Last week we were delighted to welcome Natasha, Kelly and Mila from Middlesex University’s Business Enhancement Team and Julie, Head of Planning and Project Management, from Bedfordshire University to a visit at Sheffield. The visit was arranged as an opportunity to share experiences of and approaches to continuous improvement across the three institutions.
I am always delighted to see the openness by which practitioners within the sector share and discuss ideas and issues. This openness I believe has been, in part, fostered by the Lean in HE network which has, since its inception, encouraged the open discussion between practitioners of the challenges faced within the sector and and open debate of possible approaches to overcome them. Throughout our discussions last week many similarities could be drawn between the experiences of all three institutions and I for one took away a number of ideas, particularly around improving our project implementation. I also found the visit was a great way to encourage us to critique our own approaches when we were pushed to explain why we do something in a particular way.
It was also clear from our discussions that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to continuous improvement in HE is not appropriate, ideas should not be implemented simply because somewhere else does it, a message we always reinforce with project teams. It is instead important to tailor an approach according to the culture and strategic drive of an individual institution.
A fear of mine is that changes in the HE landscape and increasing competition between institutions might start to erode this openness and collaboration. If this is an outcome of the changes currently underway I believe it will be a loss to the sector and why networks like Lean in HE and fostering strong working relationships with colleagues in the sector can be so beneficial in continuing to encourage interinstitutional support.