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Northwestern Staff, Faculty Gather to Showcase Best Practices

Campus leaders share what works best for them in 7th annual daylong event

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April 1, 2014 | by Brendan Cosgrove
William White, professor of industrial engineering and management sciences, delivers the keynote address at the 2014 Northwestern University Best Practices Forum. Photo by Max Levine.

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Best practices aren’t universal. They have to be tailored for an individual organization’s mission and culture, according to William White, professor of industrial engineering and management sciences at Northwestern University.

White was the keynote speaker at the University’s seventh annual Best Practices Forum held March 26. The daylong event, co-sponsored by Senior Vice President for Business and Finance Eugene Sunshine and Provost Daniel Linzer, is designed to bring together leaders from across the University to share practical examples of successful technology, process and people solutions.

“This type of forum is perfect for taking a vision or an idea, examining practicality and then sharing it so that others can live with it and make it go within their particular organizations within the University,” Sunshine said.

“Across the University, staff are generally so busy with their day-to-day work that they sometimes don’t have time to reflect on how the best practices they have developed and are using could be beneficially shared with their colleagues,” said Jake Julia, associate provost for academic initiatives and associate vice president for change management.  “We hope the forum is one opportunity, at least once a year, to step away from the daily work to do this.”

The Office of Change Management helped organize the forum.

In addition to White’s keynote address, entitled “Why Many of the Things You Know About Best Practices May be Wrong,” attendees participated in a number of concurrent breakout sessions where staff and faculty from across the University presented on what they’ve learned about best practices in a variety of different areas.

Sessions included:

  • Content Strategy for University Websites: Planning Useful and Compelling Web Content
  • Bottom Up Collaborative Approach to Process Improvement
  • Engaging Industry and Fueling University Research
  • Procurement Best Practices: The Benefits of Collaborating on the Request for Proposal Process
  • Engaging Industry and Fueling University Research
  • Bringing Student Forms Online: A Federated Collaboration
  • Kellogg’s Approach to Holistic Staff Training
  • Working Better Together: Streamline Your Technology Support Using the IT Support Center as Your Front Door
  • Performing Yourself: Choices for Effective Communication
  • Reducing Administrative Burden in an age of Über Compliance
  • A Collaboration Project: Mobile Student Data Retrieval Application for Student Affairs “Deans on Call”
  • The McCormick Advising System (MAS) Re-engineers the Advising Process for Undergraduates

“The themes that I found especially relevant to my work in Student Affairs included the importance of developing project teams that are inclusive of multiple perspectives and the critical importance of having a mistake-tolerant environment,” said Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, assistant vice president for student auxiliary services. “It allows creativity to flourish.”

“The Best Practices Forum does a really nice job of bringing together members of the University community to share ideas, leverage strengths and stimulate more collaboration,” said Paul Corona, director of learning and organization development in the Office of Human Resources.  “It’s also a great way to celebrate success that may otherwise not be widely recognized.”

Sunshine, who is retiring this summer after 17 years at Northwestern, hopes the forum, an initiative he helped start six years ago, continues to flourish.

“I certainly hope it continues to grow in terms of participation and quality. The happiest thing would be if it got so big we had to do more of them,” he said in a video shown at the start of the forum. “That would be a sign most importantly of usefulness.”