Recently we were asked to give a talk on process improvement and Lean to a group of students in the Sheffield Engineering Leadership Academy. Normally our training and awareness raising is delivered to staff at the University, so this invitation was a welcome opportunity to talk to some of the people for whom most of our improvement activity is ultimately undertaken.
The training was held in the new Diamond building, and it was great for us to be able to see the space and to use it ourselves. We were really impressed with the quality of the AV provision and the flexibility of the space.
We regularly run process improvement awareness training, but for this group of students we needed to change some of the content to suit their particular interests. We had some interesting conversations about what those might be - in PIU none of have any expertise in engineering! We decided that we needed to talk briefly about the history of lean and outline the main principles, before running our ziggurat building game.
It was really interesting to see both how the layout of the room (about 8 groups of tables, rather than one large table) changed the dynamics of the game. Having a physical separation between building stages meant that we were able to build in roles for everyone by having some students transport the ziggurats in makeshift boats. It also highlighted the difficulties caused by transport, and helped to highlight building bottlenecks.
It was also interesting to see that the students’ main interest was in sorting the Lego, and using it to build all sorts of exciting constructions (see above).
We think the game really helped to reinforce the learning from the principles and we could see that the audience engaged really well with the problem solving - indeed they made suggestions after the first round which would have made the process more efficient than we normally make it after three rounds of building.
At the end of the training we got some really useful feedback, both positive and suggestions for improvement - which we’ll be taking on board to make some changes.
We hope that we’ll be asked to do more training for students as we really enjoyed having a new audience with a different perspective and new suggestions for ways in which we can improve our practice.