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BFA Response to Szeri CSS Memo of 8/10/12


Council of UC Faculty Associations



September 16, 2012

To:       Andrew Szeri, Dean, Graduate Division, Faculty Head, Operational Excellence Program 

CC.      George Breslauer, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost
J. Keith Gilless, Dean, College of Natural Resources
John Wilton, Vice Chancellor, Administration and Finance
Jeannine Raymond, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Human Resources
Robert Jacobsen, Chair, Academic Senate
Christina Maslach, Chair, Academic Senate 
Elizabeth Deakin, Vice Chair, Academic Senate
Panos Papadopoulos, Chair, CAPRA 

RE:      Your August 10 response to our July 2 memo on Campus Shared Services 

Dear Andrew, 

Thank you for responding to our July 2, 2012, memo regarding the planning of the Campus Shared Services and the planned transfer of staff to 4th Street.  As we said in our memo, we have many questions and concerns about the design of the CSS plan, key features of which have still not been made public. We would like to help the campus design a CSS program that will not only save the campus money, but also minimize the disruption to faculty and ensure that we continue to obtain the staff support we need to deal with research grants, manage events, appoint GSIs and GSRs, manage faculty recruitment and retention, obtain computer support, and the like.   

We appreciated receiving your response  to our many questions about the financing, monitoring and evaluation, decision making processes, and the 4th Street SS Center. The links you provided to on-line documents were helpful, but for the most part, they did not provide us with the information we need to feel confident that CSS is on the right track and that faculty have a way to help you and others involved in the initiative identify and solve problems in proactive and effective ways.  To address—or better yet allay—these concerns, we are following up regarding a number of questions to which your response did not provide answers.   

Financing:  In response to our questions about the financing of CSS, you referred us to an Executive Summary of the Budget posted on the OE website. We found it extremely uninformative and out of date, having been posted to the website on 2-28-11. On the expense side, it provides only projected figures for total and nine very general categories of expenses for FYs 2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14, and 2014-15. We would like to know the assumptions behind and the sources of information that staff used to develop these projections and what the actual expenses for FYs 2010-11 and 2011-12 were for the full range of activities conducted under the umbrella of the CSS initiative. We would also like to see an explanation for why actual expenses exceeded or fell short of the projected figures in these fiscal years. Equally important, we would like to see a detailed, up-to-date budget, including up-to-date projections for future fiscal years.   

The Executive Summary of the Budget document is even more deficient on the revenue side, being mostly blank. However, it does contain the projected figures for FY 2010-11, 2011-12, and 2012-13. Again, we would like to know the assumptions behind and information sources used to develop these projections as well as actual revenue figures for FYs 2010-11 and 2011-12.[1] 

We understand that the CSS financial model is “still under development.” However, with FY 2010-11 and 2011-12 behind us, it should be possible to provide data on the expenses and revenues for those years, and to begin to identify problems with past financial assumptions and develop improved alternatives. We would like to see evidence that retrospective reevaluation and learning from past mistakes/successes have been and are taking place. We also want to know how the findings are being used to improve the process by which the financial model for CSS is being developed and rolled out. How is the campus adjusting its new expense and revenue projections to reflect changes in the CSS plan, revision of assumptions, improved data collection, and the like? When does CSS plan to begin generating actual financial savings for the campus?  And what are the data behind this expectation?    

We want to emphasize that faculty members are well aware that CSS will derive its revenues from colleges, departments, centers and programs by withdrawing the funds associated with staff who are moved into CSS and by charging them for accessing shared services. It is essential that CSS make it clear what these costs are going to be on a timely basis, so that colleges, departments, and the like have time to prepare for the transition and find ways to provide the local services essential to faculty and students after staff are relocated and budgets cut to pay for shared services. It is understandable that CSS leaders may wish to defer having to deal with the flack that announcing its financial model will inevitably provoke.  However, delaying the inevitable is harmful to the goals of the CSS initiative because it appears to protect CSS leaders at the expense of the broader campus community by preventing faculty and local staff from developing effective strategies for adapting to the changes necessitated by CSS, increasing employee distrust, reducing morale, and increasing the likelihood that problems will spin out of control.  We again request to see a plan for how the campus intends to mitigate the likely disproportionate impacts on smaller and less wealthy units. 

Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation: In our July 2 letter, we asked a series of questions pertaining to two related, but separate issues: 1) the planning of the CSS initiative prior to the implementation of the move to 4th St. and 2) the monitoring, evaluation, and improvement of the CSS implementation process during the migration to 4th St. We clearly distinguish between these areas here.   

Planning:In your response to our questions related to the planning and development of CSS, you pointed us to reports on shared services at other institutions. We welcome these resources but note that they are either press release style reports or general “making the case for shared services” pieces that emphasized the goals of implementing such programs. They were not detailed analyses of the successes and failures with the programs instituted at other universities or reports on how problems were solved (or not solved). We would like to know what Berkeley CSS staff have learned from these institution’s successes, failures, or learning processes—and how CSS planners are using such findings to improve the initiative’s structure and organization.  

Your response did not address our concerns regarding lessons learned from the problems associated with the design/implementation of RES, ERSO, and the CNR downsizing. If CSS has prepared analyses of the strengths, weaknesses, reform, and lessons learned these programs, we would like to see them. We understand that there is a consensus among faculty (but not necessarily staff) that ERSO has been a more successful initiative than RES, which was extremely disruptive and led to a sharp drop in faculty research grant applications. However, ERSO was developed as a local, on campus program to address the specialized research needs of Engineering faculty. It is not a cross school, cross discipline, multi-service, off-site program, and, it too has had its problems. We would like to know, in detail, what planning and organizational processes ERSO leaders adopted to avoid the RES problems, what worked for them, what did not work, and how they identified and fixed problems. How, we ask, have CSS leaders incorporated the lessons learned from these programs into their planning processes now; and how are you dealing with the fact that CSS is so different? How are the CSS leaders transforming the ERSO model to meet the specialized needs, cultural expectations, economic resources, disciplinary policies and requirements of the diverse colleges, departments, and disciplines on the Berkeley campus?  

We are also concerned that CSS leaders do not seem to be learning from the successes achieved/mistakes made on other UC campuses.  In a June 2011 report, the Administrative Efficiencies Workgroup of the Council of University Staff Assemblies (CUCSA) discussed problems with the HR Shared Services program instituted at UCSF in 2009 and 2011 and with the Centralized Services program instituted at UCSC in 2005, both of which involved pulling staff/staff functions out of individual units and moving them off campus, a direct parallel with Berkeley’s CSS initiative. The report concludes that the program initiated in 2011 at UCSF saved the campus money (by eliminating staff), but failed to improve the efficiency of service and that the UCSC program not only failed to improve efficiency but, worse, lost money. The report noted that these “disappointing results” have “contributed to the characterization of these efforts as ‘spending thousands to save hundreds’.”[2]  What is being done here at Berkeley to avoid similar deviations from expected outcomes? 

Internal Monitoring and Evaluation: Equally troubling, we still see no evidence that CSS is developing the internal capability to objectively monitor and assess the implementation of shared services and the move to 4th street. None of the links you provided show evidence of a rigorous monitoring-evaluation system. Even with a good planning process, there will inevitably be learning by trial and error and deviations from expected outcomes. CSS must therefore be prepared to engage in high level monitoring and evaluation of its implementation processes.  It must also commit to act on what it learns and to modify structures and processes in adaptive, improving ways.   

You note that a Service and Technology Survey was developed to “establish a base line” for what we assume (since you did not explain this) is the state of services in the units, based on staff and faculty responses. We asked Professor Michael Hout (Sociology), an internationally recognized expert on survey research, to review the survey. His assessment is that the survey was “subpar in that it so badly corresponds to the faculty experience,” that is, “failing to align with how faculty think about their relations with the staff they work with.” Such surveys could be a useful monitoring tool if they 1) contain questions of appropriate depth and specificity, and include open ended questions that allow faculty and staff to express concerns honestly and at length; 2) are revised to address evolving issues and administered often enough to provide timely feedback on successes and problems; and 3) CSS leaders report on survey results in a timely and transparent way and demonstrate use of them to improve the CSS system. We would like to know more details about this survey tool, including what will be done to rectify the short comings of the present survey, how often surveys will be administered, to whom, and how results will be reported and used.  

Independent of such survey mechanisms, CSS needs to establish a unit whose responsibility is to design and implement a range of protocols, metrics, and processes for rigorous monitoring and evaluation of the movement of staff and staff functions to 4th St and the impacts upon campus units as they rely on services accessible only through a call center.  

What, therefore, are the monitoring and evaluation system(s) CSS intends to put in place?  Units are inevitably going experience deviations from expected outcomes and will have to develop work-arounds, with or without the help of Transformation Support Services. How are their problems going to be reported, not just to CSS leadership, but also to the Academic Senate and others concerned about this program? What organizational capability is being developed within CSS to systematically collect and analyze data about problems and impacts and to feed this analysis back into the organizational planning process, so that CSS leaders and the campus as a whole can learn from the experiences of units who find themselves struggling on the ground?   

Monitoring and evaluation also needs to have an economic dimension. We strongly support the principle on which CSS is founded: to save the campus money by streamlining staff support, eliminating redundant staff, and develop more efficient, cost effective ways to deliver services in a time of budget cuts. We worry, however, that given the high up front costs of the disruptive move to 4th street, we could end up much like UCSC, with a program that drains our campus of the funds we need to maintain excellence while making our operations less, rather than more efficient.  

How will CSS measure the cost of problems as well as the full range of savings? The savings resulting from the elimination of staff positions are easy to quantify. How does CSS propose to quantify the dollars saved as a result of improvements in operational efficiency? Just as important, how does it propose to quantify the economic costs of the unintended consequences that lead to more operational inefficiency, especially the sort that forces faculty to spend unconscionable amounts of time performing activities that used to be done by local staff, at the expense of research and teaching? Systems need to be put in place to quantify the costs that are born directly by faculty and/or their departments, rather than CSS.   

Transformation Support Services (TSS): We are pleased to see that CSS has taken steps to provide staff support during the move to the 4th St. Center.  The campus needed to field an organizational change management group to help units navigate the expectations and changes involved with CSS (and other OE programs) and to “assess and adjust their administrative operations in UC Berkeley’s new operating environment.” However, we want to point out that helping staff “adjust to” CSS is not the same as rigorously and systematically monitoring and assessing the complex CSS process in order to gather the information needed to identify and solve structural problems.   

We want to emphasize again that we continue to be particularly concerned about the impact of CSS on small and economically weak units. We would still like an answer to our question about the steps being taken to “ensure that they have the financial and organizational capacity to meet staffing needs and support faculty in their work” once staff and staff functions have been taken away and they are being charged to access CSS. TSS is not designed to do this.   

Decision Making and Governance: As these questions indicate, we remain extremely concerned about the planning and implementation of CSS. We continue to support the underlying concept. In this time of financial crisis it is indeed important that the campus devise ways to streamline bureaucracy and deliver cost effective, efficiently delivered staff services to faculty, students, and our campus community. However, we see many signs that CSS was developed—and is still being developed—in a rushed, top down, and poorly conceived way. We fear that it will, as a result, produce the opposite of its intended goals. We worry that without improvement it will lead to chaotic, inconvenient, much more inefficient, much less cost-effective staff services that drive down faculty morale due to frustrating, time consuming tasks we should not have to shoulder—and, worse, that it will cost the campus far more than it saves.  Unfortunately, the documents to which you pointed us did little to allay our concerns.  

It makes sense to centralize services that are implemented in the same or similar ways across departments on campus. However, staff services for HR, Research, IT, and so on vary greatly across departments on campus. It is wasteful and inefficient to try to combine services that must be conducted in specifically different ways across departments—especially in the absence of focused, time consuming and challenging up-front efforts to identify foreseeable problems and devise ways to solve or minimize their impact. We have discussed the Shared Services concept with a number of staff in several schools and units on our campus. We have been told that it takes years for them to learn the needs of the faculty in specific units. It will take even longer for them to figure out how to meet the different needs of faculty in a range of schools and departments, especially if many experienced staff leave Berkeley rather than moving to 4th St., as seems likely. This loss of local institutional knowledge is a serious concern.  

The deficiencies in planning the monitoring and assessment of CSS bode ill for the future of our campus.   More than faculty morale is at stake.  U.C. Berkeley itself will pay a huge price if faculty members have to endure great inconvenience and long waits trying to obtain the help they need to, for example, solve problems with their office or classroom IT systems. They will not be able to give lectures during their assigned class periods using the classroom technologies on which they are now dependent, or submit grades on time, or make class materials available to students on time.  They will run into problems conducting research. If the staff at the 4th St. call center cannot provide faculty with the specialized support they need to manage faculty recruitment, the hiring of research staff, and the like expeditiously, Berkeley will lose top talent to rival institutions.   If faculty cannot obtain the support they need to develop and submit grant proposals on time, many will simply stop writing grant proposals.  This happened with RES.  Imagine if it happens across the campus.    

Thinking Constructively about How to Meet the Goals of CSS: Our goal is not to obstruct the implementation of CSS but to offer constructive advice to help campus leaders achieve the goal of making staff services more efficient and cost effective and saving the campus money over the long run. To this end we offer a suggestion about how a plan to address the problems could be structured. In our original letter we called on the Chancellor to establish an independent, ad hoc committee of faculty and staff to work in consultation with OE administrators and the Academic Senate to identify problems and propose design modifications, timeline adjustments, and other actions to improve CSS’s chances of success. We would now like to provide further details on how this committee should be organized and operate.  

We draw here on the advice of Todd La Porte, Berkeley Professor of Political Science emeritus, and Karlene Roberts, Haas School of Business Professor of Organizational Behavior emerita. Both are experts on organizational theory and the organization and decision making dynamics of large, complex, and technologically intensive organizations like UC Berkeley. In an email to us, Laporte points out that, “major changes at large-scale institutions actually take about twice as long as originally planned and before there is a return to a stable operational state.” He warns against overconfidence by planners whose assumption that they have anticipated all possible consequences often leads to a situation in which “surprises are not noticed or puzzled about until things get well out of the bounds of expected outcomes.”  

To avoid such problems, LaPorte and Roberts recommend a slower approach incorporating what LaPorte calls a “Red Team” strategy that involves establishing an independent “user’s council made up of a representatives from a wide variety of institutional units, types of user functions, including users at different ranks throughout the campus,” whose job is to develop “finely grained, sustained feedback and a systematic search for conditions of possible operational as well as technical surprises” to improve organizational or strategic effectiveness.  Such “Red Team” groups provide planners with an independent capability to challenge plans, operations, concepts, assumptions, and capabilities. They can provide a highly complex organization like UC Berkeley with ongoing answers to “what can go wrong?” and “what is going wrong?” before it is too late and problems spin out of control.[3]

You indicated that CSS intends to implement “tiger teams” to address “urgent issues concerning research administration on an accelerated basis.” This sounds like a good start to us. However, this is a narrowly focused, reactive strategy that is very different from the Red Team strategy of deploying independent, interdisciplinary teams to develop finely grained, sustained feedback regarding problems in order to provide planners with an independent, proactive capability to challenge plans, operations, concepts and capacities, so that costly surprises in all CSS functional areas can be avoided or mitigated.   

Thank you again for responding to our earlier memo and for acknowledging the positive spirit with which we offer our criticisms and suggestions. It is in all of our interests to work together to find ways to bring CSS to a successful conclusion.  For your convenience, we have attached a short addendum that describes three things that CSS leaders could do to respond in a constructive way to our concerns.  We look forward to your response.


Chris Rosen, Vice Chair of BFA, Haas School of Business, crosen@haas.berkeley.eduLouise Fortmann, Chair BFA, Department of ESPM,  louisef@berkeley.eduGregory Levine, Department of the History of Art, gplevine@berkeley.edu 

For the Berkeley Faculty Association Board


[1] Another more recent CSS budget posted to the OE website (Shared Services Implementation: Budget 2.27.2012) is also a bare bones summary of projected costs and revenues, for FYs 2011 – 2016.

[2] CUCSA, “Administrative Efficiencies Workgroup Report,” (June 2011), 9-11, http://today.lbl.gov/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/CUCSA_AEWG_Report-FINAL.pdf

[3] For more information see: IBM Consulting Services: “Red Teams: Toward Radical Innovation,” July 2005. https://transnet.act.nato.int/WISE/Entities/NATORedTea/ReferenceL/IBMRedTeam/file/_WFS/IBM%20REd%20Team%20Articles.pdf


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