The University Record, October 9, 1995

A quick look at three M-Quality teams at work

The following are descriptions of M-Quality in action, examples of how units have used M-Quality principles to make improvements.


From the Museum of Art

The Museum of Art was one of the first University units to begin using M-Quality. Process improvement teams were created for each of the Museum’s areas. The budget team had the mission of educating the staff on budget procedures. A personnel team looked at performance evaluations. An exhibitions team looked at exhibitions policies and procedures. The creation of process improvement teams has led to the Museum now having many self-directed work groups.

The main area they hoped to improve was communication. “We analyzed a lot about how people communicate: some communicate best by e-mail, some people by memos, and some do better by talking directly.” Staff had felt they weren’t involved in the decision-making processes, and they wanted to be. The quality team worked to change this.

M-Quality tools were used extensively. “We used flowcharts a lot, we used a lot of surveys and the ‘Customer and the Client’ language,” says Janet Torno, administrative associate. I think ‘Plan-Do-Check-Act’ is probably the biggest thing we use all the time. We try to manage by fact. We use the concept of consensus. We use customer feedback.

“I think there was a lot of soul searching,” she continues. “A number of very intense issues came out. People don’t realize they have these issues and all of a sudden you’ll hit someone’s value and everything comes out. Some very positive things come out of it. It increases our productivity and decreases negativity,” Torno observes.

Museum staff are now working on long-range implementations, trying to implement the goals developed from their mission statement into a long-range plan, and to integrate that into the staff members’ individual goals.

Torno suggests that new groups reach out for help when they need it. “Realize,” she says, “that there are other people out there who are going through the same traumas that you are. These people can help you with problems that you might have with M-Quality.”

From U-M Hospitals

Rosanne Whitehouse, associate hospital administrator in Operations and Ambulatory Systems, explains her team’s project. “We look at those activities that support the patient care process, those that cross departments and services. We chose to look at the requisition process—we wanted to be sure that we were getting feedback to patients who had an abnormal test result.”

The Lab Requisition Quality Improvement Team is a cross-functional team, comprised of staff from pathology, medical research, nursing, administration, radiology and risk management. The group discovered that the location code, which tells in what clinic a patient was seen, was missing or illegible on more than 55 percent of the requisitions. Since this code is critical to getting a test result back to a physician, the team decided to tackle this problem.

The team collected data from every service and identified the services with the best and worst records with location codes. The team interviewed the services and discovered various causes of the problem.

“We looked at all the root causes, did fishbone diagramming and identified three major areas that needed improvement,” Whitehouse says. “We needed to improve the form itself, to educate people on what a location code is and how to use it, and to look at the test ordering process as a whole.”

A sub-team standardized the design of the forms. In fact, the new form removes six steps from the test requisition process. The process has worked so well that almost every clinic has started to use the form to order lab tests.

The team’s success has been recognized outside the University: they won a national award from the Society for Ambulatory Care Professionals. Says Whitehouse, “our project was a winner because of the way we managed the process, working with our customers, getting feedback from our customers, using a multi-disciplinary team, looking at everyday processes and really following the total quality methodology.”

From Purchasing

The Small Payments Team was formed through the Purchasing/Operations work group charged with improving the system used by the University for purchases of less than $500. The University does about 130,000 purchase orders a year, 75 percent of which are for less than $500. This means that 75 percent of the time is spent processing transactions that represent only 2 percent of dollars spent.

The team started by doing customer surveys to identify the greatest source of frustration for staff who process small orders. They found that the most difficult transaction was prepayments for such items as dues and subscription renewals that require sending a check sent with the order.

The team created a flowchart to outline the process. After brainstorming, they used multivoting, another M-Quality tool, and came up with the idea of a departmental credit card.

Departments receive a U-M charge card, which can be used to place orders with a vendor over the phone. Six months after its inception there are 150 charge cards in place.

How crucial was M-Quality to this project? Says Steve Royce, manager at M-Stores, “M-Quality gave us the framework—we use its practical tools, such as consensus, respecting others and critiques. There’s been a real spillover from the M-Quality methods into the everyday workplace.”

In addition to greatly reduced headaches for the Purchasing staff, Royce sees another benefit—a more efficient procedure that will free up Purchasing’s time for negotiating with vendors. That means more time to help departments save money on high-dollar expenditures.

“It’s been really great to work together and come up with a solution that satisfies people,” Royce says. “We fixed something that was broken.”