The University Record, September 17, 1996

Improving HR process is one of M-Pathways' first initiatives

This is the second in a series of articles on the M-Pathways Project.

"Change is fun," jokes Phil Smith, director of Human Resources Consulting Services, as he points to a complicated process diagram. Smith and more than 50 other University employees who rely on current Human Resources (HR) systems to do their jobs are taking a hard look at how work is done today. The complicated diagram is a result of process mapping, the step-by-step documentation of how a task is carried out. "It is a tedious but necessary first step, " Smith says. "You can't improve a process until you know exactly what happens now. And you can't know what exactly happens now if you don't get everyone involved." That's why the teams that Smith is working with include representatives from throughout the University.

Smith and his teammates are engaged in improving HR processes and procedures as one of the first initiatives of the M-Pathways Project. (See the introductory article on M-Pathways in the Sept. 10 Record or access the Record on the WorldWide Web at URL Between now and December, the team will draw process maps for such areas as dispute resolutions and bargaining, compensation, time and attendance, payroll, faculty and staff appointments, and employment.

There are benefits to this time-consuming assessment, according to Deborah Mero, administrative manager in the Medical School. "Many of our current systems got patched together over time. We made do and added parts here and there. I'm looking forward to seeing our needs addressed in a systematic way." Mero is participating in the Human Resources portion of M-Pathways as well as helping define the Financial Information System.

Once teams have charted the actual steps in a process, they will create a second process map showing how the task could be carried out more effectively. Their recommendations may be based on the experiences of other organizations. The consulting firm of Alexander and Alexander Consulting Group, is helping the HR team with its knowledge of "best practices," successful solutions employed by the human resources departments of other organizations. Alexander and Alexander was selected because of its experience helping organizations change, which is sometimes called business process reengineering (BPR).

"We don't want to simply re-program our current habits into PeopleSoft," says Norel Tullier, assistant director in Financial Operations, referring to the next phase of Human Resources' M-Pathways project. "We want to determine what our new environment should be and then move it into the PeopleSoft software."

"Recommendations for major changes in HR procedures or policies may come out of our BPR efforts," says Jackie McClain, Human Resources/Affirmative Action Executive Director. "We will request input from all units, even those who aren't represented on our team, and final recommendations will, of course, have to be approved by the appropriate entities, the executive officers or Regents, for example."

Better service requires process re-examination

"To be competitive in the 21st century," says Laura Patterson, M-Pathways project manager, "the University's administrative services must help faculty and students go about their business of teaching and learning. To provide that kind of service, we must begin by examining how we do our jobs today, and that's what the M-Pathways Human Resources team is hard at work doing this fall."

Units participating in "business process re-engineering" include:
University Housing
Plant Operations
Public Health
The Department of Intercollegiate Athletics
Information Technology Division
School of Education
Medical School Administration
College of Engineering
Office of The General Counsel
Department of Internal Medicine
School of Dentistry
College of Architecture
U-M Transportation Research Institute
Business School
Institute for Social Research
Law School