Through LEAN processes, CTSI streamlines job titles

Some departments called them information analysts.

Others called them tech associates.  Or health project coordinators.  Or laboratory technicians.  Or any of nearly three dozen other titles that were unearthed when stakeholders in the CTSI and elsewhere analyzed who, exactly, was coordinating research studies of human subjects.

With at least 30 redundant job titles across the university, the myriad of positions created several logistical challenges.  Chief among them was that no one could be certain that each of the coordinators had been trained in the proper way.


Nancy Needler

“We were trying to identify the best mechanisms for reaching out to coordinators to support them, and we used to say ‘How can we make sure we’re reaching everyone we need to?’” said Nancy Needler, research subject advocate for the CTSI.  “There was no one complete method to do that.”

But using methods consistent with LEAN manufacturing, a waste-eliminating methodology developed by Toyota, the CTSI was able to connect with both leaders and front-line staffers in departments all across the university to address the issue.

The  CTSI-facilitated workgroup, collaborating with human resources (HR), established the new title of “human subject research coordinator,” separating it into a three-step track based on responsibility levels and experience.

With that, 30+ job titles have become just three.


Streamlining the job titles will have benefits that stretch well beyond training efficiencies.  Coordinators now have defined and easily-measured career paths, which may make the positions more appealing.

They can move more easily between departments, since the nomenclature will be the same.

And most importantly, the new system will ensure that coordinators are properly trained to their appropriate levels.

Needler, who coordinated the activity to consolidate the human subject research coordinator positions, said that LEAN’s methodology and problem-solving methods helped make the initiative a success.

“We didn’t always agree.  You’re not supposed to,” said Needler.  “But you have to agree to disagree and you also have to agree to seek consensus.”

At the next SCORE meeting from noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday, April 10 in Helen Wood Hall auditorium, Jenny Argentieri, manager of LEAN education and training at the medical center will present an introduction to the LEAN approach.

Though it began in an automobile factory, the LEAN methodology applies to all manner of industry, including that of research. Because the workgroup members openly shared their input, and HR welcomed and encouraged the process, the creation of this new job series was successful.

“LEAN teaches that the only thing worse than not getting employees engaged in process improvement is asking for the input and not following through with their ideas,” said Needler.

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