University of Alaska Process Improvement

The University of Alaska at Fairbanks was established on May 3, 1917, when, Alaska Territorial Gov. John Strong signed the bill to create the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines, now known as the University of Alaska.   When it opened its doors to students in 1922, a small faculty of six offered 16 classes to an equally small student body of six. Current enrollment is over 9800 students with a faculty of 633.

The University’s mission reads: The University of Alaska Fairbanks is a Land, Sea, and Space Grant university and an international center for research, education, and the arts, emphasizing the circumpolar North and its diverse peoples.  UAF integrates teaching, research, and public service as it educates students for active citizenship and prepares them for lifelong learning and careers.

Short Description

Beginning in 2012 the University of Alaska at Fairbanks used Process Advantage® to institutionalize process improvement campus-wide.


Doug Johnson was asked by UAF to train 15 staff members, the PIT Crew, to be able to facilitate our process improvement tools with a wide variety of teams across campus. Projects are chosen based on impact to the University, with a particular focus on those processes known to be a frustration to the University’s customers.

Critical Issue

The University had a need for solid, successful process improvement.  They had tried other approaches previously, but had been unsuccessful.


Below are some of the needs that triggered the selection of several of the process improvement projects:

  • Sponsored Award Set-up: the grant award set-up process was cumbersome and lengthy. Often after a grant was awarded, the researcher had to wait as long as 60 days before utilizing the funds. The goal for the PA team was to reduce this time to 5 days
  • HR Pre-Recruitment: the existing recruitment process was slow and overly complex. Searches for new staff were often delayed or failed altogether. Exceptional, qualified candidates found employment elsewhere due to the lengthy process.
  • Procurement: Faculty and staff were disgruntled by the process involved in purchasing.  There were too many redundant steps and a lack of accountability throughout. The PA team worked to reduce and eliminate the inefficiencies.

PGS Provided

PGS trained and assisted the 15 facilitators trained as the PIT Crew as they began their work on systems throughout the UAF campus.


On the projects listed above, the results were nothing short of spectacular.

  • Grant Award Setup Process: 92% of grants are now set up within 5 days, with a 2 day average.  Yearly savings/cost avoidance of $150,000.
  • Pre-Recruitment Process: Time to direct hire was reduced from 30 days down to 3 with a yearly savings/cost avoidance of $160,000.
  • Procurement: The team implemented automated notification emails, improved the purchase order process, and digitized much of the manual parts of the process. Total savings equated to $40,000.

Says one of the team members of the process improvement efforts: “Our communications, project management and customer satisfaction have improved tremendously.”