Friday, 23 October 2015

Committee Catch up in Cardiff

The UCISA PCMG committee (Project and Change Management Group) try to meet up every quarter. On Tuesday, I was pleased to attend the latest meeting that was hosted by Cardiff University.

It was the first time we had been able to meet as a committee since our event in June ( We took some time to go through the feedback from the event, which was mostly positive and very constructive. It gave us plenty of food for thought and guidance for planning our event next year.

We were also able to confirm that the latest toolkit guide has been published Early feedback suggests that the guide “Establishing a PMO in an HE Environment” is well received and is a useful resource for other institutions who are starting to set up a PMO. A lot of work goes into writing these guides, so it really helps knowing that they make a difference.

The meeting also gave us an opportunity to gauge ideas about how we can continue to work with other project and change mangers in HE.  If you have any suggestions please let us know via the mailing list (information here or on twitter @UCISA-PCMG

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Improving the Process for Managing Staff Contracts Reliant on Fixed Term Funding Within ScHARR

Last month, we ran a three-day process improvement event looking at the process for managing staff contracts reliant on fixed term funding within ScHARR. We had worked with some of the project team previously mapping and getting some baseline data for the process. The headline figure from the previous workshop is that this takes 11 full time staff a month to manage this process. Our steer for the project was to remove unnecessary duplication of effort and unnecessary delays in decision making.

During the first day of the event we invited two members of staff on the receiving end of this process to share the problems they have experienced. This encouraged the team to think about new problems outside of their own perspective. Next task was spent unpicking the original process map because the process had changed in parts or was slightly different to the previous assumptions.

We used reverse brainstorming as a tool to help the team identify improvements (alongside other good ideas they had already identified). We were particular impressed that the team identified that the existing process was highly reactive and at times dealing with failure demand. The team not only improved the existing process but also designed a workforce planning process that should mean at least 25% of staff never need to go through funding sourcing processes. The new process has a clear comms pan and set of actions to assist implementation. It is due to be implemented on 1 December 2015, so lots of hard work will be required for the next few months.

Key benefits will be:
  • A clear, standardised process for all staff involved
  • Implementation of a new workforce planning process
  • Reduction in duplicated effort
  • Removal of unnecessary approvals
  • Better use of the current systems available
  • Involvement of the appropriate staff at the appropriate steps
  • Removal of unnecessary consultation meetings
  • Removal of unnecessary redundancy letters
  • Reduction in staff time managing the process
  • Greater equity for staff on fixed term and open ended contracts
  • Key principles for moving staff from fixed term to open ended contracts

Measures to monitor the improvements include:
  • Staff satisfaction
  • Reduction in numbers of staff on fixed term contract monitoring report
  • Reduction in the amount of bridging funding used
  • Reduction in the number of redundancy letters sent out

We would really like to thank the team for all their hard work and enthusiasm throughout the project so far and are really looking forward to catching up with the team in a month's time to review the progress they have made.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Presenting at the AUA Development Conference

Last Thursday, I was at The University of York for the AUA (Association of University of Administrators) Development Conference. The day was focused on using Lean in HE and the improvements we can gain from this methodology. The plenary sessions were thought provoking, from a wide range of expert speakers.

The workshop that I led was focused on giving people a few tools that they can use for scoping a lean project. I was planning to co-present the session however; my colleague was unable to attend due to illness, this gave me some logistical challenges. So, this is a very personal blog entry not about the importance of good process, or using lean, but that in all these things we must not forget people.

I was incredibly humbled throughout the day, various colleagues (and good friends) from other institutions stepped in to help, made offers of assistance, stayed behind after the session (missing vital lunchtime) to support me. I couldn’t have delivered my session without the support of the AUA staff and The University of York who managed at short notice to get me extra flipchart paper and a lapel mic etc. Alongside the patience of the group I presented to (things took a little longer than planned), the support of a few strategically placed helpers and the people who chatted to me afterwards who also helped to clear way the post-it notes it really made a difference. A very personal thank you to everyone from me.

It has also reminded me, when we make our improvements that the actions, and the buy-in for the activities relies on a lot of people and we must not forget the activities that are required to help all of our stakeholders implement improvements.

Friday, 16 October 2015

My last day in the Process Improvement Unit

Today is my last day after spending three week in the Process Improvement Unit and now I can confirm what everyone told me when I started : I can’t wait to never see any post-its again :D

In the three weeks that I have been here, I’ve learned a lot. How to create flow charts on the computer, how to improve your workflow, what LEAN is and what the connection between Toyota and Process Improvement is.

Before I started here I’ve never really thought about how to make work easier or how much work it is to try to improve processes.  But now I think that it is really important to thinkover your workprocesses and think about how you can solve every-day problems and maybe I’ll even try some of the things I’ve learned in my company back home.

But most importantly it was a lot of fun to be here and definitely worth the experience. I also want to thank Rachel, David, Leah and Gillian for making the three weeks fly by and letting me be a part of their work.
Alisha is from Kamen, Germany. She spent three weeks with PIU undertaking a work placement shadowing the Co-ordinators  who support Process Improvement projects and training.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Process Improvement Events – why?

What are they?
We run the majority of our projects via Process Improvement Events, these are run over three to five days consecutively. Needless to say,  they can be difficult to schedule and pose some challenges for covering the day job of our attendees.

The entire project team attends the whole event, which gives consistency and continuity. The event is opened by the project sponsor who reminds the team about project scope, hope the project fits strategically into the institution and remind the team that they have been given the authority to make changes.

Staff from the Process Improvement Unit facilitate the event. We are impartial, lean thinkers who actively steer the team through the problem definition and solving process from a lean perspective.

We insist that the team set some ground rules at the beginning of the event, usually around break times, confidentiality, how decisions will be reached and use of mobile devises. This can feel quite strange at the beginning of the event but early always proves a useful way of ensuring that the team focuses and works well together.

We apply a methodical approach to our Process Improvement Events; first stage involves unpicking the process and understanding the process problems from everybody’s perspective and creating a situation where there is shared understanding and ownership of the problems. We try to get the data in advance of the event, but often have to gather more data during the event.

The next stage involves creating shared vision of the perfect process, often unattainable in the short term but it gives the team a goal for future continuous improvement activities. We also identify an improved practical process that can be implemented within about six months. Alongside this, the team produce a very specific action plan to allow implementation, a communications plan for stakeholders and specific actions around gathering future state data to measure improvement.

The team also prepare and deliver a presentation for the project sponsor. This is to achieve two main objectives, firstly to explain to the sponsor what the team has created and what actions are necessary and secondly, the team find it a helpful exercise to review, confirm and create a record of the outputs and benefits.

The events are a fantastic way of creating a strong focused team over a very short space of time, we document all of the key outputs of the event, so nothing is lost and it is accessible to all.  In my humble opinion they are the most effective way of achieving a strong project team with collective responsibility for improvement activities.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

My first week in PIU

The first week of my student placement is over and I can already tell that the next two weeks are going to be even more interesting.
Before I started my internship I didn’t know what LEAN was or how much work it is to improve processes. That’s why it was a great learning experience to begin the first week with a 3-day event involving a real case and a flowchart which I got to create on my own on the second day. Talk about responsibility…
Now in my second week I’m more involved and I even got to create paper airplanes and play with Lego (for educational purposes of course) .Not something that you do often in your everyday job.
I hope that the next two weeks are going to be as informative and varied as the first one and that I get to learn a lot more about process improvement.

Alisha is from Kamen, Germany. She is spending three weeks with PIU undertaking a work placement shadowing the Co-ordinators  who support Process Improvement projects and training.