and effectively, more will join in. Serving people up front is the guiding principle of the M-Quality initiative,” he said.

    “We aren’t seeking perfection. What we want is to get started. Then we can continue to review and change if necessary.”

    Following their introduction to M-Quality’s basic concepts, the Regents were led in an exercise designed to help them determine the implications the four principles have for their role in the University.

    The Regents were divided into two discussion groups that each included several Executive Officers. Discussion in both groups focused on the way in which the M-Quality approach might inform their policy decisions.

    Both groups discovered through their discussions, which focused on determining who their customers are, that the customers are diverse and often have conflicting, contradictory needs, particularly, for example, in setting tuition.