American industry has seen a
great deal of emphasis on quality in the past 15 years or so.
And it shows in the products that we all buy.
Quality standards have been raised due largely to a change in management
philosophy following the teachings of Deming,
Deming’s simple continuous improvement process is an endless
cycle: plan--> do--> study--> act-->plan....
We believe this process applies to research management and we intend to
apply this simple quality improvement model to operations of the CERSP.
Since its inception November 1, 1999, CERSP has planned and implemented a
number of systems to assist in carrying out research.
Overall, these have worked very well.
But in the spirit of continuous improvement, we are now focusing on the “study”
activity. In December 2001 all
CERSP participants were invited to participate in a “3x3x3” study.
Everyone was asked to identify three things that we do well, three things
that we do which are of questionable value, and three things that we need to
change or start doing. The results of that survey are in and the complete raw data
are documented in the Appendix.
The “act” phase is to develop
and implement an improved plan. To do this, the management team has processed
the raw data and identified five key areas for improvement:
Those areas and the improvement
plan (act-->plan) are summarized below.
We plan to begin implementing the plan immediately.
A crucial element of any
well-run research program is to establish clear expectations.
Priority elements include:
We have held annual orientation
sessions at our weekly group meetings. These
have worked reasonably well for those in attendance.
But in order to improve on this we will do the following:
Place an orientation section on our
website. New CERSP members will be
given a “self-guided tour” of the Center, including plans,
facilities, generally useful techniques (e.g., high pressure, safety tips) etc.
Baucom will assist anyone needing further information.
Invite all researchers to participate in
Kenan Center/EAB and NSF reviews. These reviews typically contain the latest plans.
Baucom will review expectations with new
PIs, including determining how STC participation and collaborations can assist
achieving research objectives.
Compile annually CD of STC and Kenan
publications to assist orientation and provide information to assist in
establishing collaborative connections consistent with copyrights.
Participation in Group
Students and associates are expected to
attend all meetings
Students and associates are expected to
present at least twice per year, excluding the first year of graduate research.
One talk is expected during the first year.
These reviews are not intended to be
polished, completed work. The more
useful purpose is to report work in progress to solicit suggestions and identify
That said, presenters should use
approved format, available on our website.
Some students get so caught up in doing research they don’t think
about their research. Prepping for
these meetings provides that opportunity.
In addition to group seminars, the key purpose of weekly teleconferences, these set-aside times will be used in a number of additional ways:
· Use these meeting for management communications, e.g., discussing the 3x3x3 results
· Improve facilities/software to make meetings proceed more smoothly, avoiding delays
· Innovation Seminar
· Faculty speakers. PIs are encouraged to travel to other Center sites for collaboration activities and to present seminars at Center weekly meetings as scheduling permits
· Invited industry speakers
· Webcasting. We will make special effort to solicit external participation in Innovation Seminar
Short courses. We
will examine the feasibility of conducting short courses of general interest or
possibly modifying existing courses to include some of this information.
will maintain existing project organization and conduct semiannual coordination
meetings for each Application Domain.
These will be held 1:00-3:00 pm on Thursdays the month before Kenan
Center/EAB meetings. February 2002 is exempted as projects have just started.
The objective of these meetings is to
during the next RFP, pre-proposals will be used to reduce the number of full
proposals significantly, thus allowing more time to provide better coordination
among remaining proposals.
We just completed a very
thorough process for selecting projects for fiscal 2002-2003.
In doing so we faced the dilemma of every researcher since Adam and Eve
experimented with apples: How do we
maintain a coordinated, focused program without missing unforeseen
Projects were selected based upon the
best information available at the time. As the situation changes, modifications in projects may be in
order. A mechanism for change of
direction is outlined above.
Project areas were guidelines developed
through discussions with industry partners, outside faculty and among ourselves.
We have a stated objective to renew the Center, and proposals outside the
guideline areas were considered for seed funding.
This procedure is expected to continue.
Seed funding will be an ongoing mechanism for renewal.
There are no entitlements.
We expect fully 20% turnover in programs annually.
Flexibility in Conducting Research.
While every PI and student/associate is accountable for results based
upon the proposal, everyone should feel free to spend a nominal part of their
time on other research, preferably related to Center objectives but outside the
scope of their project. These
diversions may well lead to seed funding.
While the Collaboration Workshop was very useful to most who took it, several participants felt that additional content might be in order. Also, broader participation by faculty and students would benefit the Center. One possible approach might involve personality profiling of the sort practiced with the management team and NSF STC leadership at the December 2001 meeting.