Publication Details

This conference paper was originally published as Jantti, M and McGregor, F, Measurement and milestones - sustaining improvement, in Proceedings of the Australasian Association for Institutional Research Annual Forum: Change, Evidence & Implementation: Improving Higher Education in Uncertain Times, Sydney, 2007.


Collection and interpretation of information and data were key elements in a planned change management strategy which, over a period of six years, transformed the University of Wollongong (UOW) Library’s capacity to deliver sustained organisational improvement. Early initiatives in strategic planning, performance management and staff development had delivered a number of improvements to an essentially conservative organisation. Perceptions of Library services were mostly favourable. Success was difficult to measure and promote, however, due to the lack of robust performance indicators and measures. Performance measurement focussed on inputs and outputs, primarily those considered mandatory for reporting purposes, with little or no emphasis on the effectiveness or quality of services offered. In 1994, the decision was made to investigate the potential of the quality movement to underpin the Library’s goal of differentiating itself through external recognition for quality and service excellence. To achieve this ambitious goal, it was imperative to develop the tools which would enable the demonstration and communication of outcomes and the impact of change strategies. The selection of the Australian Business Excellence Framework (ABEF) as the management framework to drive and support transformational change led to the development of a new cultural paradigm. A key feature of this cultural shift was the identification of measurement activities, including the implementation of client surveys and other feedback mechanisms. Although the evidence of performance and success provided by these measures was relatively crude, initial results were sufficient to challenge staff perceptions that had previously relied upon anecdotal evidence. Staff involvement in measuring and analysing results provided the foundations for a change management program which aimed to redress unfavourable client and stakeholder perceptions and to build on perceived strengths. This process was fundamental to the success of UOW Library’s ‘Quality Journey’. Evaluation of data and information can be a powerful catalyst for a change agenda as the assessment process has the potential to provide evidence of what needs to be improved at all levels of the organisation. In our case, recognising and addressing the opportunities for improvement introduced new vitality and innovation in the development, management and delivery of quality services and resources to clients. Within a few years, the Library was positioned for external scrutiny and underwent assessment by third party evaluators using nationally and internationally recognised criteria of business excellence. By the year 2000, the Library was recognised with the prestigious Australian Business Excellence Award. The goal of developing and fostering a culture valuing measurement and evidence had, to a large extent, been achieved. A key outcome of the continued use of the ABEF and other best practice standards has been the ability to sustain commitment to ongoing evaluation and assessment through regular internal and external scrutiny of performance, including benchmarking. The impact of ongoing improvement initiatives, informed through careful analysis of results has been demonstrated through positive trends in client and stakeholder satisfaction with services and access to resources; benchmark comparisons, significant improvement in processing efficiency and costs, enhanced staff satisfaction and morale and the capacity to develop new areas of service offerings to support the research, teaching and learning needs of the University.