Friday, 18 October 2013

Effective Explanations


As part of the data collection for our projects, we regularly talk to process stakeholders. When chatting to a member of staff recently, they gave an example of poor service that they had received. Part of the reason for the poor service was that the 'process expert' was so familiar with the process, they did not demonstrate sympathy towards the person experiencing the problem; indeed they were off-hand and the customer felt patronised.
This conversation led me to reflect on my own professional practice, with particular reference to facilitating rapid improvement events. During our events we aim to understand the current state process and start implementing improvements; with as many people who are involved in doing the process being represented.
Perhaps, I am as guilty as the expert in the example above, for taking for granted how easy some of the key steps are to understand? Many of the people in the group will not be familiar with process mapping, root cause analysis, concepts of value, waste etc My service to them, is clearly explaining the how and why in an approachable, customer friendly way. Feedback to date has been good, but it is a risk for practitioners that as we become more immersed in a subject, we greater distance ourselves from the people we want to help.
The two pillars that we adhere to are ‘continuous improvement’ and ‘respect for people’, another timely reminder that both of these pillars are relevant to all facets of our work.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Professional values = PIU values

At The University of Sheffield we have a set of values for Professional Services (non-academic departments). It’s interesting to note how well the work of PIU aligns with these values.
  1. Customer focused: when we work with our project team we get them to reflect on the 'voice of the customer', to design processes with the customer in mind and to identify value-added steps as those which the customer would be prepared to pay for.
  2. Taking pride in our services: project sponsors, project teams and process beneficiaries have reported that improvement of our business processes fosters genuine pride in the service that is being delivered. Also, in PIU we are very proud to be helping people make things better. It's an amazing job helping people make change for the better.
  3. Professional leaders in and beyond our sector: we facilitate projects which focus on creating excellent processes. Rather than benchmarking and mirroring other institutions, we encourage the team to produce the best outcomes for the University of Sheffield.
  4. Empower our staff: our rapid improvement events have a large proportion of staff who are frontline, and work with the process on a day-to-day basis. Feedback from our events has shown that staff feel empowered to effect change and find the involvement in process improvement developmentally rewarding.
  5. Committed to improvement and excellence: we encourage our project teams to continue to improve their processes. Taking some time each day to make small improvements helps to avoid process rot, and encourages staff to create excellent processes. We practise what we preach, as lean practitioners, and continuous improvement is core to our work.
  6. Partnership, communication and openness: our project teams are formed across departments and faculties, to ensure we can fully understand the end-to-end process. Partnership working is essential to the success of our process improvement projects.
  7. Fairness and integrity: at the beginning of our rapid improvement events we establish strong ground rules for the team, to ensure that everyone contributes and is respectful to the views of others. By improving the entire process rather than individual tasks, we ensure that the changes we make do not have an adverse impact on someone else's work.
  8. Creativity and innovation: during the process redesign phase, we use a number of tools and techniques to inspire the team and encourage new ideas. Often, the greatest achievement is giving the team the time, space and feeling of empowerment to make the changes. The hardest challenge can be identifying the small improvements that will give people the time and space to make further changes.
  9. Our operations are efficient and sustainable: we are very proud of the efficiencies our projects have achieved to date including 1,000's of hours in staff time, £1,000's in cash savings. Of equal importance is the "shared memory" our project team have and a commitment to change and making things better.
  10. Making a difference: our projects have made a positive difference to staff and student alike. Training more staff in lean principles and process improvement techniques will offer even more opportunities to make a difference.