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Letter from Leadership

Dear colleagues,

A little more than a year ago, it was my honor to gather with many of the staff, faculty, and campus leadership to celebrate the transformative success we had achieved in just the first twelve months of Operational Excellence, as well as the ideas we had for the future of the program. Now at the close of Operational Excellence’s second year, our team has much to celebrate. I am pleased to share our annual report for the 2019 – 2020 academic term and recognize the accomplishments and exceptional members of our community that have contributed to an outstanding year.

It is no secret that our community faced many new challenges in 2020. Throughout this time, our campus partners and their teams; members of the OE Steering Committee; design team participants from across campus; and other champions of Operational Excellence have been instrumental in the continued success of ongoing projects and new engagements. I am grateful for your continued dedication to this program and, ultimately, the University.

The OE team began the 2019-2020 term by completing multiple projects aimed at improving service levels across campus. In October 2019, the HR – Student Employment Design Team launched their new student employment website to provide guidance for Carolina’s 12,000 student employees and their supervisors and originators. In early 2020, the Research Design Team rolled out their federal and non-profit playbook and engagement partnership across campus. Additionally, our hiring and procurement early impact initiatives continued producing results on the work completed in their respective spaces prior to the onset of the pandemic.

We have also engaged in a diverse portfolio of new and ongoing projects with numerous units across campus (many new to our team) and utilized the vast array of different services from the Operational Excellence Service Model. Members of the OE team – which include Joe Canady, Jason Derrick, Sarah Elizabeth Leck, Mieke Lynch, Candace Reynolds and Chancellor’s Fellow Nicholas Sengstaken – are supporting administrative excellence in areas such as International Student and Scholar Services, Office of Sponsored Research, Office of Human Resources, Office of the University Registrar, Office of Institutional Research and Assessment and even the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost. The last section of the report details the goals and current status of each new and ongoing engagement.

Since September 2019, Operational Excellence has led six design teams with over 100 participants representing more than 45 areas across campus.

With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the OE team, like thousands of Carolina employees, adapted to working from home. Staying true to Operational Excellence’s goal of creating high-functioning administrative operations that support the University’s mission of teaching, learning, and research, we stepped up to bolster the administrative processes behind Carolina’s COVID-19 response, including the Roadmap Implementation Team and Classroom Operations Team. Concurrently, OE team members connected the Carolina Community with critical information via the Carolina Together Website and Student Care Hub.

I am also excited to share that our team is in the beginning stages of new projects that speak to core Operational Excellence principles and respond to opportunities noted in the Strategic Plan and identified through the University’s COVID-19 response. Details about new projects will be shared in my weekly updates over the next few months.
While the last several months have been unconventional, to say the least, I remain so proud of the projects outlined in this report – and the team behind them. This year we saw the Operational Excellence mission persevere through a global pandemic, design teams make tremendous progress without ever meeting in person, and our team rise to the challenge and support Carolina during its time of need. 

Thank you, as always, for joining us on this journey to operational excellence throughout the University. I look forward to sharing even more success stories with you over the next year.

Thank you,
Rick  Wernoski
Senior Vice Provost for Business Operations 

Rick Wernoski, Senior Vice Provost for Business Operations

Year at a Glance

October 2019
Mieke Lynch and the Student Employment Design Team launch as a single source of information on student employment.

November 2019
The Data Use and Literacy Design Team, led by Candace Reynolds, and the Student Registration Design Team, led by Mieke Lynch, hold their first meetings with individuals from across campus.

January 2020
Operational Excellence concludes their involvement with the Early Impact hiring and procurement projects.

February 2020
The Operational Excellence Steering Committee meets for the first time in 2020.

March 2020
The Operational Excellence team begins working remotely and explores new ways to support the mission of the University during the pandemic.

June 2020
Sarah Leck and Candace Reynolds begin providing support for the Roadmap Implementation Team.

August 2020
Candace Reynolds and Chancellor’s Fellow Nicholas Sengstaken collaborate with schools and units on the Fall 2020 COVID-19 Student Acknowledgement.

September 2020
Mieke Lynch and Sarah Leck lead debrief sessions for the Classroom Utilization Group and Classroom Operations Team as they begin planning for Spring 2021.

October 2020
After 17 weeks, Jason Derrick and the Exchange Visitor (J-1) Design Team hold their final design team meeting.


The Operational Excellence team led projects across campus this year using approaches from the OE Service Model. Click the dropdown tiles below to learn more about each engagement. 

Service: Design Team
Project Lead: Jason Derrick

Based on work of the Functional Redesign Teams in the first months of Operational Excellence, Transformation Manager Jason Derrick and his partners in Research set out in April 2019 to streamline the management of externally sponsored research programs at Carolina, which includes federal, industry, and non-profit sponsored research projects. Over the course of 20 weeks, the Research Design Team, comprised of more than 30 individuals from across campus, developed playbooks to guide school/unit research administrators (RAs) through the pre-award and award setup process and an engagement partnership to add structure to conversations between central research offices and RAs.

After piloting these tools in 11 campus units, the Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) began rolling out the engagement partnership, proposal playbook (federal and non-profit awards), and non-clinical industry playbook to campus in April 2020 accompanied with online training to help staff integrate these resources in their daily work. Originally in PDF version, the playbooks were transitioned to a user-friendly web-based format, remaining in the top 10 pages accessed on the OSR website since release. The new engagement program incorporates standard communication practices to optimize collaborative efforts between OSR, SPO (Sponsored Programs Office), and campus research administrators in proposal and award management. A third playbook targeting the unique process of clinical trials is forthcoming.

Service: Design Team
Project Lead: Mieke Lynch

With over 12,00 student employees on campus – over a third of Carolina’s workforce – Operational Excellence heard about the need for more centralized resources for students to find answers to questions about getting hired, getting paid and working on campus. In late 2019, Transformation Manager Mieke Lynch convened 20 individuals representing a diverse array of campus units, including the Office of Human Resources, College of Arts and Sciences, The Graduate School, Carolina Union, and Office of University Development, to address challenges related to roles and responsibilities in Human Resources, ultimately scoping the project to focus on student employment. 

The Student Employment Design Team consolidated information on student employment and built a “one-stop shop” website to provide guidance to student employees and their supervisors and hiring representatives and enhance clarity, transparency, and navigability of the process, which launched as in October 2020 after a series of user tests. During the solution design phase, the design team also identified an opportunity to improve the job creation and posting process for non-student positions. The team developed and rolled out standard principal functions for human resources positions to reduce the time spent by HR representatives creating job descriptions for similar roles.  

Service: Design Team
Project Lead: Candace Reynolds

Transformation Manager Candace Reynolds kicked off a project in November 2019 centered on improving data use and literacy at the University. With support from the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA), Information Technology Services (ITS), and Human Resources and Equal Opportunity and Compliance, Candace convened a design team with employees from 12 schools and central units, and a data team with seven members from ITS, HR Information Management, and OIRA. The teams aimed to provide appropriate employees with easy access to data for a single use case and create associated data literacy resources; build a “one-stop shop” portal for University-level dashboards; and document the process and challenges as a roadmap for future efforts focused on other use cases. 

To address challenges in the selected use case of employee salary data, the teams collaborated to design the Salary Dashboard, which the data team then brought to fruition, and literary resources, providing HR officers with on-demand access to data that would have taken eight to 10 weeks to request, define, and receive under previous processes. The data team mapped data from pre-ConnectCarolina systems to ConnectCarolina, enabling 10-year tread analysis as part of the interactive dashboard experience. The design team also partnered with UNC Creative and ITS Digital Services to create the Carolina Analytics Portal website. The Salary Dashboard and Carolina Analytics Portal at were rolled out to HR Officers and central HR staff in June 2020 and to other users in November 2020, following a project pause for COVID-related priorities. The Analytics Portal is available to anyone with an Onyen, though most dashboards on the site, including the Salary Dashboard, are only available to specific campus populations. 

Service: Design Team
Project Lead: Mieke Lynch

In partnership with the Office of University Registrar, Transformation Manager Mieke Lynch brought together 15 individuals from across campus in November 2019 to evaluate and improve the current undergraduate registration appointment set-up process for the more than 19,000 undergraduates at Carolina. The Student Registration Design Team aimed to create a more transparent and efficient process for setting up registration appointments; improve communication and navigability of processes; and improve student, staff, and faculty successes, experience and satisfaction. Throughout the project, the team utilized its knowledge, network of cross-campus partners, benchmarking of peer institutions and student focus groups to streamline the registration process and improve efficiency.

In March, the design team finalized construction on a new registration model which includes changes to the registration appointment criteria and schedule. While the new model was slated to roll out in Fall 2020, the design team and key stakeholders plan to reconvene following the COVID-19 pandemic to reevaluate and make appropriate adjustments to ensure that the new registration model can withstand and appropriately meet the needs of students, staff, and faculty through unpredictable circumstances like what we have experienced this past year. When appropriate, information regarding the new registration model will be appropriately communicated to students, staff and faculty in a transparent and timely fashion to ensure a smooth transition.    

Service: Design Team
Project Lead: Jason Derrick

In response to campus feedback, Transformation Manager Jason Derrick partnered with leaders from UNC Global and International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) to launch a 17-week design team project in June 2020 to enhance the J-1 exchange visitor process. This process starts when a faculty member from a University department determines they would like to invite an international scholar to campus to teach or conduct research and ISSS becomes involved. Jason, along with ISSS leadership and ten design team members, set goals to increase transparency in the J-1 exchange visitor process, identify opportunities for process efficiencies and enhancements, and develop solutions to improve experience and satisfaction among scholars, faculty, and staff.

With a streamlined process in mind, the J-1 Exchange Visitor Design Team developed a playbook to codify best practices and add structure, clarity, and consistency into an improved process. In partnership with the Office of Research Information Systems, a new electronic case tracking system (Global Applications) is also being developed, introducing additional process enhancements. While Jason and the design team had their final session in October 2020, they continue to refine the J-1 Exchange Visitor Playbook in conjunction with the new Global Applications Software, both of which will be piloted and rolled out to the Carolina community in 2021 to assist hosting unit contacts as they onboard exchange visitors.

Service: Advisory
Project Lead: Candace Reynolds

Academic Personnel (APO) is a unit of the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost with oversight of human resources functions for University faculty members, including administration of personnel policies and support of key processes like appointment, promotion, and tenure. Transformation Manager Candace Reynolds partnered with the office to transform the executive search process by improving its consistency and increasing satisfaction for the process’s multiple participants: the search chair, search committee, selected candidate, and Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost. 

To best address each challenge, the project was divided into three phases, with the last being a design team to review the initial onboarding process. The group began work on the first phase in April 2020, which involved working with the lead partner from APO and customers to review and improve internal processes, ultimately creating a workflow and resources for the offer phase of the executive search process. Due to impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, the project was put on hold in May 2020 and will be reevaluated at a later date. 

Service: Advisory
Project Lead: Jason Derrick

Now more than ever, research is a crucial part of the University’s mission. Since the spring of 2020, Transformation Manager Jason Derrick has been working to streamline the process for public/private partnerships at Carolina that bring together different types of entities onto a research project. Jason advised the Division of Global Women’s Health to evaluate and provide relevant guidance to administrative and operational challenges, serving also as a case study to better understand the barriers and challenges to large scale projects involving multiple entities, building a case for a larger project aimed at streamlining processes for these types of research relationships at Carolina.

Jason continues to provide advisory services to Global Women’s Health while engaging the UNC Development Office and other stakeholders to understand the scope and breadth of the challenges associated with establishing and operating large projects involving multiple private partners.

Service: Facilitation
Project Lead: Candace Reynolds

Modernizing Student Success is a group focused on improving how the University serves and assists students – a critical mission tying into Strategic Initiative 2: Strengthen Student Success in Carolina’s strategic plan. For this short-term engagement, Transformation Manager Candace Reynolds partnered with the Barrier Policies subgroup of Modernizing Student Success and held a series of meetings with the subgroup’s chair. Candace facilitated an impact/feasibility exercise with the subgroup to help them prioritize which barrier policies to review.

Service: Advisory
Project Lead: Jason Derrick

IDEAs in Action an ongoing effort in the Office of Undergraduate Curricula to implement UNC’s new general education curriculum. Transformation Manager Jason Derrick has advised on the revision of the curriculum and implementation of these changes and provided crucial counsel to the initiative’s project manager as the office navigates challenges associated with implementation. 

Service: Advisory
Project Lead: Joe Canady

In this advisory-based role, Operational Excellence Senior Continuous Improvement Lead Joe Canady worked with Associate Provost and Director of Scholarships and Student Aid Rachelle Feldman and her team to analyze and reform the process used to pay students at Carolina. Throughout this project, the team aimed to clarify the primary method of payment for various classifications in order to remain compliant with federal and state regulations, tax policies, university policies and donor intent and to insure accurate reporting on forms of student support.  

As the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect campus operations, some Operational Excellence projects were able to move forward on schedule, while we temporarily paused weekly meetings for other initiatives so participants could reallocate more of their day to time-sensitive work related to the pandemic. Our team members also took on new responsibilities as the OE team quickly became engaged with workflows in several operational areas, using advising and facilitation services to assist with problem-solving and make sure the work continues moving forward.  

Roadmap Implementation Team Facilitation & Communications Support
Operational Excellence had an impactful presence on the Roadmap Implementation Team. Rick Wernoski served as an RIT member, and Candace Reynolds, Mieke Lynch, Sarah Leck, and Nicholas Sengstaken provided critical support to the group by facilitating and organizing RIT meetings, discussions, and debriefs. Together with stakeholders from across campus, they also supported key communications efforts, including the Student Care Hub, Carolina Together Website, and COVID-19 Dashboard. Candace Reynolds and Chancellor’s Fellow Nicholas Sengstaken worked with staff across Carolina’s many academic units to reach a 99% completion rate for the COVID-19 Student Acknowledgement among active and enrolled students. 

Classroom Operations
Rick Wernoski and Sarah Leck supported a cross-campus effort in collaboration with the College of Arts & Sciences, Office of the Registrar, ITS, Facilities Services and other key groups to optimize classroom operations to promote safe instructional, learning, and studying environments. The Classroom Operations Team applied the University’s physical distancing and CPE standards to the classroom setting and reimagined the configuration, technology, and usage of classrooms and other spaces for the fall semester, as well as traffic flow in and out of buildings and hallways through the installation of directional signage and changes to the instructional day based on in-depth analyses of building needs. Rick also provided leadership to the Building Access Review Committee, which continues to manage the implementation of campus building access changes with student, faculty and staff safety in mind. 

"Operational Excellence provided another excellent opportunity to partner with campus and other central offices to identify, develop and implement unique solutions to the research administration challenges we all face. Several exciting initiatives resulted from this very collaborative and transparent process as we solicited and responded to campus feedback. The Proposal Playbook was a significant initiative that was developed through OE and it provides comprehensive, yet easy to follow advice and tips to develop and submit strong, thorough proposals that we expect will not only result in a higher likelihood of success, but also reduce award negotiation time when funded.” - David Paul, AVC, Office of Sponsored Research "Jason observed several meetings that I held with the implementation team for the new curriculum. He met with me and gave me advice about specific tangible steps I could take to make my meetings more effective. After implementing Jason's recommendations, I have found that my team members are more actively engaged in meetings and have a better understanding of our team's immediate and long-term goals. I believe that this will allow us to have a more streamlined and effective implementation process in the coming months. Jason has also provided valuable suggestions and tips to help me stay organized as a project manager." - Nick Siedentop, Curriculum Director