Thursday, 16 October 2014

How much intervention?

In the Process Improvement Unit our role is to facilitate process improvement projects and deliver training. It is important that our project teams, and the wider departments have ownership of the changes and future improvement work in their area. Our remit is to question and support the teams to focus on improvements using a lean approach.

Recently, one of our projects has caused us to take a more active role in helping to deliver the improvements. The project coordinator was unexpectedly unavailable and the rest of the team were so busy balancing the day job and the improvement work that they didn't have resource to help with coordination activities.

We talked to the project sponsor and the team and agreed that PIU would assist with project coordination. This has allowed the improvement work to move forward and ensured that the project team receive regular updates. We're still involved with coordinating the work (which will not be fully implemented until mid 2015), so we don't know what the impact of our intervention will be. We are closely working with people to ensure that we continue to support rather than shape the improvements.

We were willing to take on this additional responsibility because there are a number of positive factors in place: a highly committed project team who are keen to make the changes; a project sponsor who is also very supportive of the changes and has been keen to be involved at a number of levels; also, we do not have the relevant skills to make the changes ourselves, so we can truly coordinate rather than make the changes. Our fear is that we'll help in the short term but stymie future improvements; people's ideas about how to avoid this would be appreciated.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Nottingham LeanHE Hub Meeting

What’s the best way to overhaul your computer systems? That was the question posed at the latest meeting of the LeanHEHub in Nottingham University. Mick Gash, the Lean Programme Manager introduced the group to the work being undertaken by ‘Project Transform’, Nottingham’s major initiative “to deliver joined up support systems and processes throughout the student lifecycle, across the whole University.” Key to the project is the understanding that the transformation is “far more than merely an IT system implementation.  It is about delivering a solution that the people in the University value and feel ownership for, ensuring that the most efficient processes are implemented, supported by the right technology solution.” Nottingham summarise this as ‘People, Process, Technology’.
This approach fits well with what we, currently on a much smaller scale, are trying to achieve with the Process Improvement Unit. From our early days we have tried to ensure that in our projects, we think about people first, process second and technology last. Why is this so important? Because it is people who are served by processes, people who operate processes and people who are frustrated by processes. Without understanding the problems that people face it’s impossible to design better processes. Once a better process is designed, one that fits the needs of ‘customers’ (however defined) and one that operates without waste, batching and holdups, then technology can be used to provide further improvements. Doing technology first will only produce a process that does the wrong thing faster.
We’re really encouraged by the tight integration between ‘lean’ methods and systems procurement and development that Nottingham are pioneering, and hope that we can achieve similar synergies here at Sheffield with our own student systems review.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Yorkshire Lean Learning

Earlier this year a community of practice was established for Yorkshire lean professionals. Last night I was able to attend my first meeting, it was the third meeting of the group.

Laura Hallett from The University of York welcomed us to the event and introduced the speakers. She also mentioned the Leanhe Hub conference which will be held in Cardiff next month

The main presentation was by Stewart Halliday Assistant Director of Transformation and Change at City of York Council. At the council there is a drive for capital programmes, efficiency, business consolidation and transformation. They use lean objectives to empower all employees to make a difference, create conditions for widespread improvement, provide understanding and skills of lean thinking and give control to those who see the opportunities.

Their lean principles are: Don't waste people's time, provide the quality that is required, changes must be identified and made as close to the Ing of delivery as possible, it's an ongoing task.

The next steps are looking at not just improving their existing processes, but creating a vision of the service they want to provide. They are thinking about leadership, clarity of purpose, involving as many people as possible (including our customers). They are also finding sometime for leaders to tolerate the failures, and encourage staff to try new things, rather than fearing failure.

The next slot was Hannah Smith one of the Business Analysts from The University of York, she shared an example of a visual agenda, based on Penny Pullan's work in “Making Projects Work”. The aim of the agenda is to provide a shared visual aid to support a meeting. It needs to have a purpose, plan, outcomes, roles, ground rules, actions and a car park for questions. The use of the visual agenda has been really effective and is gaining momentum at The University of York.

Hannah also talked about Piktochart which is a free app which is good for helping people to represent things visually. They are using a blog to informally share information with the wider university community about their projects and have also created a wiki site for the formal actions. Other work they have been doing includes been using Pinterest shared board and Hannah also shared a nice example of how they help teams create a vision statement using a big whiteboard in an interactive session.

We then had 15 minutes for networking, it was great to catch up with people using lean in their day job, I look forward to attending the next event in December.