PIU went to the First International Conference on Lean Six Sigma in Higher Education on 24th-25th June, in the elegant but somewhat eccentric surroundings of the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow. The conference was organised by the Centre for Research in Six Sigma and Process Excellence (CRISSPE) at Strathclyde University.
We were keen to go as the keynote speakers were two of the leading Higher Education exponents of Lean thinking in the States –Professor Bob Emiliani of Connecticut State University and Professor Bill Balzer of Bowling Green State University.
Bob Emiliani has blogged about the conference here: http://leanprofessor.com/blog/2013/06/25/lean-in-higher-ed-conference-part-2/ and here: http://leanprofessor.com/blog/2013/06/25/lean-in-higher-ed-conference-part-3/ and we don’t want to repeat what he’s said.
Interesting points that we picked up from Bill’s talk:
· He feels that the improvement he made to the counselling appointments process at BGSU was so worthwhile, that even if it was his only Lean project, it would be a great achievement. We’re going to be looking at our own counselling appointment process soon so it will be interesting to learn whether we feel the same at the end of the review!
· He introduced a different set of wastes relevant to Universities
o Non-strategic effort
o Missing information
o Unnecessary transport
Interesting points from Bob:
· Management support means nothing unless they are prepared to be actively involved in process improvement activities
· Students work on different timescales to academic staff, and academic staff work on different timescales to admin staff. Bob represented this as a series of clocks – the first in hours and minutes, the second in weeks, and the third in months. We think this is a really good visual indicator of why there is often so much mismatch between the needs of the student and the University – and we plan to pinch it for our own use.
More generally it was interesting to note that although the conference was entitled ‘Lean Six Sigma’ there was a lot of Lean and very little Six Sigma. We were also intrigued by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which has c. 300 students and 2000 staff. They have been implementing a Six Sigma programme, even though they were only set up 4 years ago, in order to accelerate their research into energy resources.
It was also good to reconnect with Steve Yorkstone of Sustainable Futures and Mark Robertson at St. Andrews, and to talk to colleagues from the UK and other parts of the world.