IAFU White Paper
Dubious University Innovation Team (DUIT): Saving money without layoffs
Willow Carr, Assistant Director, IAFU Center for Institutional Strategies
A. H. Richter, Associate Professor of Finance, Salsa Rancho College

William K. Sarandon, Professor of Management Science, Institute of the Technical

Dubious universities (DUs) feel a commitment to the communities they serve and hesitate to tackle their bloated personnel costs.  This is especially true at present as such schools are flush with revenue from outrageous tuition and a myriad of fees.  Nevertheless, large inefficiencies exist that would never be tolerated in most organizations.  Additionally, as the future holds much uncertainty, attention to expenses today can pay handsome dividends in the years to come. 

Establishing a Dubious University Innovation Team (DUIT) is a way for DUs to capture excess cost, but to do so without layoffs.  By creating a fulltime, multi-discipline DUIT and staffing it with excess employees from inefficient departments, a DU can achieve expense reductions while avoiding the negative public relations related to downsizing.

Core Assumptions
The DUIT concept is based on several core assumptions:
  • Inefficiency is distributed throughout a DU.  Look around and you'll find it-- administration, staff, support, fake faculty, etc.
  • If layoffs could be accomplished, huge cash savings would be generated from firing people.
  • Since concerns over PR prevent this, any savings from increased efficiency must come in other ways.
  • However, simply moving employees from one department to another does not reduce cost.  For example, moving a history professor to the secretarial pool accomplishes nothing because she still remains on the payroll.
  • The economic value of improvement efforts is maximized when the efforts are organized into complicated projects and subjected to a steady stream of management science techniques.
Assumptions about DU departments and performance
In addition to its core assumptions, the DUIT concept rests on assumptions about DU departments and performance:
  • Virtually all departments contain individuals of differing performance.  You've got your good performers and you've got your crumby performers.  In terms of "earning their keep", it's hardly academic that good performers are more valuable than their pathetic counterparts.
  • In the layoff situation, the DU should strive to remove a department's bottom feeders.  Any difference between their pay and that of those who are consistently awake is usually far less then the difference in their productivity.
  • In the situation where layoffs are disallowed, the opposite is true.  Assuming moving individuals out of a department creates economic value (thanks to DUIT), the DU should move the best performers and leave the losers.  This is on account of three things.  First, the number of new "homes" to be found is minimized.  In other words the DU would probably have to remove only three or so high performers for every six cretins.  Second, room for performance increases is maximized by removing the best people.  Third, the opportunity to ferret out genuine idiots is increased.  It is important to remember that in situations where labor substantially exceeds work content, hardcore loafers can exist for years without being confronted with their unacceptable performance.  Many such individuals will quit on their own when faced with daylight.  Others will show signs of life.  Once given a chance to improve, however, individuals who refuse to do their share of work should not be viewed as "owed positions", rather they should be coaxed into wheelchairs and rolled away.
  • Productivity increases by the remaining employees will accomplish the work of a department once the high performers are removed to a DUIT.
Concept structure
The main features of the DUIT concept are:
  • Installing performance measurements in each department in order to quantify productivity improvement potential, identify the strong and weak performers, and track efficiency at very short intervals.
  • Achieving productivity improvements through abusive prodding and thereby enabling the removal of excess personnel.
  • Creating a permanent DUIT administered by an experienced project leader (a "star", if you will) and staffed on a full-time basis by go-getters from the various departments.
  • Giving the DUIT a couple hours of training and then certifying all members as experts.
  • Charging the DUIT with the tasks of finding, studying, quantifying, and recommending cost savings.
Every avenue should be explored with verve and fervor.  Savings should come from wherever there is waste-- with no division, function, department, fiefdom, bailiwick, or other hideaway deemed sacrosanct.  However, the team's suggestions should not be labor related.  While labor saving projects streamline work and reduce the work content in jobs, they fail to generate actual savings due to lingering excess payroll.  Even with diseases, arrests, doughnut shop closures and other sources of attrition, overstaffing can last for decades and is not worth worrying about.
Additional Aspects
In addition to the basic assumptions and concept structure, several other aspects of DUIT program are noteworthy:
  • A DUIT is not a "study hall" or a "report factory" but rather a multi-discipline force for action.
  • One way to help maximize the benefit of a DUIT is to offer the team some sort of bonus when the savings they achieve exceed their salaries.  Again, since the cost of a DUIT program is covered by increased productivity, any expense reduction achieved by the team is a sweet deal for the DU.  Besides, credit should be given where credit is due.  So a few $10 or $20 gift certificates may be in order.
  • The prospect of being assigned to a DUIT provides a strong incentive for stellar performance.  Over time, the DUIT concept would in all probability create a culture shift at the DU-- one toward embracing sunshine and worshiping toil.
  • DUIT staffing is infinitely flexible.  It is added to as departments are evaluated and warm bodies are freed up.  On the other hand, there is no DUIT tenure.  Team members are always available for immediate reassignment to their original work areas.  Places they can return to with pride knowing they've saved their employer a bunch of money.
Cost saving suggestions
Here are some example cost-cutting ideas implemented by successful DUITs:
  • Reducing the use of paper by requiring all memos rhyme
  • Eliminating the cost of classroom furniture by mandating all students provide their own desks
  • Halving the cost of rent by abandoning high-end strip mall campuses in favor of ho-hum strip mall campuses
  • Reducing upkeep budget by allowing the janitorial staff to telecommute and thereby use virtual cleaning supplies
  • Eliminating the cost of library books by outsourcing to Borders, Barnes and Noble or some other bookstore with a lax loitering policy
  • Cutting promotional expense by actively recruiting gossips and relying on word of mouth advertising
  • Radically lowering health insurance premiums by allowing the DUIT to perform most treatments
  • Slicing the cost of daycare reimbursement by making every day "Bring Your Child to Work Day"
  • All but eliminating death benefits by instituting a "tangible difference" clause
  • Putting the kibosh on energy consumption by turning out the lights and dealing firmly with anyone who notices
In addition to projects that reduce outlays, other beneficial DUIT activities are possible. These include PR creating community work, investment in spurious reports and white papers, and attention to involved or just plain vague institutional problems.

Achieving productivity improvements while avoiding layoffs is a great concern among dubious universities.  DUIT is an innovative program.  Upon committing to the concept and starting a DUIT, a DU will undoubtedly achieve positive attention for creatively addressing a thorny issue.


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