Lean HE Conference 2016 – Day 3 AM

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

The BBC’s Journey into Lean

Adrian Ruth, Director, BBC Spark

Tom Connor, Editor, BBC Scotland Sport

Similarities between the BBC and Higher Education:

  • technology
  • waste
  • monetisation
  • political environment
  • organisational structures
  • leadership

The BBC’s Lean Journey

BBC Spark in house Lean team. Careful use of language in the way they advocate their work internally: way or working, run things better, get rid of rubbish and give quality time back to people for more creative work. Choice of Spark was a deliberate decision: originally the Efficiency Services team. Spark emphasises it is the start of something that needs to be kept going.

BBC Spark Vision is to make the BBC the most efficient and effective public service broadcaster in the world, maximising value for audiences and creating capacity to meet new challenges.


  • quality first
  • licence fee settlement

BBC Spark Mission: to be a catalyst for cost-effective creativity.


  • Prepare
  • Diagnose
  • Design
  • Plan
  • Implement
  • Sustain

Three lenses:

  • our processes
  • how we think and feel (culture)
  • the way we manage and measure

Early on in the journey (3-4 years) but some key lessons so far:

  • with you, not to you
    • mix background
    • collaborate with local staff
    • adapt language to context
  • telling the story
    • create films
    • emphasise the change story
  • combination of top-down and bottom-up
    • executive sponsorship
    • blend of push and pull subjects
  • always tailor message for BBC audience

Mostly working with content (programme making) than back office services who had already been through efficiency transformation initiatives so less waste there. Found that almost everything has a process: in every area there’s always waste and always ways you can make things better.

Adopting and adopting Lean tools:

  • using standards to ensure quality and minimise waste
  • data to solve difficult problems and improve performance
  • using visual management to track performance
  • use of templates and processes to nurture creativity

BBC Sport Scotland Case Study

Objective to free up time and do better, especially in digital. Set aside part of the department as the project war room so all activity was visually displayed to all. Data led diagnostics provided insights. Had to spend time working it what they were going to measure. Then collected it and thought about how best to present it.

Results included spending more time producing multi platform stories, increasing audience, planning board to expand sport coverage, increased Facebook presence and using freed up time to produce more original journalism. Overall, more working than not working.

Lessons learnt:

  • Need a leader with clarity, authority and ability to tell a story.
  • Free up your best people in your local team
  • Trust the people you are working with and your staff
  • You need to devote time and attention to it. You can’t really do it more half heartedly
  • There is no finish line. You have to continually improve and change. Benefit is you don’t stick with solutions that aren’t working. Solutions are just mechanisms towards your objective if they don’t work, move on.
  • Communicate. If you don’t tell people things they will assume you have something to hide and/or will make it up. Communication is also about listening.

The Future

Trying to evolve from the idea of projects to ongoing continuous improvement. Created a Spark toolbox on the intranet. Encouraging project alumni to continue with their improvement work.

Have become accredited for LCS certification so are putting whole team through certification process. Offer online training, Lean for Leaders course and coaching.


Maintaining momentum is one of the biggest challenges. Sustain phase aims to put in a plan to continue to meet and review the work. Investment in coaching, skills and mindset hope with continue the work but haven’t got there yet.

Measuring benefits: if you have too many objectives and too many measures they become too confusing. Keep your objectives focused and finish them. Measure whether you have achieved what you set out and then whether that change has had the desired impact.

In dealing with local/competing issues or politics: work out your area of influence and what you can do. Have a go at something (seek forgiveness not permission) and demonstrate the value.

Working with creative talent (for example academic Schools in HE who might not see this as something for them). Work out what’s in it for them and use their language. Fit it around them and what they need to do in their work. Use their peers, connect them with people doing similar things. Don’t force it: pick your battles.

No surprise there is a huge focus and storytelling and creative content in the way the BBC implement Lean. How do we best adopt and adapt Lean language and methodology to fit with the core purpose of universities and our institutional identity? Can we turbo charge Lean advocacy by relating it to pedagogy or to the scientific method and the research process? Can we work with marketing and communications to package Lean so it fits into our institutional identity and brand. Make it part of us not copy the way others do it.

Evidencing the Benefits of Change and Impact Across Higher Education

Heather Lawrence and Dr Nicola Cairns, University of Strathclyde Business Improvement Team

Business Improvement Unit founded in 2013 underpinned by Lean tools and techniques. Delivered over 40 improvement projects to date.

Developed their own approach to benefits management to demonstrate the impact they are delivering.

We are all facing the same challenges and constraints (drivers):

  • reduced funding
  • evidence efficiency and effectiveness to governance and funding councils
  • create staff capacity for innovation and growth
  • increase income
  • streamline and standardise routine processes
  • invest in campus estate

Launched guide to Evidencing the Benefits of Business Process Improvement in Higher Educationlast July. Has been well received and is highly regarded inside and outside the sector.

Why evidence and benefits are important

Are you focusing on the right change initiatives? Are we using data to guide decision making? Many business cases lack data or real measurable benefits. Many project closure reports include selected testimony but no real evidence on benefits and impact.

What is a benefit?

A benefit should establish a clear direction of improvement, recognised by all stakeholders through the use of data to demonstrate positive change between two time points.

For example:

  • Increased international student income
  • Reduced printing costs
  • Improved student experience

How well do we evidence benefits?

Many projects face challenges in being able to evidence benefits. A recent survey suggested only 42% of benefits were successfully measured. Challenges include:

  • Not knowing what to measure
  • Too much work
  • Uncomfortable looking at data
  • Not knowing where to start

Behind these reasons are some more fundamental concerns:

  • Confidence
  • Knowledge
  • Culture

How to influence evidencing the benefits of change

Start adopting the language of benefits. Ask:

  • what are the benefits of doing that?
  • what is the current baseline position
  • how do you know if this has been successful?
  • when can we measure the success?

Strathclyde have created a tool called the Benefits Exploration Map to help stakeholders work through benefits.

Communicate your benefits – create an evidence base.

Selecting initiatives based on the potential to deliver benefits

Incorporate the benefits exploration map into any business case or project conception. Baseline data.

No initiative should be considered unless there is clear information on the baseline position, the expected benefits, how these benefits will be measured and when they will be delivered.

Evidencing benefits can be done throughout a change lifecycle.

  • baseline during initiation and diagnostic phases
  • on big projects capture trial data during design and implementation
  • post-improvement data during post-implementation and continuous improvement
  • generate sustainable performance measures from post-improvement data
  • think about how to incorporate benefits in all project documents

The guide outlines 18 types of benefit that might be applicable. Two common ones are staff capacity savings and improved stakeholder experience.

For staff capacity savings a process timing sheet is a key tool. Helps measure difference in processing time, time shaved and cost saved.

For experience benefits key tools are surveys to gather the voice of the customer and satisfaction and monitoring complaints. These help measure satisfaction levels (% difference).


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