Problem Statement

In 2009, the University of Washington initiated a strategic planning initiative to address the challenges of the then-anticipated financial crisis and the opportunities presented by emerging trends in higher education.  One component of this process included an "Organizational Excellence" program focused on building a collaborative, innovative, and accountable university administration that efficiently operates in service to our wider academic mission of access and excellence.

Significant progress has been made in both administrative and academic administration.  Yet, much work remains.  Internal challenges in central administration such as a decentralized structure, aging systems, lack of process standardization, and frequent leadership turnover have created a need for greater collaboration, clear priorities, increased accountabilities, and elimination of unnecessary bureaucracy and redundancies.  The Transforming Administration Program will tackle these challenges in partnership with the tri-campus community.



The UW will transform its administration into an enhanced culture of service.  The focus will be on excellence and quality of services, with excellent service delivery that is easy and intuitive to navigate, efficient and effective.  We will take risks and inevitably make mistakes, but we will learn from them and continually improve in our pursuit of this transformation, based on data-driven decision-making. We will measure our effectiveness, reduce the cost of administration, manage risks, and share best practices with Academic Units and peers.



Central administration will perform as one organization with clear business practices and common goals, supported by leadership to make and enforce decisions for the greater UW, in a highly collaborative approach across Administrative Units and with the Academic and Auxiliary Units.  The role of the central administrative units will be to create and sustain an environment in which our core elements of faculty and students can thrive. 

Vision: Adopted from Administration for the 21st Century

  • Operates more effectively and efficiently to focus on core values

  • Collaborates across the administrative to decrease costs and improve services

  • Creates a culture of continuous innovation

  • Demonstrates performance through data

  • Is fiscally and environmentally sustainable


Goals for the Transforming Administration Program

  1. Transform UW administration into one administration, acting in concert towards a common vision, goals and principles
  2. Redeploy and reallocate financial resources to support costs of enterprise wide electronic systems (e.g. Finance Modernization, HR/Payroll, etc.)
  3. Identify opportunities to create efficiencies in processes, positions, or elimination of shadow systems
  4. Manage change in large, new projects and systems
  5. Provide clear guidance to campus on how to manage processes
  6. Foster a culture of continuous improvement and service to campus partners


Values and Principles for the Transforming Administration Program

  • We take UW culture into account
  • We work within the 2y2d framework
  • We will do no harm to the current support of the academic units
  • We are bold and innovative
  • We inspire, act and support direct and clear change
  • We aim for simplicity
  • We communicate clearly and directly
  • We build trust through transparent action
  • We seek feedback and engage staff


Goals/Objectives of the Initiative

  1. Identify core principles and rules for central administration; vet; implement with accountability measures
  2. Analyze and chronicle all significant change initiatives; structures; overlapping services, needed functions; fiscal health; space needs; etc.
  3. Identify, prioritize and address needs for change; develop a prioritization tool for change initiatives
  4. Set expectations for all central units, with accountability built in to annual reviews (timelines, quarterly milestones, follow up)
  5. Restructure financial approach; develop tools and support for each central unit to use to estimate costs, etc.; set standards and expectations
  6. Re-tool staff; develop tools and support to help all units retrain staff
  7. When appropriate, restructure to enhance effectiveness and efficiency
  8. Develop standardized surveys for employees and customers; develop and implement a timeline for all central units to survey their employees and customers
  9. Analyze centralization of common services and pilot central services where it makes sense
  10. Develop engagement and communication plans and implement throughout the initiative


Transforming Administration Program Committee

Executive Sponsor:

  • Jerry Baldasty, Interim Provost


  • Mary Lidstrom, Chair, and Vice Provost, Research
  • Denzil Suite, Vice President, Office of Student Life
  • Judy Howard, Divisional Dean, Arts & Sciences


  • Project Leadership/lead Change Council:  Ruth Johnston, Associate Vice President & Chief of Staff, Planning & Management
  • Interim Provost’s representative and link to Sustainable Academic Business Plan and initiatives and liaison to interim: Marisa Nickle, Director of Strategy & Academic Initiatives, Office of the Provost
  • Interim President’s representative: Margaret Shepherd, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Office of the President
  • Consultant: Paul Jenny, Senior Vice President, Planning & Management


Resources Required

  • Change leadership (director level, report to Ruth Johnston)
  • Change staff Support
  • Budget



  • Spring 2015 – Planning and Input
  • Summer 2015 – Finalize plan and begin first pilot initiatives
  • Fall 2015 – Begin to deploy resources, seek projects from the units
  • Winter 2015 and going forward – Fully launched initiative rollout


Measures of Success of the Initiative

  • Improved service
  • Reduced cost
  • Reduced process/time
  • Engaged staff and faculty