Tag Archives: efficiency

International inspiration and useful tools at Lean HE

Leah March
Process Improvement Facilitator
University of Sheffield
Mark Boswell
Business Enhancement Manager
Middlesex University London

Lean HE 2018 Conference, Tromsø summary guide

This summary guide (pdf available Leah March and Mark Boswell guide for Lean HE) was created following our attendance to the Lean HE Conference Tromsø in November 2018. The aim of the guide is to highlight useful tools and topics shared throughout the conference and to provide some tips on making the most of the conference experience. We give some possible next steps in relation to both attending the Lean HE 2019 conference and applying for the UCISA bursary funding which allowed us to attend.

Keynote speakers

Professor Tove Dahl, Professor of Educational Psychology at The Artic University of Norway

Professor Dahl’s session started with a powerful story from her own working life about the difficulty of adopting new technology when she had not been equipped with awareness about the change nor the skills to readily use it, and the frustration and rework it resulted in. She also spoke about the need for courage to adopt change and the importance of equipping people with the necessary desire and tools to make mustering that courage and overcoming the difficulties easier.
You can read more about Professor Dahl’s blog about courage here.

Niklas Modig, Author, inspirational speaker and researcher in Lean and operational excellence

Niklas Modig’s inspiring presentation was split into two halves. The first concentrated on explaining the ‘efficiency paradox’, and the challenge of achieving flow efficiency alongside resource efficiency, across an extended process.
The second half was focussed on how he facilitated the first half of the session in a way that enabled his audience to reach their own conclusions, rather than provide conclusions for them, ensuring greater buy-in to the outcomes.
You can watch Niklas here explaining the efficiency paradox and other key areas of Lean.

Professor Torbjørn Netland, Head of Chair of Production and Operations Management, ETH Zurich

Professor Netland’s session talked about the close relationship between Lean and digitisation and that Lean and digitisation should collaborate in order to deliver effective process innovations. He also spoke about the power of Open Process Innovation and the importance of breaking down silos both within our organisations and between our organisations in order to utilise the wide range of knowledge and expertise to drive innovation – the more ideas there are the higher chance there is of good ideas.
You can read more about Torbjørn’s work by visiting his website ‘Better Operations’ to find out more about him and access useful links to his publications and blogs.

Key Tools

  • General

Pecha Kucha Lean HE Style

For those that have not seen or delivered a Pecha Kucha before, the concept originated in Japan whereby twenty slides are shown for twenty seconds each. It is a clever way to ensure that presentations are concise and fast paced. Several different institutions (Edinburgh Napier University, Leicester University, University of Twente) delivered presentations in this way, all telling their story.
You can read more about the Pecha Kucha presentation style here PechaKucha.org.
  • For you and your team

Inspiring Lean in Your Organisation – University of Strathclyde and CQUniversity

The session explored four key elements of the Lean Leadership model, which acted as a useful model to encourage others to brainstorm how they can both adopt lean themselves or encourage others to do so. We also completed a Lean Leadership Development plan with activities that we were going to undertake as individuals. You can see a template of the tool in the presentation via the ‘Key Tools’ link above and a summary by Graham and Graeme here.
  • For your projects

No Flip Charts Required! – University of Cambridge

Linda Spinks introduced us to a tool called SIPOC Extra that she has been using in recent workshops. The tool encourages workshop participants to consider key process steps one by one and answer questions incl. ‘who is involved’, ‘what is produced’ and process metrics. It was a useful tool to encourage thinking and discussion amongst staff unfamiliar with thinking about process, and allowed for quicker write-up and feedback. You can see a template of the tool in the presentation via the ‘Key Tools’ link above and a summary by Linda here.

Using Lean to Address Institutional Risk – University of Waterloo

A really helpful session which demonstrated how institutional risk can be calculated and used to evidence the need for improvements and as a way to encourage (particularly senior stakeholders) to drive change institutionally. I particularly thought their Risk Management Reporting Template and associated quantifiable metrics to be a useful tool to demonstrate and inform key stakeholders of risks and help plan for the future. You can see a template of the tool in the presentation via the ‘Key Tools’ link above and a summary by Kimberley and Kim here.

The Games People Play – Christine Stewart, Macresco Ltd/Cardiff University

Christine demonstrated the use of the ‘penny game’ to engage groups in activity which demonstrates the challenges we create for ourselves when batching work during multi-step processes.

Useful software

Menti: Laura Hallett from York St John University used Menti throughout her presentation to encourage audience participation and gather feedback on the session. It was really easy to join the session and Laura had a really good response rate. If you would like to learn more about Menti you can do so via their website.
Padlet: All sessions, including keynote speakers, were created within the conference Padlet in the order of delivery. Throughout the conference delegates were able to use Padlet to provide instant feedback linked to the sessions they attended. This was then immediately available to all other delegates to review, enabling follow up either with presenters or attendees to learn more where comments sparked interest or ideas. If you would like to learn more about Padlet you can do so via their website.

Value of networking

The team at The Arctic University of Norway did a brilliant job of fostering a relaxed, open and supportive atmosphere throughout the conference. This made networking with other delegates (of which there were 150 from around the world) much easier. Networking can be a really useful way to hear and share ideas, tools and techniques. Many people at the conference also remarked that it renewed their energy through the contagious passion of enthusiasm for the work. It can also allow you to make invaluable contacts for the future, be that for coaching, support or to call on if facing a similar problem or project.
Tips for effective networking
  • Don’t be afraid to sit with/talk to people you don’t know
  • Don’t assume because institutions are very different there aren’t things you can learn from one another
  • Follow people on Linkedin
  • Join mailing lists like the one managed by UCISA PCMG which are great in helping you to reach out to colleagues in the sector to ask for support and advice. You can join the UCISA PCMG mailing list hosted by JISC via the JISCMail website.

Next steps  

Finally, we would like to say a huge thank you to UCISA for enabling us through their bursary the opportunity to attend such a wonderful, engaging, thought provoking and interesting conference.
If you would be interested in attending the Lean HE 2019 Conference in Michigan, you can find out more here or if you would like to be part of the Lean HE community, you can join their regional mailing lists via the Lean HE webpages.
 Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

UniDesk – a shared service founded on shared learning

Delegates at UCISA’s Support Services Conference earlier this month heard about the development of the UniDesk service management shared service. The service has been live since November 2010; three institutions collaborated on the initial development with a fourth subsequently joining.


The University of Edinburgh had been using a system developed in house for incident management since 2000 but by 2008 it was clear that it either required significant investment or replacing. The same system was in use at the University of St Andrews and they too were considering their options. Discussions soon identified that Abertay University were also looking at procuring a service management system; consequently the three institutions opted to work together. The initial intention was to carry out a joint procurement but as the three partners continued talking to each other, it was agreed to procure a service management tool and to then run it as a shared service. The procurement had to be managed in such a way that the resultant service could be extended to include new partners. The partners were also looking for software that was browser independent and was capable of using a federated identity management system. TopDesk were successful in the procurement exercise and became the fourth partner in the service, providing the software platform. The service would be run from the University of Edinburgh, largely as they already had the infrastructure in place to support what is effectively a cloud based service.

Realising the benefits

The partners recognised that in order to effectively share services the processes underpinning the use of the software had to be common across all three institutions. A single set of processes was designed, initially for incident management but now extended to include problem management and change release. Work continues on configuration management.

A fourth institution has joined the service since it went live in November 2010. Sheffield Hallam University needed a new tool for service management and, adopting the processes already defined, were live in eight weeks. This is testament to the value of common processes; there was no need to re-implement the software, just roll out the processes to the new partner’s users.

The collaborative approach to process development and review continues – where a change is proposed it has to be agreed by all parties in order to be adopted. Whilst this may mean that institutions have to adapt where the standard processes don’t necessarily meet all their requirements, it has had the benefit that it has achieved standardisation within institutions. The partners have also learnt from each other, bringing their own strengths to discussions on processes with the result that the common processes are better than an individual implementation would have achieved. The learning continues; different uses of the system are shared with the result that the partners can introduce new features into their own application. For example, Sheffield Hallam logged all walk up enquiries on their support desk; Edinburgh hadn’t considered this application but is now looking to introduce it in conjunction with the ability to swipe or touch university cards in order to log user details.

Looking forward

The business model for the service is a simple cost recovery based on the Jisc banding for each institution. There is no formal contract; the service is based on the relationships and trust between the partners. This has the benefit of not requiring complex legal arrangements (and costs) for new partners to join. There have been cost savings but these have not been great for the three original partners – Edinburgh estimate that the shared service has proved to be around 20-30% cheaper than going it alone. There is a desire to expand the number of partners as this would bring down the running costs for each of the partners but there is no marketing resource to promote the service. There is, however, a clear benefit to the new partners as they will not have to meet the costs of developing the service.

Whilst the financial savings for the original partners has been modest, there have been efficiency improvements through the collaborative development of processes. The partners continue to learn from each other, to identify solutions to new problems and get the most out of the software. New partners will be able to reap the rewards of that collaboration and then be able to contribute to the further development of a service designed by the sector, for the sector.


This posting was based on presentations from Simon Marsden (University of Edinburgh) and Alex Carter (UniDesk Partnership) at the UCISA Support Services Conference. The posting is replicated on Peter Tinson’s blog site.