A COMPARISON OF PRIORITIES IN AN AMERICAN ACADEMIC DEPARTMENT AND A RUSSIAN ACADEMIC DEPARTMENT

 

 

 

  

Stuart Umpleby

Department of Management Science

The George Washington University

Washington, DC  20052 USA

Email:  umpleby@gwu.edu

 and

 Irina Naoumova

Department of Management

Kazan State University

Kazan, Russia

Email:  nvi2000@mail.ru

 

   

February 3, 2004

 

 A shorter version of this report was submitted to the proceedings of the annual meeting of the Alliance of Universities for Democracy

Vilnius, Lithuania, October 2003

 

A COMPARISON OF PRIORITIES IN AN AMERICAN ACADEMIC DEPARTMENT AND A RUSSIAN ACADEMIC DEPARTMENT

 

 Stuart Umpleby

Department of Management Science

The George Washington University

Washington, DC  20052 USA

Email:  umpleby@gwu.edu

 

Irina Naoumova

Department of Management

Kazan State University

Kazan, Russia

Email:  nvi2000@mail.ru

 

 

This paper discusses two surveys using a Quality Improvement Priority Matrix. A Quality Improvement Priority Matrix seeks to identify those features of an organization or a product or service that are rated high on importance but low on performance.  The first survey collected responses from faculty members in the Department of Management Science at The George Washington University in Washington, DC, in May 2001.  The second survey collected responses from faculty members in the Department of Management at Kazan State University in Kazan, Russia, in 2002.  The study reveals and compares the challenges being faced by faculty members in the two countries.

 

Russians rated higher on both importance and performance the features concerned with incorporating department members in university and college life, social and recreational activities and a supportive department climate.  More than American professors they believe it is important to cooperate with other professors in the department, and with professors in other departments in the university.  Russians suggested adding to the list of characteristics (for the next survey) such categories as creativeness and initiative as the most important for quality improvement.

 

The individualistic approach in America universities helps them to pay more attention to the needs of each student, for example by offering a wide range of elective courses and respecting the interests of individual professors and researchers.  American professors are supported with grants, research funds, travel money, etc.  A high level of research activity, publications and conference presentations contributes to the quality of instruction.  But American professors indicated that they would like for their system to be more cooperative.  Russians chose the opposite direction – more individualism in their system. Russians say they need to give more respect to each individual’s interests and needs.

 

 

Background on the Research Method

 

A Quality Improvement Priority Matrix (QIPM) is a useful method for achieving data-driven decision-making.  Regular information from employees and customers about the features of the organization that most need improvement allows managers to focus attention and resources where they can best contribute to improving employee and customer satisfaction. (Umpleby and Melnychenko, 2002)  The QIPM was developed as a means for arriving at priorities for action rather than for doing comparative research. (Naoumova and Umpleby, 2002)  However, we thought it would be informative to look at QIPM data from two academic departments in two quite different countries, the United States and Russia.  The comparison reveals the challenges being faced by faculty members at two universities, The George Washington University (GWU) and Kazan State University (KSU).  Faculty members at both universities are seeking to improve their departments, but their priorities are somewhat different given the different social contexts.

 

At both GWU and KSU faculty members in the Department of Management were given a list of features of the department.  They were asked to evaluate the importance and performance of each feature on a scale from 0 to 10.  On the importance scale 0 means no importance at all and 10 means very high importance.  On the performance scale 0 means that the Department’s performance was very poor whereas 10 means that the Department’s performance was very good.  Eighteen faculty members filled out the questionnaire at GWU.  About the same number of faculty members filled out the questionnaire at KSU.  The scores for each feature were averaged and the results appear in Table 1.  For all the features the mean score on importance at GWU is 7.85.  At KSU the mean score for importance is 7.34.  These high numbers suggest that the features listed are considered important in both departments.  For all the features the mean score on performance at GWU is 5.21.  At KSU the mean score for performance is 4.35.  The lower performance score at KSU than at GWU might mean that overall satisfaction at KSU is slightly lower than at GWU.

 

Table 2 lists correlations between the importance and performance scores at GWU (0.353), between the importance and performance scores at KSU (0.387), between the importance scores at GWU and KSU (0.464), and between the performance scores at GWU and KSU (0.124).  A correlation of 1.0 would mean that the two variables are perfectly correlated, for example, a feature rated high on importance is also rated high on performance and a feature rated low on importance is also rated low on performance.  A correlation of –1.0 would mean that the variables are inversely related.  That is, a feature rated high on importance is rated low on performance and a feature rated low on importance is rated high on performance.  The positive correlations between importance and performance at both GWU and KSU indicate that importance is associated with performance.  This result suggests that faculty members on both campuses feel they are able to accomplish their goals.  The fact that the importance variables for the two departments have a higher correlation (0.464) than the performance variables (0.124) means that there is fairly high agreement on what is important but large differences in what each department does well.  Indeed, there is almost no correlation between the performance ratings in the two departments.  This result suggests that the two departments can learn from each other.

 

 

Rating Features of the Two Universities

 

Figure 1 shows the Quality Improvement Priority Matrix (QIPM) for the GWU department.  Ten items are in the lower right quadrant, which contains items that are high on importance and low on performance – office space for faculty, classroom facilities, building physical environment, accounts payable, teaching assistants, parking for faculty and staff, computer labs, funds to support research, salaries, and English skills of students.  These are the items on which improvement is most likely to contribute to improving faculty morale in the GWU department

 

Figure 2 shows the QIPM for the KSU department.  Ten items are in the lower right quadrant –office space for faculty, salaries, travel support, funds to support research, projection equipment, copiers, computer hardware, classroom facilities, accounts payable, and building physical environment.  Most of these items require additional funds, but improving accounts payable requires only a change in procedures.

 

Figure 3 graphs the importance scores for the two departments.  The lower right quadrant shows items that are important for GWU faculty members but less important for KSU faculty members – health care and retirement benefits, conference room space, English skills of students, interlibrary loan, classroom scheduling, and parking for faculty and staff.  The upper left quadrant contains the items that are important for KSU faculty members but less important for GWU faculty members – consulting opportunities, opportunities to meet local businessmen and government managers, department strategic planning, department organization to implement the strategic plan, and coordination with other departments.

 

Figure 4 graphs the performance scores for the two departments.  The lower right quadrant shows the features on which GWU performance is rated higher than at KSU – travel support, assistance with learning IT, retirement benefits, interlibrary loan, campus grounds, projection equipment, computers, fax machines, copiers, department and school websites, conference rooms, and faculty annual reports.  The upper left quadrant shows the features on which KSU performance is rated higher than at GWU – coordination with other departments, working papers series, opportunities to meet local businessmen and government managers, a department strategic plan, department organization to implement its strategic plan, recreational activities, an annual retreat, and conference rooms.  The upper right quadrant contains the features with high performance ratings on both campuses – a supportive climate in the department, department head protects faculty from administrative interference, transparency of the appointment and promotion process, general ability of students, computer software and the course catalogue.  The lower left quadrant contains the features with low performance ratings on both campuses – parking, help with writing research proposals, office space for faculty, funds to support research, use of quality improvement methods in the department, salaries, building physical environment, classroom facilities, accounts payable, and secretarial support.

 

Table 3 lists the importance differences and performance differences (GWU – KSU) for the two departments.  For example, the mean importance score at KSU was subtracted from the mean importance score at GWU.  A positive score means that importance (or performance) is greater at GWU than at KSU. A negative score means that importance (or performance) is greater at KSU than at GWU.

 

Figure 5 shows performance differences (GWU-KSU) vs. importance differences.  Features in the lower right quadrant are rated higher in importance and lower in performance at GWU than at KSU.  Features in the upper left quadrant are rated higher in importance and lower in performance at KSU than at GWU.  Features in the upper right quadrant are rated higher in importance and higher in performance at GWU than at KSU.  Features in the lower left quadrant are rated higher in importance and higher in performance at KSU than at GWU.

 

Figures 6-11 present Pareto charts showing importance and performance scores for the two departments.  The features are grouped into three categories – support, office equipment, and activities.  The features are rank ordered by difference (GWU – KSU).  Hence, features where the difference is greatest (GWU has a higher score than KSU) are at the top.  Features with negative differences (KSU has a higher score than GWU) are at the bottom.

 

Figures 6 and 7 reveal that interlibrary loan, the appearance of the campus, parking, retirement benefits, and health care benefits are important to the faculty at GWU.  Opportunities to meet local businessmen and government officials and social activities are important at KSU.  GWU performs well in providing travel support, assistance with learning IT, and funds for research.  KSU does well in providing a working papers series, opportunities to meet local managers and the library collection.

 

Figures 8 and 9 suggest that fax machines and department and faculty websites are important at GWU while copiers, office space for faculty and the building physical environment are important at KSU.  GWU is thought to do well in providing classroom projection equipment, websites, fax machines and copiers.   Faculty members at KSU feel their university does well in providing conference rooms and computer labs.

 

Figures 10 and 11 show that faculty annual reports and the use of continuous improvement methods are important at GWU.  Recreational activities, a department strategic plan, and coordination with other departments are important at KSU.  GWU is said to do well with faculty annual reports and course evaluations.  KSU does well on coordination with other departments, opportunities for academic work with other faculty members and the department’s strategic plan.  These figures show that GWU is thought to do well with office equipment and support while KSU does well in activities.

 

 

Methods of Displaying the Data

 

With regard to the method, a Quality Improvement Priority Matrix is useful for identifying the features in the various quadrants.  But the matrices are hard to read because only numbers can fit on the graphs, and the reader then needs to look in a table to find the words that go with the numbers. Using more than one matrix with fewer features on each is one possibility. Rank ordering of features is another possibility, but rank ordering has so far been done using only one dimension, either importance or performance.  Figure 5, a two dimensional graph of differences, is particularly difficult to interpret.  The rank orderings in figures 6 to 11 are easier to understand. 

 

Further experiments with displaying the data is one avenue for research.  This paper discusses comparing data from two organizations.  Comparisons can also be made between two time periods in one organization. (Umpleby and Karapetyan, 2002)  That is, two surveys done a year apart reveal where progress was made in the intervening year and where further attention needs to be focused.  Automating the display of data is also a possibility and would lead to more widespread use this method of quality improvement.

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

It should be remembered that these are subjective assessments.  No effort has been made to compare office space at the two universities, or computer resources, or salaries, etc.  The faculty are evaluating performance based on their expectations, not on an objective measure.  The purpose of the surveys is not to compare resources in the two departments but rather to observe where the two groups of faculty members believe improvement is most needed.

 

Both universities are constrained by financial resources.  However, some needs are only procedural, for example, more strategic planning and more meetings with local businessmen.  Although resources will always be less than desired, a quality improvement priority matrix can help organizations allocate resources, including time and attention, to the issues where improvement will contribute most to the satisfaction of customers and employees.

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

Saadia Khilji, Naveen Hariprasad, and Chingiz Sharshekeev helped in processing data and preparing the figures.

 

 

References

 

Naoumova, Irina and Stuart Umpleby, “Two Methods Useful for Starting a Quality Improvement Program,” in Russell J. Meyer and David Keplinger (eds.), Perspectives in Higher Education Reform, Volume 11, Alliance of Universities for Democracy, Texas Review Press, 2002, pp. 185-193.

 

Umpleby, Stuart and Oleksandr Melnychenko, “Quality Improvement Matrix:  A Tool to Improve Customer Service in Academia,”  in J.A. Edosomwan (ed.) Customer Satisfaction Management Frontiers – VI:  Serving the 21st Century Customer, Fairfax, VA:  Quality University Press, 2002, pp. 6.1-6.12.

 

Umpleby, Stuart and Aram Karapetyan, “How a Quality Improvement Priority Matrix Reveals Change in a University Department,” in Russell J. Meyer and David Keplinger (eds.), Perspectives in Higher Education Reform, Volume 12, Alliance of Universities for Democracy, Texas Review Press, 2003, pp. 315-322.

 

Table 1: GWU and KSU Importance and Performance

 

Features

Importance

Performance

 

 

 

GWU

KSU

GWU

KSU

1.

Computer hardware

9.44

9.05

6.44

3.75

2.

Computer software

9.47

9.02

6

6.01

3.

Office space for faculty

9

10

4.05

1.1

4.

Conference room and other space

7.61

6.4

3.18

4.84

5.

Computer Labs

8.94

9.02

5.06

5.93

6.

Copiers

8.24

9.31

5.76

2.8

7.

Fax Machines

7.44

4.22

6

2.81

8.

Office Security

8.88

6.4

5.31

6.2

9.

Secretarial Support

7.5

6.45

4.18

3.11

10.

Teaching Assistants

8.5

7.54

4.75

4.7

11.

Annual Retreat

7

6.94

5

4.9

12.

Social Activities

5.19

7.22

5.27

6.15

13.

Recreational Activities

4.38

7.1

4.33

5.38

14.

Building physical environment

8.69

9.31

3.75

3.1

15.

Accounts Payable

8

8.51

3.58

3.1

16.

Classroom scheduling

8.2

6.1

5.47

5.18

17.

Classroom facilities

9

9.5

4.06

2.22

18.

Projection equipment

8.65

8.68

5.88

1.25

19.

Course catalog

7.13

6.8

6.37

5.22

20.

Faculty websites

6.38

4

5.13

1

21.

Department websites

7

4

5.5

3

22.

SBPM websites

6.94

4

5.5

2

23.

Campus grounds

7.2

4

6

2

24.

Parking for faculty and staff

8.13

5

4.63

1

25.

Parking for students

7

5

2.93

1

26.

Library journal collection

8.59

9.4

5.24

8.18

27.

Library book collection

8.56

8.9

5.5

8.22

28.

Interlibrary loan

8.44

5.13

6.36

1

29.

Coordination with other departments

7.27

8.69

4.43

8.29

30.

A supportive climate in the department

8.88

9.05

7.76

8.89

31.

Department head protects faculty from administrative interference

8.25

8.25

8.625

8

32.

Transparency of promotion process

8.93

8.95

6.78

7.2

33.

Travel support

8.53

8.94

8.33

0.5

34.

Funds to support research

8.63

8.95

5.07

0.5

35.

College working paper series

6.18

7.11

3

6.8

36.

Help with writing research proposals

6.76

5

3.07

1

37.

English skills of students

8.53

5.6

5.05

5.3

38.

General ability of students

8.76

9.1

6.88

6.13

39.

Course evaluations

7

7

5

4

40.

Faculty annual reports

6.37

5

5.81

3.4

41.

Salaries

9.4

9.86

4.28

2.01

42.

Health care benefits

9.5

6.5

5.27

6

43.

Retirement benefits

9.5

6.5

6.43

2

44.

Opportunities for academic work with department faculty

8.53

9.01

5.6

8.88

45.

Opportunities for work with other university faculty

8.36

8.4

5.21

7.01

46.

Assistance with IT learning

7.75

5.4

7.27

2

47.

Department strategic planning

7.31

8.92

4.44

6.53

48.

Dept. organization to implement its

strategic plan

7.06

8.13

3.63

5.3

49.

Use of continuous improvement

methods in the dept.

5.75

5.22

3.44

4.06

50.

Consulting opportunities in the local area

(  or nationwide

6.69

9.21

4.56

5.13

51.

Opportunities to meet local

   businessmen and govt managers

6.86

8.4

4.56

7.92

 

 

Mean

 

7.85

 

7.34

 

5.21

 

4.35

 

 

 

Table 2: Correlations 

GWU Correlation

0.353

KSU Correlation

0.387

GWU Importance vs KSU Importance

0.464

GWU Performance vs KSU Performance

0.124

 

 

Text Box: Performance

 

Figure 1

 GWU Performance vs. Importance

 

 

 

 

Text Box: Performance

 

Figure 2

KSU Performance vs. Importance

 

 Text Box: KSU Importance

 

Figure 3

 KSU Importance vs. GWU Importance

 

 

 

 

Text Box: KSU Performance

 

Figure 4

 KSU Performance vs. GWU Performance

 

 

 

 Table 3:  GWU- KSU Importance and Performance Difference

 

 

Features

Importance Difference

(GWU-KSU)

Performance Difference

(GWU-KSU)

1.

Computer hardware

0.39

2.69

2.

Computer software

0.45

-0.01

3.

Office space for faculty

-1

2.95

4.

Conference room and other space

1.21

-1.66

5.

Computer Labs

-0.08

-0.87

6.

Copiers

-1.07

2.96

7.

Fax Machines

3.22

3.19

8.

Office Security

2.48

-0.89

9.

Secretarial Support

1.05

1.07

10.

Teaching Assistants

0.96

0.05

11.

Annual Retreat

0.06

0.1

12.

Social Activities

-2.03

-0.88

13.

Recreational Activities

-2.72

-1.05

14.

Building physical environment

-0.62

0.65

15.

Accounts Payable

-0.51

0.48

16.

Classroom scheduling

2.1

0.29

17.

Classroom facilities

-0.5

1.84

18.

Projection equipment

-0.03

4.63

19.

Course catalog

0.33

1.15

20.

Faculty websites

2.38

4.13

21.

Department websites

3

2.5

22.

SBPM websites

2.94

3.5

23.

Campus grounds

3.2

4

24.

Parking for faculty and staff

3.13

3.63

25.

Parking for students

2

1.93

26.

Library journal collection

-0.81

-2.94

27.

Library book collection

 -0.34

-2.72

28.

Interlibrary loan

3.31

5.36

29.

Coordination with other departments

-1.42

-3.86

30.

A supportive climate in the department

-0.17

-1.13

31.

Department head protects faculty from administrative interference

0

0.625

32.

Transparency of promotion process

-0.02

-0.42

33.

Travel support

-0.41

7.83

34.

Funds to support research

-0.32

4.57

35.

College working paper series

-0.93

-3.8

36.

Help with writing research proposals

1.76

2.07

37.

English skills of students

2.93

-0.25

38.

General ability of students

-0.34

0.75

39.

Course evaluations

0

1

40.

Faculty annual reports

1.37

2.41

41.

Salaries

-0.46

2.27

42.

Health care benefits

3

-0.73

43.

Retirement benefits

3

4.43

44.

Opportunities for academic work with department faculty

-0.48

-3.28

45.

Opportunities for work with other university faculty

-0.04

-1.8

46.

Assistance with IT

2.35

5.27

47.

Department strategic planning

-1.61

-2.09

48.

Dept. organization to implement its

strategic plan

-1.07

-1.67

49.

Use of continuous improvement

methods in the dept.

0.53

0.62

50.

Consulting opportunities in the local area

(  or nationwide)

-2.52

 

-0.57

51.

Opportunities to meet local

   businessmen and govt managers

-1.54

-3.36

 

Text Box: Performance Difference

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 5

GWU and KSU Differences

 

 

 

 

 

Text Box: Support Characteristics

 

Figure 6

 Graph of Importance: Support

 

 

 

 

 

Text Box: Support Characteristics

 

Figure 7

Graph of Performance:  Support

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Text Box: Office Equipment Characteristics

 

Figure 8

 Graph of Importance:  Office Equipment

 

 

 

  

Text Box: Office Equipment Characteristics

 

Figure 9

 Graph of Performance:  Office Equipment

 

 

 

 

 

Text Box: Activities Characteristics
Text Box: Activities Characteristics

 

Figure 10

 Graph of Importance:  Activities

 

 

 

 

 

Text Box: Activities Characteristics

 

Figure 11

Graph of Performance:  Activities

 

 

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