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A non-profit publication of the Office of the University Relations of Virginia Tech,
including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Tech center delivers performance, safety

By Liz Crumbley

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 30 - April 27, 1995

Businesses and organizations that need to transform managers into leaders, employees into innovators, plans into strategic systems, and the workplace into a safer, more efficient environment should contact Virginia Tech's Center for Organizational Performance Improvement.

Virginia Tech created the performance center by combining two well-established entities--the Virginia Quality and Productivity Center and the Management Systems Laboratories--that have managed more than $57 million in grants and contracts since 1980 by working with industry, government and academia to improve organizational performance.

The performance center helps navigate organizations through the whitewaters of constant change by providing leadership, skills, and knowledge in three major areas.

One area of expertise is large-scale organizational transformation. Center staff members apply their grand strategy system (GSS) to analyze the client organization's past and present setup and to plan for the future. The GSS ensures that improvement efforts are comprehensive, measured, and integrated.

Clients working with the Performance Center to attain organizational transformation through total quality management include the Botswana National Productivity Centre in Africa and the U.S. Department of the Navy.

In the area of organizational decision improvement, the center has pioneered the use of benchmarking (finding the best ways to perform a specific process and incorporating those methods into the client's organization) at federal agencies and numerous commercial enterprises.

The center provides continuing education and training in project management, continuous process improvement, and leadership techniques. The center's staff also designs and develops systems that will improve individual and group decision making in organizations.

The center is developing a model for federal workforce restructuring to address ongoing national and local budget cuts.

The third area of center expertise is implementing a total safety culture (TSC) in the workplace. Unsafe behaviors contribute to as much as 95 percent of all workplace injuries. The TSC approach takes into account the human element as well as the physical layout of the workplace.

Center staff members teach client organizations behavior-based safety by involving employees in creating and maintaining a safe workplace. TSC can help organizations increase productivity while decreasing worker injuries and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations.

TSC training has produced phenomenal results for several performance center clients. After only one year of TSC training, Sara Lee Knit Products lowered its injury rate by 65 percent and won a corporate safety award for greatest workplace safety improvement. Westinghouse Hanford Comany, reduced its lost/restricted workday rate by 32 percent; Exxon Chemical's OSHA violations dropped by 30 percent.

The performance center creates a TSC approach specific to the client's workplace. Hoechst Celanese in South Carolina reduced injuries from 70 the year before TSC training to only 20 the following year. Ed Ewald, vice-president of the company's Filter Products Division, said, "The willingness of Virginia Tech to work with us to tailor the approach to work within our organization was absolutely essential to it working in our environment--and it worked exceptionally well."

Organizations can obtain more information about performance center services by contacting Jyl Smithson, director of business development, at (703) 231-3347.