Friday, 20 March 2015

Working with other universities

We were delighted (with a hefty pinch of trepidation) to be asked to deliver our eight-module practitioner training to a group of 12 staff at The University of Salford. The staff form part the Enabling the Student Journey project team, who had identified a need to improve their process improvement capability.

Immediate challenges for us including scaling up some of the training exercises, we tend to deliver it to smaller groups, so some of our training exercises had to be adjusted. Also we tried to amend some of the training slides to reflect Salford's processes (and images). For the first time we also gave paper handouts (at the request of the team), we usually just give read access to the slides on Google drive.

Delivering the training has been great fun because so many members of the team are very focused on identifying ways to improve the student facing processes. For me it has been some of the practical things that have been most challenging for me. We have a fantastic room for process improvement activities here at Sheffield, so delivering the training in different classrooms, with different AV has caused me some anxiety. We deliver two modules a day, so I worry that staff do not have sufficient time to reflect (although I have no evidence for this). Also, I want to make further refinements to the training exercises now that we have feedback from a larger group.

For me the best part has been reaffirmation that here in the UK, higher education institutions are well placed for sharing good practice, and I applaud the openness of the Salford staff when discussing various problems (which of course I'll take to the grave). One of the most interesting reminders is that process improvement capability in HE is absolutely vital, you cannot take an improved process from another university and impose it elsewhere, we need to understand current state (and culture) and identify value in the eyes of their students and staff.

There are many shared challenges for process improvement in HE, and building on existing networks to share training and good practice is really helpful. What we must avoid doing is giving each other one size fits all solutions, and continue to develop our problem identification and solving skills instead. We're really enjoying doing some work outside of the university, and hope that we'll also be able to improve the training we deliver to Sheffield staff as a result of this experience.

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