A High Performance Work Culture

We are using a working definition of a high performance workplace, which can be defined in many ways, but is essentially having the right people, with the right skills and experience working collaboratively together on the right projects and issues and achieving positive outcomes.  It is a place that truly cares about its students and their needs and concerns and understands the importance of quality teaching and the need to mentor and support students.  It is a place where diversity and inclusion are keystones of its success, relationships are characterized by mutual trust, respect, honesty and support of one another.  It is a place that uses data and systems to make decisions and chart its future.  It is a place that values its employees and celebrates their success and commitment, is collaborative and seeks to learn from all of its employees; and finally, it is a place that always looks to provide an environment where quality learning both in and out of the classroom will advance the life and work of all of its graduates.

Performance Factors

We have identified eight contributors that collectively create a High Performance Work Culture.  Lesley will need to place emphasis on these contributors to attain the desired state we aspire to achieve.  Drawing on the community feedback regarding these 8 areas that collectively create a high performance work culture, we propose the following:

  • Leaders who:
    • Provide strategic guidance and direction that is focused on student learning and needs.
    • Support innovation, quality teaching, social justice and inclusion.
    • Focus on students and their needs and who lead, mentor and listen to them.
    • Articulate clear and strong expectations. Hold employees and students accountable to those expectations.  Provide frequent recognition for work well done.
    • Serve as role models, re-enforce values, foster collaboration and team building, and encourage initiative and innovation throughout the University.
  • A workforce that:
    • Is student-focused, effective, highly motivated and diverse.
    • Is made up of employees with the skills and understanding to compete in a highly competitive higher education environment.
    • Supports employees throughout their career with educational and training opportunities to improve their skills for the job they have and to advance them in their jobs.
    • Encourages employees to be inclusive and collaborative in how they approach their teaching and work.
    • Recognizes employee efforts both individually and as members of a team.
    • Has managers with the necessary skills to:
      • Foster an environment that encourages mutual respect and builds trust.
      • Manage their workload and employees.
      • Set clear goals.
      • Articulate expectations.
      • Hold employees accountable.
  • Work processes and systems that:
    • Are consistent, integrated and well defined.
    • Support and not hinder collaboration.
    • Support service across offices.
    • Are efficient and timely.
    • Support employees.
    • Allow for growth and change.
    • Are well designed and focus on student needs.
    • Are regularly reviewed to allow for improvement of work flows.
    • Are based on technology whenever possible and well integrated.
    • Include training as a key component to their effective use.
  • Strategic and frequent communications

    Strategic and frequent communications that share pertinent information both internally and externally regarding what Lesley is doing.  Specifically, we should provide:

    • Internal communications that are transparent, timely and spoken with a common voice to help build strong relationships between employees and break down silos.
    • Regular internal communications regarding vision and strategic initiatives to help employees understand University goals so that they can work to achieve this vision and feel comfortable mapping out solutions.
    • Easy access to timely information regardless of who you are.
    • Public/external communications that share Lesley's good news and are delivered in mediums that potential students and families most frequently use.
  • Organizational structures

    Organizational structures that support University success, facilitate collaboration, promote excellent service to our students and provide efficient operations to the University.  Specifically, we should have organizational structures that:

    • Are streamlined, consolidated and co-located wherever possible to foster equity and fairness.
    • Improve communication particularly in functions supporting students across organization units.
    • Are flexible, dynamic and able to support priority goals and most importantly our current and prospective students.
    • Support sharing of information across schools.
    • Minimize duplication.
    • Create flexible work schedules to:
      • Better accommodate students who are here only in the evening or weekends.
      • Support employees' work life needs for flexible work hours.
  • Dependable data and analysis

    Dependable and reliable data and analysis to improve our educational programs, and University processes, operations and systems.  Specifically, we should:

    • Engage in efficient and well thought-out planning whether strategic or related to a program or event.
    • Use data developed from strong forecasting and budget models to:
      • Plan and make decisions (of increased importance with tighter budgets and higher expectations).
      • Leverage the available analytic tools to find the "right" answers.
    • Increase the use of technology to help collect and correlate information and create multiple models to analyze risk.
    • Strengthen our ability to interpret data and then act on it by using best case/worst case scenarios to help us understand potential upside, risk and realistic lead times to ramp up to full capacity.
    • Engage different stakeholders from the University in the analysis and interpretation of data.
  • Innovation in teaching

    Innovation in teaching, course delivery, solving problems and curricula to solve newly identified issues.  We should:

    • Provide local and national leadership in areas of strength.
    • Create new paradigms and a steady stream of currently desired programs, courses and majors.
    • Innovate and improve our academic programs and organization on a regular basis, to meet the ever-changing needs of our students and the workplace.
    • Expand our use of technology in teaching to help students learn and to enhance our delivery mechanisms.
    • Improve student services and business delivery systems to:
      • Reduce the length of time to complete a transaction (e.g., accept a student, provide an estimate of financial aid, generate a check).
      • Improve a service (e.g., scheduling courses, advising students, identifying at-risk students earlier in the semester).
      • Create new programs.
    • Transform Lesley's "Little Engine That Could" mentality into a true innovation model with plans that include three phases:
      • Incubator
      • Start-up
      • Full-scale implementation
  • The spirit and history of Lesley

    The spirit and history of Lesley and its long-standing commitment to progressive education, policies, and programs that address many important societal issues. Using this history as a guide for Lesley's continued success, we should:

    • Strengthen and recognize support from caring and creative faculty and staff who put the needs of their students first.
    • Retain as the foundation of Lesley's culture its core commitments to:
      • Promoting social justice.
      • Fostering a diverse and inclusive community that values all of its members.
      • Creating an environment in which all of its students and employees are capable of achieving their full potential.

Behaviors and Practices to Strengthen our Cultural Foundation

To contribute to enhancing a high performance culture and drawing from the community conversations of the eight contributors, we have identified 10 behavioral best practices.  These 10 practices are intended to support effective collaboration, decision-making, interactions, and participation that will make Lesley better positioned to serve our students.

The team behaviors required to achieve this foundation include:

  • Conversations and problem-solving always begin with asking how we can best serve our students.
  • Decisions are made and new solutions are developed in a collaborative, disciplined, inclusive manner with those involved operating with a sense of timeliness and a deep commitment to personal accountability.
  • There is upfront clarity around decision-making roles and responsibilities (documented procedures that outline the decision-making process appropriate for each type of issue - that would explain who shall be informed, who is consulted, and who is part of making the final decision and how) before engaging in a decision-making process, and which seeks consensus but not unanimity.
  • As much emphasis as we put into determining new things to do, we put an equal amount into determining what to stop doing because it no longer serves us well, and continue practices that we can agree have been serving us well.
  • Investment proposals and decisions are assessed based on both internal and external analysis, evaluated based on agreed upon criteria, and their implementation is tracked against defined metrics.
  • Successes and lessons learned are celebrated, as are failures and challenges from which we learn and make a timely decision to change course.
  • Deep listening is encouraged, while also constructively and respectfully challenging each other's ideas, in the direction of joint learning and creative problem-solving.
  • Interests underlying differing ideas and proposals are fully explored and used to brainstorm creative, new shared solutions.
  • Sharing performance feedback with one another, and soliciting feedback from one another, directly and regularly is expected.
  • There is regular communication about decisions made, new plans, progress, challenges, etc. and transparency around decisions made and the criteria or reasoning on which they are based.

Proposed Initial Key High Impact Actions

To support the cultural changes and provide a strong base to begin strategic visioning and planning, the Committee suggests the following key high impact actions be initiated to support the University's movement towards high performance while strengthening its relational culture.  If we begin to embrace the desired behaviors, which we have determined will advance a High Performance Culture, we will position Lesley for future growth and advancement.  The proposed high impact actions include:

  • Develop a Manager's Training Academy
  • Reframe and redesign the University Performance Evaluation System into a Performance Feedback System
  • Provide on-line training in giving and receiving feedback
  • Establish on-line training in decision-making and conflict resolution
  • Institute a standard method to clearly define responsibilities at all levels and track progress
  • Institute an integrated system for data collection, metrics and analysis, including framework on how initiatives might be measured
  • Institute and implement Annual Community Service days
  • Create opportunities to support cross-school interactions