Rather belatedly my final blog from the UCISA CISG Conference last month. The presentation from St Andrews looked at the use of Lean to improve business processes. The aim of implementing Lean is to improve processes, reduce costs and improve the customer experience. Those involved in the process being studies are key to improving it, analysing the process from start to finish, questioning why things are done the way they are and identifying where improvements can be made.
The example cited was the process for students to get standard letters (such as those required for the bank or local authority) produced by the University. The time taken from the initial request through to the letter being produced was reduced from a matter of days down to a few minutes. Although this may have been an extreme example, I have little doubt that inefficiencies exist in many processes within universities and colleges and that improvements can be made. Such improvements rarely happen organically; they need a driving force, in this case a project backed by senior management, to emerge. Such initiatives have a cost. Applying the process to a given task can involve staff for a week and it takes time for the benefits to be truly recognised.
However, the question now is whether institutions will be willing to invest in tools and methodologies such as Lean to make the changes demanded by the current economic climate. It may be that those who have already or are prepared to make the investment will be far better placed to ride out the recession.