MIT model explains how the brain can learn novel tasks while still remembering what it has already learned.
Five key MIT "business processes" have been selected for closer review by the reengineering Core Team as it moves toward recommending two or three processes for redesign in late May.
Professor James D. Bruce, program manager of the reengineering effort, identified and described the five processes as:
- Student support-the collection of administrative functions performed for students from arrival on campus to graduation, including registration for subjects, recording grades, administering financial aid, placement, support by the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs, etc.
- Research acquisition-those functions performed between identification of a research opportunity and receipt of an awarded grant or contract.
- Laboratory operations-functions that support the operation of a laboratory, including plant and operations; worker health and safety; regulatory oversight; research services such as animal care, radiation protection and environmental medicine; and equipment maintenance.
- Management reporting-this process focuses on the provision of reports that are necessary to manage one of the Institute's departments, laboratories, centers or administrative units.
- Buying and paying for supplies-this process focuses on the functions involved in acquiring a product or a service for use at the Institute and reaches from the determination of need by an individual or project to accounting paying the bill.
"These are among our most important processes," Professor Bruce said. "These activities contribute to the greatness of MIT. Therefore, improvements in these areas will have far-reaching impacts."
The Core Team analyzed the Institute's major processes on the basis of cost, impact on revenue, potential for improvement, significance of changes to MIT's future and the ease of implementation of changes before selecting the five named above for closer study.
The Core Team has scheduled meetings with leaders and staff people in each of those process areas. A series of day-long meetings will be aimed at developing a common understanding of each process and identifying ways to make improvements, Professor Bruce said.
The Core Team, which has been meeting since mid-March, is made up of eight veteran MIT administrators from across the Institute. Its first order of business was to analyze MIT operations. The analysis was made by processes rather than by department/section/office/laboratory functions. The reason: key processes at MIT cut across those sectional lines.
When two or three processes are selected for redesign in late May, a cross-functional team will be appointed for each, Professor Bruce said. Each redesign team will analyze a process in depth and make recommendations aimed at improving the process.
The importance of the reengineering effort to MIT was emphasized by President Charles M. Vest in recent remarks to the Quarter Century Club. The Institute's reengineering effort "will be pure MIT: think big, analyze ourselves, act on what we learn, and show the rest of the academic world how to do it.
"In the process, we will learn to think more about ourselves as a system, how one person's work affects that of others throughout the Institute, how a savings in one area makes possible creative investments in another, how to avoid duplicating each others' efforts, how to do it right and do it once, thus making each individual's work more important," he said.
"But no matter how we reorganize and change, it will still be the values, loyalty and commitment of people that will make MIT great in the future, just as it has in the past."
The people of MIT, Dr. Vest said, "are going to have to lead in yet another way-by learning how to be even more efficient and effective as an organization."
Meanwhile, suggestions and comments on the reengineering undertaking are coming in to the special e-mail address
A version of this article appeared in the April 6, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 28).