We aim to continuously improve here in PIU as well as other people, and we often try and block out an hour in order to improve our services (training, workshops and process improvement projects) as well as our internal processes. Sometimes we benefit from some external help. Steve Yorkstone has been working with The University of Sheffield since 2011, when he facilitated the two lean pilot projects. Since then he has acted as a critical friend and coach.
The aim of our day was to reflect on the changes within PIU (many of you will have read about this http://processimprovementunit.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/new-year-new-piu.html) to ensure we are clear about roles and responsibilities, to review our documentation to ensure it has not become overly bureaucratic and to kick start some training we are designing to explain standard work.
In the morning we had an icebreaker, which helped us explore each team member’s understanding of the purpose of PIU, and our own roles. The exercise involved music but fortunately (for some) no singing. Then we explored our visual management to ensure that it helps all members of the unit manage and plan our work. We have spent a lot of time improving our visual management and we were pleased to be told that it was mostly fit for purpose - although we still identified six further opportunities for improvement.
Like so many of our project teams we had demanded a bit too much from the day, so we decided to leave looking at our documentation for the time being. We spent the afternoon reflecting on standard work. A particular difficulty we have is explaining to experts (e.g. counsellors, student advice workers, developers, academics etc.) how and when standard processes can either free up their time to get on with the day job, or is the right thing to do for our customers. We made a good start on creating some training, and we look forward to testing it out on a few cics-chat volunteers in the future.
We also spent some time talking about the direction of the unit in the next twelve months, some of us more positive than others. We were all agreed that the training we offer, the process improvement projects we deliver offer good value, next steps may include higher value projects and looking at how we can work with our steering group to influence strategy (watch this space).
Key learning/reminders for me during the day were:
- Improving processes is hard even when it’s your day job.
- Good communication can be hard even when a team is small and sees each other relatively frequently.
- A day of introspection needs to be carefully managed: it is all too easy to only look inwards towards the team and forget about our customers, and the wider university community.
- Even when we’ve taken a lot of time to improve something e.g. our visual management board, there are always improvements that can be made, and it is really helpful to have a critical friend who can help improvement.
- Taking some time out with the team to reflect on purpose and role is a fantastic way of getting people to voice their hopes and concerns: expert facilitation means that they can get heard.
Thank you Steve!
Steve Yorkstone has exceptional knowledge of Lean in Higher Education. He has worked at St Andrews and Edinburgh Napier University. He is the chair of the Lean HE Hub and editorial board member of the Lean Management Journal. www.stephenyorkstone.com