Organize the RIE Team

RIE Team Members


Task Matrix (Tasks x People in the Process)

Team or Project Charter Templates Ground Rules

An RIE team will typically include 7 ± 2 members, most of whom are knowledgeable about the process scheduled for improvement but also others with perspectives (e.g., a beneficiary of the process) and experiences (e.g., LHE background) that enrich the team’s capabilities. How team members are appointed may depend on the scope of the process scheduled for improvement. For a process embedded within a single office/unit with sole responsibility for the process, team members may be drawn from employees involved in the process. Where the process scheduled for improvement spans two or more functional areas of the university is technically complex, or will fundamentally impact the university’s core services, more careful thought should be given to RIE team membership.20 In these latter cases, the Office of LHE (or some similar coordinating system), or administrators with oversight for aspects of the process, may have responsibility for appointing RIE team members.

Given that the number of potential team members may exceed the number of team openings, a two-stage screening process has been suggested.21 As a first step, potential members can be identified based on then- knowledge and experience with the process under study, their technical expertise, their unique perspective, and their general knowledge of the university and the area they represent. This initial list would be reviewed to consider personal characteristics and behavioral styles thought to bolster or amplify a collaborative team effort and solution. Individuals with an interest in participating in the RIE, a reputation as a respected peer or leader, and a willingness to implement and support endorsed recommendations to improve the process would be included on a prioritized list of finalists for the RIE project team.22 All things being equal, their knowledge and experience with LHE (e.g., knowledge of just-in-time delivery, experience in preparing visual maps of processes) or political influence (e.g., including a university opinion leader or prominent faculty member or administrator can help generate support for the RIE project) might be considered in the final selection of team members.23

RIE Team Member Roles

Team Facilitator/Mentor. The team facilitator is responsible for leading the RIE team based on their significant LHE expertise and experience. As an “LHE Champion,” the facilitator should be very knowledgeable of LHE principles and practices and have personal “hands-on” facilitation experiences implementing RIEs in (preferably) higher education or the public/private sector.

The facilitator understands team dynamics and monitors the team for signs of resistance and apathy that could impede progress on the RIE and addresses team process and performance issues in a constructive fashion. However, the facilitator’s role will vary based on the LHE skills and experiences of other RIE team members. For an existing group of employees with LHE knowledge and experience running RIEs, a team mentor may advise and support this generally self-sufficient team throughout the RIE (the mentor’s presence may not be required at all team meetings). Overall, the team facilitator/mentor ensures the RIE is conducted following accepted LHE principles and practices, is readily available to the team leader and team members to offer constructive advice and feedback on the RIE process, and advocates for the needs of the team.

Universities initially may rely on external consultants to facilitate the first RIEs to secure early successes and buy-in, but they should then work toward the goal of developing a broad pool of team facilitators/mentors to expand the institution’s capacity to conduct a large number of concurrent RIEs.24

Team Leader. The team leader is a member of the university community with responsibility/accountability for the process selected for the RIE and the respect and confidence of team members. In cases where the team leader is also facilitating the RIE, the team leader should possess the skills and experiences of a team facilitator/mentor (as noted above). The team leader has a number of responsibilities during and after the RIE25:

■ Provide support for team members throughout the RIE.

■ Coordinate RIE team meetings and support the agenda for team meetings.

■ Support team members on the use of LHE practices and tools (e.g., developing a visual map or flowchart of the process under investigation, promoting ongoing continuous improvement of the process following the implementation of changes recommended by the RIE) to enhance their participation, contributions, and professional development.

■ Provide updates to the RIE project Sponsor (e.g., senior university leadership, steering committee overseeing LHE) and regular communications with the team facilitator/mentor.

■ Invite individuals with specialized expertise (e.g., information systems and databases) to join team meetings on an as-needed basis to share their knowledge with members of the RIE team.

Following the implementation of RIE solutions and disbanding of the RIE team, the team leader with ongoing involvement in the improved process can provide ongoing oversight to ensure the implementation of all RIE solutions and nurture an employee-driven continuous improvement climate to further improve the process.

Team Members. The majority of RIE team members typically are involved with the process targeted for improvement.26 To the extent possible, team members should represent all the functional areas that are part of the process targeted for improvement (e.g., an RIE to improve the faculty hiring process should include representatives from academic affairs, human resources, and diversity and inclusion). Because the team is limited in size, it is important that the team actively communicate with colleagues from areas unrepresented on the RIE team to obtain their insights into the process and recommendations for improvement. Beneficiaries of the process (e.g., donors who experience the stewardship process by the university’s office of development) should be represented on the RIE team where possible to ensure their experiences and expectations are fully understood and considered in any recommended improvements to the process. External suppliers (e.g., high school counselors who help students navigate the admissions process) or customers (e.g., employers with expectations of the competencies of recent graduates of a professional program) identified in the scoping of the university process may bring excellent insights as team members (and, in turn, bring LHE principles and practices back to their own organizations).27 Finally, the RIE team might consider including an “outsider” with no connection to the process targeted for improvement; this member has no preconceived expectations of how things are done and can ask naive but often insightful questions (e.g., Why is that signature required? Why produce extra copies of the report if they are never distributed?).

Team Charter

A team charter28 focuses and guides the efforts of the RIE team. Whether a draft of the team charter is prepared in advance (e.g., by a steering committee that oversees LHE at the university) or completed by the RIE team at its first meeting under the guidance of the team facilitator/mentor and team leader, the team charter should include29:

■ The general scope of the RIE (e.g., the process by which employees request and receive travel reimbursement).

■ Problem statement (e.g., employees are upset that they incur interest charges on their personal credit card while waiting for business expense reimbursements that are regularly questioned and slow to be reimbursed).

■ Pre-work to be completed prior to the start of the RIE and responsible party (e.g., Accounts Payable sampling of 250 travel reimbursement requests during spring semester).

■ Metrics to measure process (e.g., number of travel reimbursement requests returned for additional information, frequency and type of errors, time elapsed between submission and reimbursement).

■ What results are expected (e.g., reduce by 80% the number of travel reimbursement requests that have to be returned for additional information, reduce errors by 90%, and reduce time from submission to reimbursement by 50%).

■ A timetable for the team to complete its task including the project milestones (e.g., recommendations due within lweek from the start of the RIE).

The team facilitator/mentor can use the team charter to document and secure the resources needed by the RIE team to complete their work.

In addition, the team charter meeting provides a forum for the team members to raise questions or concerns that the team facilitator/mentor can address to enhance their performance as a team.

The team charter meeting can also help the RIE team establish ground rules designed to support team effectiveness, helping them work positively and deal constructively with issues that arise.30 Team members may be assigned temporary responsibilities to help support team functioning (e.g., timekeeper role to keep team process on track; recorder role to capture the team’s mapping of the process or document their recommendations to improve the process). In addition, the team should establish its own norms and expectations for members (e.g., the level of participation expected, the importance of listening to and respecting the opinions and recommendations of all team members, how the team will deal with conflict and disagreement, how best to keep team members on task).31 Providing team members with the responsibility to set their own ground rules exemplifies Lean’s core value, respect for people.


The Office of Lean Support and Services appointed its most senior LHE expert, Allen dePont, to facilitate this large and complex RIE. Allen's expertise and experience would help develop the confidence and LHE skills of Laurel Renny, a first-time team leader and respected associate director of residence life. Appointed team members included all units involved in the move-in process (residence life, building services, Offices of Registrar and Bursar, campus police) as well as a student and parent who recently participated in freshman move-in. Finally, a university supervisor completing her training as an RIE facilitator/mentor also joined the team. Allen and Laurel convened the RIE team to draft a team charter (using a recently developed charter as a starting point) and initial ground rules to support the work of the RIE team.

Some Final Thoughts on Organizing the RIE Team

Careful attention to forming the RIE team will build the strong foundation needed to successfully review and improve the university process targeted for improvement. An experienced team facilitator/mentor and a committed team leader will provide the critical guidance needed to support the RIE team from beginning of the RIE through implementation of recommendations. Finally, a carefully crafted team charter endorsed by both RIE team members and project Sponsor, along with self-established team ground rules, will help RIE team members work in a cohesive and effective manner.

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