Lean update: the University of Waterloo

posted 20 Oct 2017, 08:20 by Melanie Scott

“Lean is a systematic approach of eliminating work that creates no value. It has 3 goals, culture change, effectiveness, efficiency.  Similar to other industries, Higher Education is faced with pressure for greater accountability and transparency, shrinking budgets and increased need for highly skilled talent.  Implementing Lean at Waterloo will support the achievement of a sustainable, continuous improvement culture that encourages simplicity, increases effectiveness and delivers exceptional value to the University community.” --Dr. Marilyn Thompson

Since the University of Waterloo hosted the Lean in Higher Education Conference in 2015, there has been growing interest in learning and applying Lean methodologies across campus. St. Jerome’s University began its Lean journey with its Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) construction process in their campus renewal build. They improved daily operations by identifying inefficiencies and applying Lean methodology to multiple processes, which focused on a shift in team culture and behaviour. Plant Operations encountered similar success when they applied 5S, a way to organize a work-space so that all tools and supplies are identifiable and accessible; and the Library has applied the Kaizen approach, a series of 8 steps that aides with problem solving, three times to improve major processes. Human Resources has also applied Lean principles to improve the staff hiring process by documenting it end to end and redesigning it for better efficiency.  

To keep up this incredible momentum, and further support campus Lean initiatives, a pilot across eight staff groups will be taking place this year at Waterloo. The pilot will provide an opportunity for the core group to showcase continuous improvement projects, such as the ones mentioned above, happening within their departments and encourage a collaborative approach to problem solving and advancement. The pilot’s purpose is to work collectively to achieve a sustainable, continuous improvement culture that encourages simplicity, increases effectiveness and delivers exceptional value to the University community. Meetings will take place six times per year. Staff groups will rotate hosting duties, provide Lean learning opportunities and explore continuous improvement methodologies, such as Kaizen, and their application throughout the year.

The Steering Group, comprised of University leadership members, will define the pilot's strategy and expected outcomes, which may include: achievement of measurable improvements, enabling effective continuous improvement collaboration across departments, raising awareness and interest in Lean efforts across the University; as well as developing a shared understanding of continuous improvement at Waterloo.

If you have any questions about Lean at the University of Waterloo, please contact Marilyn Thompson, Associate Provost Human Resources at marilyn.thompson@uwaterloo.ca or Kimberley Snage, Director HR Projects, Technology & Analytics at kimberley.snage@uwaterloo.ca.

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