Friday, 27 January 2017

Timetable for Change

We have just spent four days working with staff to review and improve the timetabling process. We focused the scope of the project on our Faculty of Engineering. The project team included staff that are tasked with supporting the administration of the process, Departmental Administration Managers from the Faculty and academic staff (including a Director of Learning and Teaching).

The deliverables for the project are:
  • Clearly defined requirements, constraints and workflow that support increased confidence in the timetable production process (this will remove reactivity)
  • Clearly defined roles and responsibilities
  • Greater understanding of each other and the competing constraints and priorities
  • Minimise cross-campus travel for timetabled sessions
  • SOPs for the timetabling process to include continuous improvement
  • Using CMIS to its full potential
  • Reduce amount of reactive changes
The project team were an incredible group of people, every single person actively contributed, was very focused on resolving the problem, was student and staff focused and very professional. Teams like that make it easier for me as a facilitator and are such a pleasure to work with.

We identified that the key problems were:
·      At least nine different ways of timetabling
·      Too many constraints were being put into the process that led to a sub-optimal timetable being produced (at times).
·      Expectations that timetables would not change year on year
·      Too many data sources (in many formats)
·      Lack of trust and under utilisation of the timetabling software

The outcomes were:
A standardised approach for the faculty
A process that supports collaboration to produce the most optimal timetables
Reduction in handovers of work and reporting
A defined process for dealing with reasonable changes and clarity about how unreasonable changes will be denied.

A successful timetable is a complex equation, including space utilisation, student satisfaction, staff satisfaction, staff constraints, teaching and learning requirements etc
A managed risk approach was applied to the outcome with a great deal of process changes being made this year including ensuring that data can be derived from the process to review and improve performance for the future.

This has been a fast moving project, going from scoping in mid-December to implementing the changes from 30 January to positive affect the 17/18 timetables. Even more changes will come in 18/19. The team have a lot of work to support the implementation, but if they can use a tenth of the determination and positivity I observed during the event they will make amazing things happen. I consider it a pleasure and privilege to continue to work alongside this team to help support the implementation.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Evidencing the benefits

In July 2015 The University of Strathclyde’s Business Improvement Team launched ‘A Guide to Evidencing the Benefits of Business Process Improvement in Higher Education’ following the allocation of funding from the Leadership Foundation’s Innovation and Transformation Fund. The guide has been well received within the higher education sector and elsewhere and has been cited in academic articles.

On Wednesday 18th the authors of the guide Heather Lawrence and Nicola Cairns delivered some evidencing benefits training to a group of staff from The University of Sheffield (including PIU) and Sheffield Hallam University.

The training was enthusiastically, intelligently and professionally delivered and I personally found the day thought provoking and incredibly useful. There was a really good mix of knowledge sharing and then reinforcing this with interactive activities that were completed in small groups.

Some of the things that I found particularly helpful included:
Discussion and debate about what a benefit is
Using the benefits map to unpick and consider what can be measured and how
Useful guidance about how some of the tools can be used with stakeholders to get buy-in and clarity of approach.

Nicola and Heather did an excellent job of presenting the material, allowing discussion and debate amongst the group and managing the group to ensure that all activities were completed (and there was an element of disruption from a small proportion of attendees).  Of course, it’s not my place to look at the evaluation of the training, but I suggest the immediate benefits of the training were reflected in the smiling faces of the attendees and the positive chatter. Longer-term benefits for me will ensure that we continuous improve our approach to measurement and evidencing the results of our process improvement activities.

I’m looking forward to seeing the refresh of the guide and the new case studies, which will be available from Monday 23 January.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Community of Practice Event

One of the facets of the remit of the Process Improvement Unit that keeps me awake at night is the requirement to help with the creation of a culture of continuous improvement in the University. We have lots of anecdotal information about this happening, but effectively evidencing this can be more challenging.

One of the ways that does evidence this strand of work is our Community of Practice. We invite all staff who have taken either our eight module practitioner training or the four module Embedding Continuous Improvement Training to attend the community of practice.

The community of practice event that we held yesterday (11 January 2017) was well attended. I am indebted to colleagues from the Continuous Improvement Unit (CIU) at Leeds Beckett University for delivering the majority of this session. They gave an overview of their approach and in a very open and honest manner shared their challenges as well as their successes. I am always impressed by the activity at CIU, one of the things I am particularly interested in is the support the get from an academic colleague, Ollie Jones who is part of the team but also actively undertaking research into lean practice. The team get an awful lot of benefits from Ollie’s presence e.g academic credibility, involvement in action research, training and development, a critical friend to name a just a few.

The stress toys and sweeties provided by Leeds Beckett were well received!
Claire and Michael also led an interactive session for attendees to explore their continuous improvement journey and shared some accessible and helpful tools to support effective evaluation and embedding continuous improvement in everyday practice.

We also spend some time going back to first principles, providing the group with a refresher of lean fundamentals and principles.

Feedback from the event was very positive and I look forward to scheduling the next event (hopefully in June or July). For me it also provided a fantastic forum for people to share their projects and ideas and feedback about how they are making continuous improvements in their areas of work. I came away feeling enthused and energised, and use this blog as just one way of saying thank you to everyone who took time out of the day job to attend the event.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Coventry UCISA PCMG Meeting

I’ve just been down to Coventry for the first UCISA Project and Change Management Group Meeting of 2017,

Back in September we put out a call for new members of the group and were inundated with applicants and expressions of interest. We successfully appointed six new members to the committee, five of whom were able to attend the meeting. After hearing about their current roles, remits, professional history and interests I have no doubt that they will all make a valuable addition not only to the group itself but also within the sector more widely.

Agenda Items for the meeting included an interesting presentation from Ian Anderson from Coventry University about how they developed their business analysis functionality, the development of Enterprise Architecture (and also some ideas about how the UCISA EA Community of Practice can link in with PCMG) and also an overview of how Coventry have approached working with Kuali (an open source Student Management system).

The main business for the group was to explore and agree the project and change management challenges that we will try to address/support over the next year and then to draft a plan of activities that will directly be of support for the sector. As a group we plan to deliver as set of webinars (following a very successful webinar organised by Sarah Cockrill, committee member, back in November) and to ensure that activities are relevant to change managers in the sector and perhaps more specifically Business Analysts.

I certainly came away from the meeting feeling energised and enthusiastic about the work this group can offer, and I’m really looking forward to working with people to take this forward.