Monday, 7 November 2016

Sterling Stirling


I’ve just spent a few days at The University of Stirling who hosted the Lean HE conference “People, Culture and Lean in Higher Education”. The conference programme was filled with a variety of expert speakers who were incredibly engaging.

Dr. Vincent Wiegel is writing an article for the Efficiency Exchange www.efficiencyexchange.ac.uk which will be the formal write up of the conference. In the meantime, I thought I’d use this an opportunity to share some of my takeaways from the conference.

In no particular order: 
     Lean in Higher Education seems to be a growing area of interest and practice.
There were over 170 registered attendees for the conference. The UK was well represented and there was evidence that lean teams continue to be emerging within the sector. There were also attendees from America, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Norway, The Netherlands, Lithuania, Poland and Finland, which is representative of the growing maturity within the international sector. 

  Involvement of Academics
There has previously been concern about the disconnect between practitioners in HE and academic staff. At the conference I both witnessed  and heard anecdotes about increasing collaboration between academic staff and practitioners and signs of a growing desire to learn and support one another
  • Data Driven decisions. 
  • Just over a year ago The University of Strathclyde produced their Evidencing Benefits Guide. At the conference attendees were increasingly talking about the importance of demonstrating the outcomes of process improvement. There were also conversations about the best way to gather data, ensure sample sizes and representative and unbiased. 
 Desire for regional collaboration
Regional hubs are being established in the Midlands/Yorkshire and London to ensure that practitioners can continue to support one another outside of the conference. There is increasing recognition that the existing networks/communities of practice in Scotland and on the South Coast make a huge difference in enabling sharing of good practice, experiences and case studies
  •  Increasing connection between people and process
    There seemed to be more conversations about how to ensure that lean not only helps how to improve a process but also supports the staff through the change process. Key artefacts included a greater recognition of the work a university OD team can provide to complement process improvement, a joined up approach to leadership development and lots of discussions about how we can ensure that the Lean fundamental ‘Respect for People’ is adhered to as and when we work with our colleagues. 

    Be bold and creative
    Key themes from the keynotes, workshops and informal conversations was the link between being brave (trying things/ experimentation, being prepared to fail) alongside truly creative problem solving. I am able to bring back lots of examples and approaches to my institution to endorse this concept.

It was a great conference: engaging programme; time to informally chat to people; a supportive environment for sharing information and experiences; a dedicated conference team were committed to making sure that the participants had a good experience and of course an amazing conference dinner. ..

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