Legislative and strategic plan update

March 15, 2013

When I asked for the job of Executive Vice Chancellor, I knew there would be rocky times to go along with the excitement of leading our amazing institution. I'm not going to sugarcoat it: This week has been on the rough side.

Many of us spent the week watching closely as Kansas legislators, facing an enormous budget shortfall, recommended cutting millions of dollars from all of the state's institutions of higher education. In recent weeks we have seen legislators remove and restore Gov. Brownback's $10 million appropriation for a new educational facility on our Kansas City campus. As I write this, we are still hopeful that the Legislature will fulfill the governor's promise to hold higher education harmless. There are weeks to go before the Legislature passes its final budget, and Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and university leaders continue to advocate on behalf of the institution. We won't have clarity until the end of the session, but meanwhile, we've had to come to grips with the possibility of an extremely unpleasant budget scenario.

The gloomy news from Topeka came on top of bracing realizations for my leadership team as we began considering the fiscal year 2014 budget for the School of Medicine's Kansas City campus. Thanks to the work of Clay Tellers and ECG Management Consultants over the last few months, we have a clearer picture of our finances than we've had in recent memory. And, quite simply, we cannot afford to fund the new requests submitted by departments, centers, institutes and other areas.

As a result of these developments, I have asked department chairs, center and institute directors and other School of Medicine leaders in Kansas City to plan for a 3 percent reduction. My leadership team is taking a close look at funding requests with an eye toward making surgical cuts that achieve the budget targets but minimize the damage to our strategic priorities.

And we do have strategic priorities. Although it's been awhile since you've heard about KU Medical Center's strategic plan, we have made progress toward the goals laid out in 2011. We have now published an update, with hard copies available in the EVC office and the Communications Office (1004 Murphy) and a web version posted online.

The progress report shows forward momentum in all of our schools. It says a lot for our institution that we continued work toward our strategic goals during several months of transitional leadership, when "strategic planning" might not have been the first thing on everyone's mind. We made progress because we've been working hard - but I also think we made a good plan, one that reflects where we know we needed to go.

Having said that, I do think we can improve our process for planning and meeting our goals. That's why I've asked Steffani Webb and our new Organizational Improvement Office to assume oversight of our strategic planning process.

If you don't know about the Organizational Improvement Office, here's a brief introduction: Last fall, Steffani asked Priscilla Reckling (formerly director of the Office of Grants and Research in the schools of Nursing and Health Professions), Cheryl Pace (previously director of Identity Management in the Information Resources Department and assistant to the chief information officer) and Tom Field (formerly associate vice chancellor for compliance) to join together in an effort to achieve goals E through H of the KU Medical Center strategic plan - the parts that have to do with our entire organization's effectiveness and support of the education, research, patient care and outreach missions.

As a result of these efforts, and a similar effort by Vice Chancellor of Student Services Vince Loffredo and his team, we have seen some dramatic changes. More than 300 leaders, managers and staff are going through an extensive training program to create a culture of excellence. Steffani has also reorganized several departments, putting new people in charge and fostering a renewed sense of accountability and responsibility - improving service and saving costs in the process. Steffani reminds me that this is still a work in progress, but here are just two examples:

Through management reorganization and restructuring in Facilities, we have saved more than $580,000. We have redirected some of those savings toward hiring new managers to oversee an energy conservation program and preventive maintenance, through which we will continue to see additional savings.

Consolidation of Instructional Services into the Teaching & Learning Technologies (TLT) eliminated a director position and moved a computer technician and some administrative functions into the Information Resources division. The consolidation improved support for instructional technologies and resulted in significant cost savings, allowing us to make floor-to-ceiling renovations of all TLT-managed learning spaces. Additionally, several rooms are being redesigned to better match our needs.

I believe the principles that have driven these improvements - and the need to continuously measure our successes - can be easily applied to our education, research, patient care and outreach enterprises. So, in the months ahead, the OIO staff will sit down with leaders across our campuses to review the current strategic plan, write new action plans where appropriate and, perhaps most important, develop systems to track progress. They also will assist me and my leadership team in determining the scope and implementation of an updated strategic plan that is responsive to the environment in which we educate students, make discoveries, treat patients and work to improve the lives of Kansans.

This work will be crucial regardless of whether the Legislature cuts our state funding. Either way, we will be smart about planning for our future. Because our goal to provide leadership to shape the future of health and health care has not changed.

Last modified: Mar 15, 2013