Organizational Excellence Series Kicks Off with a Lean Talk

Mark McKenzie of the University of Washington gave a talk on how his campus improved processes; it was the first of four workshops on ways to improve UCR’s campus operations and procedures

The UCR Committee on Organizational Excellence hosted the first of four workshops that seek ways to improve UCR’s campus operations and procedures. Mark McKenzie spoke on “Lean Process at the University of Washington” on Feb. 23. PHOTO BY BETHANIE LE

On Feb. 23, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Paul D’Anieri kicked off the Organizational Excellence series by introducing a talk by Mark McKenzie titled “Lean Process at the University of Washington.”

The series, hosted by Maria Anguiano, vice chancellor of planning and budget, and Ron T. Coley, vice chancellor of business and administrative services, seeks to bring to UCR a view into the different ways other organizations are improving their operations and procedures. It consists of four interactive presentations exploring different methodologies, which include presentations by a guest speaker (about 60 minutes), Q&As (about 30 minutes), and workshops (about 75 minutes).

Lean is a process in place at the University of Washington; one that, McKenzie said, began as a comprehensive approach to find ways to become more efficient as an organization. The University of Washington did this by developing its workers and developing a shared culture to achieve results. The result? Less waste and redundancy.

At the University of Washington, the Lean process began with idea boards. Employees created these idea boards so they could move thousands of ideas through to implementation at a reliable, measurable pace. These ideas link closely to the team’s goals, and to closing performance gaps and meeting targets.

In one example, McKenzie walked the audience through process of how UW brought their transportation “parking ticket” claims process from something like a 60-plus-day response time down to only 2 to 3 days.

By making every team member a problem-solver — under the premise that the people who do the work are the ones who best know how to improve it — there is continuous improvement in the work process and engagement from employees. “Improving the work is the work,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie led a robust Q&A after his talk, which was well attended by the campus community. More than 160 people — management and staffers alike — attended the session. Afterward, a workshop gave the attendees an opportunity to experience working on the Lean process.

Attendees split up into groups, and then identified an issue at UCR that they felt needed improvement. They then created an idea board that mapped out a process that identified what the problem was, the goal in mind, where the bottlenecks were, and ideas they had to improve the issue. Discussions ranged from the onboarding process of new staff members to physical plant estimates to awarding and reporting on scholarships.

Lisa M. Cusick, assistant executive director at Alumni & Constituent Relations, said it was interesting to see how the Lean method might improve operational efficiencies at UCR. “It was also interesting to hear from the various breakout sessions how UCR might implement the process,” she said, adding, “I left [the event feeling] hopeful!”

The Lean process’ value in higher education comes from simplifying complex, organic processes that have grown over time. It helps people break down organizational and process barriers, and facilitates collaboration and ownership, thus providing a better work environment for employees.

Daniele LeCesne, director of University Advancement Budget and Operations, said, “Overall the session provided good insight to one method of improving operational efficiencies. I’m looking forward to the upcoming sessions and hearing how other organizations have made operational improvements, and considering how we can potentially utilize those methods here at UCR.”

After the speaker series, there are plans to hold campus conversations on how UCR will tackle organizational excellence on campus, Anguiano said.

For more information, or become more actively involved in the organizational excellence process, please contact the Organizational Excellence Committee at

UCR Committee on Organizational Excellence invites all UCR faculty, staff, and students to attend the next three events:

  • “Operational Excellence at UC Berkeley” by Peggy Huston
    Wednesday, March 25, 1:30-4:30 p.m.
    HUB 302
  • “Implementation & Standardization of HR Systems/Processes” by Omar Reid, City of Houston
    Tuesday, April 14, 1:30-4:30 p.m.
    HUB 302
  • “Project Management Office at UC San Francisco” by Mara Fellouris
    Monday, May 11, 1:30-4:30 p.m.
    HUB 302

R.S.V.P. for all the following events — all free — via: or (951) 827-6030.



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