Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Programme of Service Improvement.

In June our HR Operations team contacted us to discuss how we could support them with a programme of improvements. This blog post is to update you on progress to date.

We have held a workshop with staff from HR Ops, Finance, other Professional Services and academic departments to create a shared view of the current problems. This allowed us to start to prioritise some of our improvement activities. We also delivered introductory training to the whole HR Ops team on lean principles and process mapping.

Since then, HR has recruited a graduate intern to support them with some of the work and set up a Service Improvement Steering Group to support and guide the programme of activities. We have worked with HR Ops to scope five projects for improvement (the first of which has a five day improvement event w/c 25 January 16) and we will be delivering our process improvement practitioner training to nine HR ops staff who will each complete a small improvement project of their own.

We really welcome the proactive, service focused view that HR have brought to all of the meetings and look forward to support this programme of activities. However, we will also need to be aware, manage and support the scheduling of improvement activities, so that improvements can be implemented methodically and in a time appropriate way (not all at once), ensure that other staff are involved and we will need to have consideration for other activities that will affect the scheduling and timing of our improvement activities. We also need to ensure that the changes are appropriate for the many different groups of university staff and to ensure that improvements are sustained and continue to evolve.

We would welcome feedback about other programme risks that we need to manage or be aware of.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

New Year, New Steering Group Meeting

We had our the first meeting this year of our PIU steering group yesterday. Although a number of people were unable to attend, it was a very useful meeting, chaired by our new Deputy VC Shearer West.
First item on the agenda was an overview, by our Head of Student Recruitment Christina Edgar, on a recent process improvement project to improve the production of the University prospectus. She gave a glowing report of the project’s outcomes, while commenting on the ‘light touch’ from PIU. We try very hard to make sure that the project team ‘owns’ the improvements that come out of our projects, and that they feel that they have done the hard work. At the same time, we’d like people to recognise the skills we bring to our projects!

Rachel then gave the group an overview of an initiative at Leicester to encourage student engagement, not so much as an example of good practice, but to stimulate discussion in the group about how we might do better here. We often bemoan the lack of interest from students in processes that affect them - but we recognize that this is not their on their radar, even when things go badly wrong. The suggestion that the students’ union could be be more closely involved in our efforts is useful - it seems that responses to surveys, for example, are far higher when sent from SUSU than from the ‘University’. We’ll be looking to action this soon, perhaps with the aim of getting some students to record their interactions with the University in some form of diary as they happen, rather than (too long) after the event.

We talked about the terms of reference for the group, and whether we were meeting them. Our Deputy VC was keen to ensure that the group was doing what it set out to do, and we had an interesting discussion about the best way to ‘promote a culture of continuous improvement’ in the University. Integration into the University planning round was suggested as a way forward, and we’re very hopeful that this will happen, particularly as process efficiency and effectiveness is now part of the University's strategic plan.

We also talked about membership of the group, and it was suggested that greater involvement from HoDs and Directors of Learning and Teaching, and Research and Innovation, would be useful, as these groups are at the sharp end of process problems.

All in all, a short, focussed and positive meeting. We start the new year energised and hopeful as a result.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! It is the first day back in the office after our festive break. One of the topics of conversation has been New Year’s resolutions. While the concept of making resolutions to change once a year is not really in the spirit of continuous improvement, at least it is a traditional way of making people reflect on things and identify ways to change and improve.

As lean practitioners, often we hear people in our projects or workshops claim that changes haven’t been made because “this is the way we’ve always done it”. The process improvement project offers people an opportunity to reflect and create plans for improvement. However like New Year’s resolutions it can be very easy for changes to be diluted or reversed completely over time.

How can we make sure that improvements are implemented, sustained and continue to be developed and enhanced? One of the key elements that support continuous improvement is creating a culture where small, incremental improvements are accepted and rewarded. Yet, institutional culture change is hard and takes a long time in a complex organisation. So, my new year’s resolution is to welcome daily kaizen, to try to focus on the small improvements I can make, and use these as stories to help and support others who are also trying to make improvements. I’m also going to eat less chocolate; I suspect the former resolution might be more rewarding.