Lean HE Conference 2016 – Day 2 PM

Notes from the Lean HE Conference ‘People, Culture and Lean in Higher Education’ 1-3 November 2016 held at the University of Stirling

If Disney Ran Your University

Susanne Clark, Dr Lois Farquarson (Bournemouth University) and Dr Tammi Sinha (University of Winchester)

The magic of Lean, Disney and our institutions. Disney operated by overmanaging; thinking about every detail across:

  • culture
  • innovation
  • service
  • brand
  • leadership

How does this link to Lean principles and the Lean circle of excellence? How do we co-create value with the beneficiaries of our services? How do we make flow work beautifully? How do we transform people, information and material inputs into valuable outputs? How can we move more towards pull in higher education? How do we seek perfection in the midst of huge transformation.

Over Managing Culture

Do not just tell people how they contribute but show them by immersing them in the customer service experience. How can we adapt this and encourage our staff and show they care and focus on purpose rather than task?

The progress principle: we have to sweat the small stuff, we have to get rid of toxic elements in our environment, we co-create the atmosphere with our colleagues. Sometimes it’s hard, so act.

Examples of how we can immerse our employees in the customer experience:

  • induction

Making Good Service Intentional

In the service moment purpose trumps task; it’s ok to be “off task” if you are “on purpose”. Guestology is finding out what the customer really needs. It involves making emotional connections.

Four key basics define and operationalise Disney Service Standards as a decision making tool for all employees. For Disney these are:

  1. Safety
  2. Courtesy
  3. Show
  4. Efficiency

At Bournemouth University they went around campus with a Disney roadshow to find their own building blocks for service excellence. Their four key basics for service excellence are:

  1. Welcome
  2. Efficiency
  3. Ownership
  4. Knowledge

They have mapped this to three delivery systems : people, processes and place.

What time if the 3 o’clock parade?

Disney staff are taught to understand the need behind the most basic and obvious of questions. For example when people are asking the time of the 3 o’clock parade they are probably really thinking about how best to plan their day. Being efficient may focus with not on the immediate need/question. Being courteous may involve really thinking about how to be most helpful in that moment. Sometimes to more important to make courtesy more important than efficiency.

Bicycle Books

Thinking about identifying waste in activities. Why do we do certain things? What is the purpose of of an activity? Do we still know it? Is it still relevant? Where are the bicycle books in your organisation?


Leadership is dependent on the actions one takes rather than the position ones hold. Leaders establish, operationalise and sustain the values and vision by which their organisation thrives. We also need to think about doing leadership and followship.

A Gemba Walk is a good way to get started. It shows respect to the people doing the work. You can do a Gemba Walk for any process. Plan to go watch, look, listen and then reflect.

Go to the place of action. Ask for permission and let people know what you are doing. Pay attention to the unexpected. Be observant, make notes.

Process Improvement Partnerships

Clare Wiggins, Leeds Beckett University

Use CATWOE to think around a process. Lego mini figures can be used to explore stakeholder metaphors within this.

Continuous Improvement Unit (CIU) Inherited a quite formal project based process improvement methodology. Now a six person team. One member is a mentor academic who works with the unit two days per month using Action Research.

New methodology focuses on a partnership where the process owner brings ownership, engagement and domain expertise and the CIU bring facilitation and technique expertise. Jointly working through the process with different levels of influence at each stage:

  • event (map)
  • scoping
  • data collection
  • root cause analysis
  • improvement
  • evaluation

Shift from project management to coaching. Importance of being brave enough to be a first follower when you see something great; and as a leader, treating your first followers as equals and nurture them until it becomes more ridiculous not to join in than to join in.

Measures and Metrics

  • talking vs testing
  • it’s not all speed: quality is important too
  • competition vs collaboration
  • data gathering isn’t onerous

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