Monday, 19 December 2016

Enjoy a Lean Christmas with all the trimmings

A contradiction in terms?  Not necessarily.  The principles of lean are concerned with adding value, doing what matters and achieving
results that are better for everyone concerned.  Surely this is what Christmas is all about.  If one of the core pillars of lean is the Deming cycle of PDCA Plan – Do – Check – Act (or PDSA with Study in place of Check) lets look at how this might help us have the best Christmas possible. 
For our Lean Christmas how about the following as a model for success:

 Plan for a successful Christmas by:

  • What presents do people really want?
  • What food do we all like?
  • Who is coming?
  • What needs doing when?
  • How do we share the tasks?
  • What does a great Christmas mean for everyone?

 Do have a fantastic Christmas:

  • Delegate things
  • Share the load
  • Have fun together
  • Listen to understand

Check/Study what works, what doesn't, and:

              • Be flexible
              • What went well?
              • What could be better?
              • What next time?
              • ABC *

Act to improve:

  • Avoid waste (presents people don't want, food uneaten)
  • Avoid argument (ABC again)
  • Adjust to help everyone
  • Play games (charades anyone?)
  • Enjoy?

Oh, my 'ABC' ?
Well it’s my mnemonic to keep me from blowing a fuse when old Uncle Vernon drinks all my best whisky or my sister in law’s kid’s dog eats all the turkey leftovers.  It goes like this:

So, if I ask myself what I believe about the events and people as my hackles rise (are they really malicious, unhelpful, against me..... or, perhaps, just very appreciative of my whisky and having lots of fun with the dog).  This lets me consider how I want to respond - is my best action really to hit the roof and upset everyone, or take a deep breath and remind myself that it really is Christmas.

Best wishes for a fantastic, fun and values driven Christmas.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Sweet and Tender Process

In the words of The Smiths* 
He was a sweet and tender hooligan, hooligan
And he said that he'd never, never do it again  
And of course he won't (oh, not until the next time)”
- a song about good intentions [lenient sentencing] but with a knowledge that the perpetrator will reoffend. Apart from an obscure reference to the word tender, I though about this song because people often have good intentions to stick to a standard process but it is almost inevitable the they will deviate from the process.

Last week we have worked with a project team to look at the tender process. The problem with the process that we identified was that there was not a standard process for the team to follow and this led to an inconsistent customer experience. There was also a steer for better category management (category management involves managing a category of good/products/services and ensuring that spending and contracting is efficient and effective.  Working with the suppliers and market to build an awareness of innovation and best practice that may deliver value for money for the institution).

Key deliverables for the project are:
1.     A standard procurement process which enables effective category and supplier management
2.     Removal of unnecessary data and work duplication in the procurement process
3.     Clear communication points for customers of the tender process
4.     A standard suite of templates for use in the tender process

The team uncovered a huge amount of variation of practice and at a times it was difficult to disaggregate whether the variations were caused by type of tender (e.g. good/services/ EU) or personal working arrangements. There was consensus that more activity could be done up front in the process to ensure that customers provide the team with better information and to enable the category manager to produce a procurement timeline. There were opportunities for removal of data duplication and onerous reporting. The team also identified that more and involvement at evaluation stage could mitigate risk to the university and better support our customers. The final improvement was building in a feedback loop to ensure that continuous improvement is inbuilt into the process.

Key benefits of the changes include:
·      Formalised category management to emphasise the best buying practices for the university
·      Clear definition of roles for people in the process
·      Clearly articulated timescales to help/meet customer expectations and help procurement workload planning
·      Consistent customer experience throughout the process
·      Reduction of data duplication which will reduce the risk of error

The benefits are likely to take a while to measure and identify due to legislation which informs the timeline for tendering, so we will be keen to work witht he team to ensure that the benefits are evidenced.
The team have set themselves a deadline for implementation, which is the 31 January 2017, and have a number of actions that will support this. It is likely that the university will start to see the improvements from the tender process within the next few months. The team have also agreed to meet on a monthly basis to continue to review and refine the process, and endeavour to continue to work in a standard way.

*”Sweet and Tender Hooligan” The Smiths, 1985

Friday, 2 December 2016


Last week I was in Brighton for #CISGPCMG16 “From vision to embed – going all the way with institutional change”. The conference was a first for the two UCISA groups (Corporate Information Systems and Project and Change Management Group) to co-host a conference.

There were a host of keynotes and showcases focused on change in Higher Education. Particular learning points/ areas of note for me were:
Interesting case studies on how the University of Brighton and the University of Salford are focusing and pursuing change in their institutions – a reminder that we must always reflect on institutional culture and requirements before embarking on a change.

My Director of IT @cloggingchris gave an entertaining look back over twenty years of being an IT Director and managed to remind us all just how much change we have all been managing over the years.

I found all of the keynotes and business showcases really helpful in generating ideas on things we could try back here in Sheffield. I really love working in a sector that shares good practice so freely and honestly. My top takeaways from the conference are:
1.     Think about a more strategic approach to getting student engagement in improvement activities
2.     Consider how we can prepare our project sponsors more effectively for sponsoring our improvement projects (and better support them throughout the project)
3.     Improve implementation stages and consider what information people running service desks etc. may benefit from at implementation stage
4.     Identify ways to help project teams have greater autonomy; they will be more responsive and reactive to change.
5.     Remember to use the toolkits and resources on the UCISA webpages
On a personal note, I was really pleased to see the published version of the Establishing Process Improvement Capability guide #EPIC that I co-authored with Steve Yorkstone.
We had some really positive feedback from people at the conference, we’d really appreciate further feedback, so please do take a look.