Monday, 20 May 2013

Continuous Improvement Conference

Last Tuesday, we went to Manchester for a conference, "Continuous Improvement: Embedding the Culture in the Public Sector". There was a full agenda, with ten of the speakers only having 15 minutes each to speak. This only enabled them to give a brief overview of the experiences in their organisations, and some of the more relevant and challenging ideas left me wanting to find out more. Fortunately most of the speakers are on LinkedIn and/or twitter so we can follow this up. There were also three workshops, which allowed for q&a and a little more substance. Key themes from the conference included embedding a culture of continuous improvement into an organisation, getting people at all levels of the organisation involved, understanding the importance of continuous improvement and having an atmosphere of continuous kaizen. Leaders and middle management play a key role in enabling, and empowering this process and one of our challenges for the next year will be working with staff to ensure that all levels of the university desire improvement. There is an imperative to remove fear, and allow staff to make the changes that make sense and make a difference: these changes need to be made regularly, quickly, simply and with minimal bureaucracy.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Stimul8ing training

  I was off down in London learning how to use a software package called simul8 for a couple of days last week. I’d come across the software when on my Six Sigma training in Edinburgh. One of the attendees was from the company, who’d sent her to find out how simul8 could be adapted for Lean and Six Sigma improvement methodologies.
The software allows process improvement practitioners to create simulations to experiment with changes to their processes, without taking the risk of making the changes in real life. By changing various parameters of the simulation it’s possible to look at, for example:
  • Where queues of work build up
  • How long events take
  • How equipment and staff are being utilized
Lots of different ideas can be tried out quickly - simulating days, weeks or years of a process in a short time.
We had a real life problem to look at: helpdesk referrals in the Information Commons, where the software would have been very useful. Modeling the process and finding out how various approaches to referrals would work, without the expense of moving desks and possibly knocking down walls would have given confidence in the suggested solution – and provided a very visual way of demonstrating how it could work.
We bought a copy of the software to try this out, but I found it very difficult to get started with it. The course really helped me to get to grips with the complexities of the software, and gave me some ideas about how to use it for making reasonable extrapolations about the time savings which can be achieved by improving a process. I’m going to get started right away!