Monday, 21 November 2016

Operational Excellence Network

On Thursday, I accompanied Christina Edgar (Deputy Director of Student Services) and Lynsey Hopkins (Head of Admissions) to an Operational Excellence Network meeting at Kings College London. The event was run by Processfix who had trained Christina and Lynsey (amongst many others) in process improvement tools and facilitation when they were at Warwick University. I was keen to learn more.

The day was a good mix of speakers: Jules Cross from Processfix gave an enthusiastic welcome, Tessa Harrison from Kings College talked about their 18month journey (to date) in putting students and service excellence at the heart of their activities. Some interesting ideas were shared including having continuous improvement on job descriptions – so that we can ensure that we recruit staff that are keen and equipped to contribute to improvement activities. I also liked the idea of having students on interview panels – not only does this give students some experience of being on a panel but it will offer an interesting and important view when recruiting new staff.

Keith Harrison from Birbeck College gave a lively and engaging presentation about why an IT solution is not the answer. I think that most of us who work in HE have been guilty of looking at computer systems rather than processes and I found myself smiling and nodding when Keith gave an overview of his journey to service excellence.

Sir Ian Diamond is always an enchanting speaker and he did not let me down. He gave a good overview of the content and the journey to producing the two Diamond reports in 2011 and 2015 and helped set the big picture scene for effectiveness and value for money in higher education.

The afternoon had a panel discussion and poster showcases, which also demonstrated how different institutions, are approaching process improvement activities and operational excellence.

My thoughts as I left Kings:
Pipeline of Process Improvement projects – perhaps it is time for us to have a more formal pipeline at Sheffield
Involvement of students – this is always dear to my heart and I thank the attendees that I spoke to for sharing some ideas about how they approach this
The importance of having an institutional approach that is fit for purpose for one’s home institution. We are going through a period of change at Sheffield and we will need to review how the culture changes as a result of this, to ensure that our approach is culturally appropriate
Sustaining improvement – this is an area where many institutions are struggling to evidence activities that sustain improvement. In part this is because this approach inn HE is relatively immature. For me, the importance of training, evidencing benefits, having reasonable measures in place to monitor improvement are some of the approaches we have applied. Possibly time to think about a few more…

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