Thursday, 26 May 2016

GOE Data Management


This week, we have been running a process improvement event for our Global Opportunities and Exchanges team, to help them improve their data management processes.

They had originally decided to work with us when as part of an exercise for a larger university project they discovered that they had 25 different systems for managing the processes for Erasmus, Study Abroad and Summer School placements. The team identified that using the different systems had led to repetitive, unreliable, time-consuming and convoluted processes when inputting and extracting data.

We worked with a small project team (four people) and I was amazed at the amount of outputs created. Firstly a systems matrix which unpicked the key elements of each system (e.g. purpose, format, data held, key problems), throughout the week we found that the original list of 25 was actually 35 different systems to support the processes.

We mapped the processes for incoming and outgoing students on both Erasmus and Study Abroad programmes, I think that we were all amazed at how long an unwieldy the processes were. However, the team knew that they had problems – I did not need them to map the processes to have a “light bulb” moment about the complexity (the team had long ago come reached this conclusion), they had become victims of the process, so busy managing the process they had no time to reflect an improve. We mapped the process to see how the value was delivered to our process beneficiaries.

Key outputs from the four days:
  • A standard process for managing incoming Erasmus and Study Abroad students. The process has an 80% reduction in process steps, offers greater visibility to the students about the status of the application, reduced errors, and removes the need for matching up paperwork and manipulating data.
  • An improved process for Study Abroad students going to other universities on placement, removing work from academic tutors, delivering a better service to students and once again removing a lot of data manipulation and checking.
  • An improved process for Erasmus students going to other universities, removing the need to manually input 400 records into two different systems (i.e. 800 in total), improved data management and reporting by keeping all of the data in one system rather than three or four. Risk to the university has also been mitigated.
  • A reduction in systems used from 35 to 15 (and some of the 15 are improved systems).
This will lead to significant time savings for the team (to be calculated at six month review stage), increased staff and student satisfaction and a reduction in errors (and checking).
The action plan created is largely in the control of the team, with all actions due for completion in five months.

The team have achieved some truly impressive work, and I look forward to working with them through the implementation phase.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Two heads are better than one. Co-facilitating lean workshops.


Very early on we made the decision to co-facilitate our process improvement events and workshops (where at all possible). We sometimes get asked why we made this decision given the higher overhead – aren’t we all about efficiencies?

Of course as you’ll know from our blog, we focus on effectiveness first, efficiency second. A few years ago I attended some Change Management training that also included some facilitation good practice. The training was very much focused on one facilitator per group. I queried the co-facilitation approach and the trainer recognised that this was the crème de la crème of facilitation, but was rarely achievable.

Why do we aim to co-facilitate improvement activities:
·      It allows us (the facilitators) to challenge each other.
·      It allows us (the facilitators) to learn from each other.
·      It allows us to ensure that in our joint opinion we are guiding the group to through the process in the most appropriate way.
·      It ensures that one of us talks and one listens, which enables us to pick up on subtleties in the process, and to read the body language within the group.
·      We can play ‘good cop, bad cop’, which has its place…
·      Usually co-facilitation brings a greater breadth of skills that is beneficial to the activity.
·      If one facilitator gets tired, there is immediate cover.
·      It is easier to split the project team for group work activities.
·      Post workshop evaluation, and subsequent improvement is based on more than one opinion.

Ground rules for co-facilitation
·      Be clear who is the lead facilitator for a particular activity/ part of the workshop.
·      Ensure that you are facilitating with someone who you respect professionally.
·      Be prepared to be respectfully critical of each other.
·      Have clear boundaries.
·      Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
·      Challenge bias.
·      Be supportive of each other.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Improving the Staff Contract Issuing process

As part of the programme of work we are running with HR we've just run a three-day event looking at the staff contract issuing process. This process is important for the university as it contributes to our institutional guiding principles "Excellence, ambition, engagement, collegiality, resourcefulness, resilience, agility, diversity, sustainability".

When we identify the candidate we wish to appoint we want to secure their employment with the university as quick as possible. Often, people wait for a contract to be issued before they hand in their notice with current employers and delays result in a delay in people starting work with us.

The focus of the improvement activities were on timely contract issuing and making sure that the contract is accurate.

The outputs of the project are:
Ensuring that all information needed to issue a contract is obtained from the Chair of Interview Panel - we have updated the information that is essential.
Making changes to the system to ensure that when staff complete a "Request to Appoint' all of the relevant fields are mandatory. We have also removed unnecessary fields.
Earlier and improved information to staff who work outside of the UK about National Insurance, tax and bank accounts
Tighter checks to ensure that new staff are on the correct payroll for employment (i.e. moved from casual payroll to main payroll)
Improvements to the process for adding cost codes/ research codes to ensure that staff are paid from the correct account, which will improve our financial reporting and remove unnecessary checking and rework.
Removal of the paper process for payroll inputting which will free up some time for payroll staff
Improvements to the communications to new staff about pension entitlements and schemes.
A standard operating procedure for contract issuing.

The team also made some recommendations that were out of scope for the project around improving compliance checks for overseas candidates and advice about pre-occupational health checks.

The team are going to implement the new process from 20 June 2016. We will support the team through implementation stage and will be monitoring process time improvements, number of contract reissues and staff satisfaction as measures of project success.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Lean on the curriculum

This afternoon we were invited to lead a seminar with a group of MA Librarianship students. The purpose of the seminar was to introduce the students to lean principles and the benefits of process mapping.

There are a few useful journal articles outlining lean improvement activities within libraries and we were also able to direct students to activities in other universities:
e.g. University of Strathclyde and St. Andrews

We were also very pleased to be able to direct students to the output of a review undertaken by our own university Library Process Review Group which is a good example of not just making a process more efficient, but questioning its purpose.

The session was fairly interactive with the students producing a SIPOC and a process map for some key library processes. We we were really pleased to be invited to contribute to the course and hope that the students found the session beneficial.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Staff Contract Changes Event

We've just run a three day process improvement event reviewing the process for staff contract changes. In scope for this project was:
  • staff moving from fixed term contracts to open ended contracts
  • extensions to fixed term contracts
  • changes to the number of contracted hours
The main process problems were faced with were many sources of which required manual input, this resulted in inputting and formatting errors and resulted in lots of time being spent checking documents against computer systems and comparing spreadsheets.

When we carried out our baseline data analysis we were interested to hear that people did not have too many problems with the process, the repeated checking was stopping output errors occurring and on the whole people in faculties and departments were generally satisfied with the process. We discovered that it was the staff in HR, Payroll and Pensions that were bearing the brunt of the pain of this process: they put a lot of time and energy into making sure that accurate contracts are produced, staff are paid correctly and on the correct pension scheme. In short, it was a lot of processing for a small change.

What changes were made?
A number of improvements have been identified with the aim of implementing the changes by 31 July 2016.
  • Good practice for departments when initiating the contract change process. Standard outputs with appropriate flexibility of practice for departments.
  • Fewer approvals and greater clarity of the role of each approver.
  • Removing some of the process from academic staff to administrative staff.
  • Better use of the existing system - system generated letters and emails.
  • Removal of need for printing documents.
  • Reducing need for manual input into different systems and spreadsheets.
  • Greater sharing of information between key departments (via the use of google sheets).
  • Reduction in process steps from 41 to 24.
We will continue working with the team throughout the implementation part of the project and will report back on changes to process time and staff satisfaction with the process.