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Continuously Improve by Working Together

Agility is the UA’s Continuous Improvement program using Lean Higher Education as a guide. It’s a way to make your day-to-day work better!


Way of Thinking:

Train employees to make better decisions, be more productive, continually identify non-value-add activities or inefficiencies, and use problem-solving tools to remove inefficiencies from their processes.

Way of Behaving:

Engaging employees and departments by respecting each other, having a willingness and ability to collaborate to solve problems, actively soliciting ideas for improvement, encouraging teamwork, and helping each other be their best.

Set of Tools:

Provide the support structure and methods by which process improvement can happen. Used correctly, the tools help identify underlying problems and their causes which can then be addressed vs. guessing at solutions in the absence of Lean Higher Education.

Hear From Campus Leadership

“Continuous improvement is a vital aspect of any successful organization.  The University must strive to evolve, both organizationally and operationally, to remain on the cutting edge of success in higher education.”

Bob Pierce – Advancement

“What are the processes that you dread? Your agility team needs to hear about them so we can discover methods to improve them.”

Matt Fajack – Finance and Operations

“We want to encourage our staff to branch out of their silos, collaborate across the division and think broader about our stakeholders. Who is impacted by or benefits from changes made? Include them in our discussions and empower them to make recommendations and decisions.”

Ryan Bradley – Strategic Communications

Success Stories

Learn from what others accomplish using Agility skills!

Engage Users

The HR Operations team wanted to improve the New Hire Onboarding checklist. They wanted to get the demo more defined before they showed it to anyone. Then they remembered one of the tenets of Agility: to respect people by engaging stakeholders early to ask their opinions. HR Ops invited four key hiring managers to discuss their plans and discovered the design wouldn’t be helpful. Asking the right people early on saved many hours of working in the wrong direction! HR Ops will now build a project team including these representatives with the goal of delivering an even better solution!


Prior to implementing the new portal for academic misconducts, each college was importing them by hand from emails. It was taking about 30 minutes per case to put them into the Maxient system. Now it takes less than 60 seconds! For the College of Arts and Sciences alone, that means a savings of around 250 hours per semester. The College of Arts and Sciences collaborated with OAA and the other colleges to improve this process for the University.

Picture of a collaboration scene. There is no link from the picture.

Picture of a collaboration scene. There is no link from the picture.


We began auditing the medication expenses of older OJI claims to ensure that they are related to our injury.   We also review any medication alternatives that may be available. This often involves conversations with our pharmacy contacts.  We’ve let our pharmacy contacts know that they can contact us regarding any possible improvements or any medications that may need to be reviewed.  In the long run, we expect these audits to save UA a considerable amount of money. It has the potential to save UA $250,000 annually. 

Encourage Participation

To encourage improvement ideas submission and follow-up, different UA Divisions and Departments have developed systems and forms, including:

The Office of Teaching Innovation and Digital Education (OTIDE) created a digital slide on the University Hall TVs with a Form QR code that encourages staff members to submit project and improvement proposals for the OTIDE Agility team.

The F&O Shared and Administrative Services Division (FOSAS) created an Agility form for employees to submit improvement opportunities and non-value-added activities identified, and an Agility channel in Teams to share information. The form QR code is included on posters at breakrooms to reach people who do not have or are not at their computers.

The Advancement Division developed a process improvement recommendation page for all staff members to give feedback and/or recommendations for process improvements that affect the division’s workflow.


Capstone College of Nursing Committee Restructuring Project. CCN was experiencing the burden of too many committee meetings, and employees felt that there was often redundancy in meeting content.

A task force was formed with members of the Agility Team and the chairs of the CCN Faculty Organization committees to evaluate the committee structure. The task force reviewed the functions of their committees, the structures of other colleges as well as other schools of nursing. They recommended that 4 of the committees be discontinued and their functions absorbed into the remaining 5. The new committee structure went into effect 2023. In addition to reducing the number of committees, the review highlighted that the existing committees could meet less frequently.



Agility Spotlight

Graduate School Annual Retreat

“Like many units across campus, the Graduate School was looking at several major process changes at once, across both the admissions and the student-success areas. These new initiatives meant significant alterations in the way all of the Graduate School staff went about their daily duties. 2023 was the time for some change-management conversations: Would there really be time efficiencies for all stakeholders? How would the changes be communicated? What level of training and support would be needed? Was everyone’s voice heard?

During the Graduate School all-day retreat, Rainey Way and Carolina Vega, from UA’s Agility Continuous Improvement team, served as facilitators for these critical conversations. Through a series of interactive exercises and presentations, they gathered input on the interrelated concepts of psychological safety and change management. For example, they helped the staff to identify their own core principles around change management (create goals, listen often, communicate clearly, stay positive, focus on progress), effective teams (creating space and opportunity for challenging the status quo), and individual vs. organizational change. The Graduate School also utilized a graphic notetaker, who created large posters that memorialized the key concepts and ensured that the insights from the retreat were preserved for future months.

The core concepts of Agility Continuous Improvement were fundamental to the retreat’s success. In preparation, the staff read one of the books recommended by the Agility team (The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth). The Agility facilitators ensured that everyone had a chance to speak, and that the leadership team was able to respond to staff concerns. Some of the exercises including removing the leadership team to a separate room, both so that they could work on communication and listening strategies together and so that the staff could work through ideas without their supervisors present. All of these exercises coalesced into a valuable “reset” and a renewed mindset for managing the changes ahead.”

Susan Carvalho, Dean of the Graduate School

Agility Spotlight

Student Life

The Spotlight this semester is for Laura Thomas, Director of Professional Development at the Division of Student Life. Laura is the Team Leader of the Student Life Agility Team and a great partner and active supporter of Agility Concepts.

Laura believes that Agility at UA is important because the work of continuous improvement is everyone’s business. More efficient processes make customers happier, staff more satisfied in their roles, boosts morale, and creates more positive relationships through the process.

In Student Life, some innovative teams that have been working with the Agility concepts include University Recreation, Business Services and Student Engagement.

“Overall, I think one of the most impactful Agility concepts that we have used is to get everyone at the table when we talk process improvement. That means staff at all levels, student employees, student participants, etc. All people involved in the process can have a voice and a different perspective to ensure any continuous improvement outcome is mutually beneficial and enhances efficiency.”

The Process Improvement Department has been invited to present to the Student Life Division wide monthly meetings and we have the opportunity to share some of the Agility Concepts such as Psychological Safety, Change Management and Liberating Structures. Regarding the sessions Laura mentions: “The presentations have been well received and inspirational for staff of all types. Whether a staff member has worked for twenty years or is in their first year at UA, these principles can be helpful to everyone!”.

The Student Life Agility Team permanently encourage the staff to attend the Agility trainings offered through HR LMS.

Agility Spotlight

Ashley Thomas – Arts & Sciences

The Spotlight this semester is for Ashley Thomas. She has been at UA since fall 2015.  When time permits, she participates in professional development opportunities to invest in herself and to better her work environment.  When the Agility Training Series launched in 2022, Ashley immediately gravitated toward these onsite learning opportunities to fine tune existing skills and adapt new ones.

In Arts and Sciences, Ashley serves as a College Academic Records Manager, and regularly seeks ways to help the College continuously improve.  She takes pride in helping to provide quality support services to academic departments, staff, students, and partnering with individuals in various units across campus.

The Psychological Safety training course has been her favorite course in the Agility Training Series. “I have learned that psychological safety means speaking up and voicing concerns without fear or negative repercussions when discussing change or reevaluating best practices.  We have over 7,100 University employees.  Regardless of your position, everyone has a responsibility for creating a psychologically safe workplace.  We have so many people and too much to do to not invest in developing our professional development skills— especially utilizing effective communication skills.”

Ashley has been able to take what she has learned from the Agility courses and share best practices with her team in the Arts and Sciences Student Services Center.  She also recently co-presented at the Southern Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers Conference on the importance of investing in professional development skills and the workplace benefits that accompany this investment.  Some of the benefits highlighted in the presentation include improvements in communication, problem-solving, process streamlining, and job performance. 

Agility Metrics

The benefits from improvements can be measured into these categories:

Image of Agility metrics categories, that are explained on the text in front.


Reduce lead time, cycle time, waiting time, time to complete a form, motion, and travel time.


Reduce process steps, handoffs, decision points, delays, complaints, number of forms, and backlog.


Increase beneficiary satisfaction, cost savings, beneficiary cost savings, and redirected work hours due to gains in efficiency.

Improvement Projects from across the University

Check out what UA teams are doing to improve employee morale and create efficiencies


Agility Book Club

Books & Schedule