Thursday, 11 June 2015

The Third International Lean Six Sigma in Higher Education Conference

We were very lucky to travel up to a very warm and sunny Edinburgh for the Third International Conference on Lean Six Sigma for Higher Education. It was wonderful to hear from and speak to so many individual Lean practitioners and continuous/process improvement coordinators from America, Canada, Australia and Europe.
It was interesting that many of the problems and difficulties we face are felt by many of our colleagues from across many different institutions.
The first day included talks from three different key speakers in the morning and a choice of three different workshops in the afternoon. Each workshop consisted of three different paper presentations covering topics from Kaizen events, Lean Six Sigma Leadership and simulated work environments’.
Dr Karl van der Merwe from the School of Engineering at Nelson Mandela University in South Africa led the presentation on simulated learning environments. I found this discussion particularly interesting as it talked about the benefits of setting up a simulated work environment in order to better teach Lean concepts and techniques. We have tried different simulations, designed to allow our training participants to see the need for and application of Lean techniques as part of our module training. It was interesting to hear how this had been done in another institution.
It was excellent to hear so many different discussions and experiences of the application of Lean Six Sigma in Higher Education, with the opportunity to discuss this in further detail during a panel discussion the following day.
Chris Butterworth from SA Partners in Australia delivered the keynote address on Tuesday. Chris’s presentation outlined and discussed the example set by Kangan TAFE (a higher education college) in Australia. We had previously heard about the brilliant work being carried out at Kangan TAFE when we met with Peter Hines a couple of months ago.  They are a brilliant example of how an organizational wide culture of continuous improvement and Lean can be imbedded within higher education institutions, leading to great results both for the students and for the staff involved. The focus of Chris’s address was on the visual management currently being used in Kangan TAFE, giving us food for thought about how we might use this back at Sheffield.

Recurrent Themes

  • Importance of Leadership
  • Importance of Leadership and top down support – The need to support continuous improvement through leading by example
  • The importance of implementing successful improvements in order to show people that it does work
  • The need to champion the success stories rather than continually dwelling on instances when it has not been done properly, whilst still learning from these occasions
  • The importance of keeping the students at the forefront of any changes, ensuring that their needs are met and that our processes add value to our customers
  • The need to keep trying!

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