What Is Continuous Quality Improvement?

CQI is an approach to quality management that builds upon traditional quality assurance methods. It focuses on "process" rather than the individual, recognizes both internal and external "clients" and promotes the need for objective data to analyze and improve processes.

CQI is a philosophy which contends that most things can be improved. This philosophy does not subscribe to the theory that "if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it." At the core of CQI is serial experimentation (the scientific method) applied to everyday work to meet the needs of those we serve and improve the services we offer.

What Is MSU Billings’ Vision for CQI?

MSUB is committed to continuous quality improvement. The university is striving to create an environment where everyone takes ownership of the improved educational enterprise and where high value is placed on teamwork, collaboration, and communication.

What Principles Will Achieve Our Vision?

To achieve this vision, we will strive to build CQI on the following four principles:

  • Strong leadership at all levels to articulate a vision and inspire a lasting commitment.
  • Three areas of focus: "clients" (students, faculty, staff, employers, and others), the study of work processes, and information-based decision making.
  • Teamwork and team decision making leading to quality improvements; teams operating from a common understanding of systems and processes.
  • Conceptual links to university strategic initiatives and goals and assessment goals for improving the teaching-learning process.

What Is the Role of Students in Continuous Quality Improvement?

Students are the largest constituency served by the faculty and staff. As such, they can provide information about their educational experiences and can be participants in and beneficiaries of CQI. Students can give input regarding what improvements are needed in the services they receive and in determining how successful the interventions have been. When appropriate, students are invited to serve on teams.

What Is the Role of Faculty in Continuous Quality Improvement?

Faculty play an important role in CQI. Some serve on the CQI Steering Committee and are delegated the responsibility of heading one of the nine NW accreditation standards for preparing the institutional self-study document. Other faculty will work on subcommittees for each of those standards and will be instrumental in guiding the data collection and other processes that lead to the self-study. Other faculty have interactions with the University's administrative and business processes, and CQI will therefore have relevance to them. Faculty may want to look at ways to integrate CQI with the teaching/learning process. Deans and department heads can play an active role in providing leadership for continuous quality improvement.

What Is the Role of Staff in Continuous Quality Improvement?

Quality is not limited to students, faculty and administration. CQI is a systematic approach that provides methods and tools to enhance the practice of quality and maintain excellence at all levels. This means focusing on quality throughout the University that will improve work processes and services to all the constituents the university serves.

How Committed Is Administration To Following CQI?

The administration is committed to the campus-wide initiative/concept of CQI and expects all current and future employees to share that commitment. The Provost has appointed a steering committee to oversee the CQI activities on campus. This committee will oversee the upcoming (fall 2008) Northwest Accreditation visit and cyclic program reviews mandated by the Board of Regents, and integrate the university strategic initiatives/goals into the institutional self-study and the program reviews.

Isn't CQI a Way of Saying that we do not have the Quality?

No. Quality is a relative concept, not an absolute. MSU-B has long been recognized nationally and internationally for the high quality of its students, faculty, and programs. CQI is a systematic approach that provides methods and tools to enhance the practice of quality and maintain excellence at all levels.

Is CQI Just Another Means of Budget-Cutting?

No. CQI is not a means for budget-cutting. It is a means for focusing on quality throughout the University that will improve work processes, increase productivity and, in some cases, lower costs. The work of some CQI teams may result in the allocation of additional resources. In some instances, increased costs in the short-term will result in cost savings over the long run.

Is CQI a one time event and are we going to be done with it after NW accreditation visit?

CQI is not a one time event. Program reviews, and accreditation visits are periodic end points of mandated events but CQI should be an ongoing effort that continues beyond those mandates. CQI at MSUB will position the university in meeting those major mandates in the coming years such as the NWCCU commission visit in fall 2008, NCATE in spring 2009, AACSB and other program accreditation visits. In addition, it will help the university to meet the Board of Regents cyclic program review mandate. Most of all, this approach will allow us to integrate the university strategic initiatives and goals into the self-study process that will be conducted using the processes outlined by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

Is CQI another buzz word for Outcomes Assessment?

CQI and outcomes assessment are two interrelated concepts. The products of outcomes assessment form the basis for CQI. Once you have assessed the outcomes of a program or a professional practice, you then strive to continuously improve the quality of those outcomes to better serve the clientele.

What should I be doing to share the university’s commitment to CQI?

First and foremost you should believe that CQI is an operational philosophy worth adopting and gear all professional activities toward that philosophy. This means showing interest, learning about it, practicing it and volunteering to help. You are probably already following the principles of CQI as part of your efforts to constantly improve your performance.