Application of RIE to the Freshman Move-In Process

Chapters 5 and 6 describe how to use the RIE to improve the value and performance of university processes. The following hypothetical case study on the freshman move-in process is used throughout the chapters as a running example of a university process.15 The complex process of moving a large number of freshman students into residence halls all around campus is a critical first experience for new students and parents that shapes early first impressions of the university’s commitment to student service and support and the effective use of university resources. Chapter 5 discusses preparing for the RIE including how to select the process that is to be improved. Chapter 6 discusses conducting, implementing, and sustaining the RIE.

The Freshman Move-In Process

One highlight of the beginning of the fall semester is freshman move-in day. In a roughly 14-hour period, several thousand new students (with their families) arrive at the university to begin their on-campus residential experience. The students and parents are unprepared for what to expect despite some passing familiarity with the campus from previous visits, including a brief summer orientation and registration experience. The university staff feels prepared, having survived freshman move-in day many times. They have modified traffic patterns on campus to help ease congestion, assigned paid staff and volunteers to each freshman residence hall to check in students and assist them with their belongings, and scheduled custodial and maintenance staff to keep the buildings clean and respond to problems.

Even with preparation, it is always a difficult day. Students and parents begin arriving early, finding their way to the four-story, horseshoe-shaped Callan Hall. Students are welcomed and processed in a first come, first served manner, queuing in car lines as they make their way toward Callan. Once arriving at the nearest unloading zone, the new freshman is directed to the lobby desk where she receives her room key and essential information. The student can then sign out a “rolling tub” to help transport her belongings to her new room. Parents and volunteer helpers begin to unload the vehicle once the student returns, fitting as much as they can into the single tub to minimize the number of round trips. Students and parents make their way toward the line for the single elevator at the nearest residence hall entrance, navigating the rolling tub through a throng of incoming students and families. There they wait patiently in line for their turn to use the elevator. Two tubs can fit on the elevator simultaneously, and the students and their helpers finally get their turn to ride the elevator to the appropriate floor and wheel their belongings to their new rooms.

Loft beds, the most typical configuration chosen by students, are the default option for rooms with two students. Changing to a bunk bed arrangement requires a little muscle and a hammer, with the biggest challenge being how to reconfigure the beds while the room is filling up with boxes, electronic equipment, and clothes. After 2-3 trips up and down the elevator, the student has everything in her room. It is common that a piece of furniture from home does not quite fit in the room, so the parents re-tub it and bring it back to their vehicle.

As the day goes on, the line continues to move slowly and never gets much longer. Both rolling tubs and parking spaces near Callan Hall are in short supply as parents help their student unpack. The elevator queue is also quite steady, but the elevator is expected to make it through the day without breaking down. After a long day, the students settle in and families drive home. This year, volunteers delivered cold bottles of water to vehicle passengers as they waited patiently for a space in the unloading zone, which helped keep tempers in check during this unseasonably hot day.

Next year, the university is considering closing additional streets to divert traffic away from the freshman residence halls during move-in, reducing the number of blocked intersections that require the presence of campus safety officers. Overall, another successful freshman move-in day for the university is over.

Identify the Process Targeted for Improvement

Identify Processes as Potential Candidates for Improvement

A university is an amalgamation of an almost unlimited number of processes designed, in theory, to fulfill its mission and goals in an efficient and effective manner. Many processes fall short of these expectations; in fact, students and their families, faculty and staff, business leaders and legislators, and alumni and friends can probably suggest one or more processes in need of improvement. Many criteria16 are used to identify processes as potential candidates for improvement, including:

■ A process in crisis (e.g., generates the most complaints, results in costly errors or outcomes, employees who deliver the process are overwhelmed, external requirement for immediate changes to the process).

■ Processes directly related to strategic priorities of the university (e.g., approval processes for new courses and degrees if cutting-edge academic programs are a strategic priority, academic support processes if strategic priority is to expand international enrollments).


Affinity Diagram Interrelationship Diagraph Pareto Chart Runners, Repeaters, and Strangers Measles Chart Run Chart Control Chart Agreement and Certainty Matrix Five Whys

■ Processes most important to key beneficiaries of the institution (e.g., assisting high achieving students’ applications for national awards and enrichment opportunities, assisting faculty with the internal review and approval of external grants).

■ Solicited input on process performance (e.g., faculty focus group request to simplify travel reimbursement process, survey of graduating seniors recommending improvements in career advising, “I have a Lean idea” suggestion box request to allow employees to submit monthly report of leave use from off-campus locations).


The Office of LHE's monthly newsletter reminds university employees on the various ways to recommend processes for improvement that cannot be addressed through local "Daily Lean" activities due to their scope, complexity, etc. Most typically, requests come through the online "I have a Lean idea" suggestion box and direct requests from senior leaders. The Office of LHE organizes these requests for centrally conducted RIEs and forward them monthly to the LHE Review Board for consideration.

■ Process performance data (e.g., losing 45% of top doctoral candidates due to a slow and cumbersome process for awarding assistant- ships, incorrect address/phone for 30% of contacts during annual fund appeals).

■ Direct observation of process (e.g., senior leaders observing students waiting in line for textbook pickups during walk of campus, personal experience navigating the approval process for designating an existing course as fulfilling the “international perspectives” requirement).

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