Say it, do it, and improve it! – Impressive learning impact

For two days, UiT The Arctic university of Norway visited the Business Improvement Team (BIT) at the University of Strathclyde to attend their “Lean for Leaders” course in September this year. The strong collaboration between the improvement teams at the two universities has arisen from the LeanHE global network, allowing us to tap into a large joint source of knowledge, experience and expertise.

Following John Hogg’s (Director of Continuous Improvement) Erasmus+ visit to Tromsø in April, we managed to visit Glasgow this September. An excited group of 10 UiT leaders (and two from the improvement team) met early on Sunday morning at the Airport in Tromsø, suddenly realising that travelling to Glasgow is not a walk in the park. Anyway, the journey was pleasantly uneventful. After being welcomed by our host, a nice social evening and a short but efficient night’s sleep, we were all ready to attend Strathclyde’s well renowned lean course.

Graham Ross led us through two days of intense learning, instructive (and FUN!) exercises, lots of reflection, all with a well-balanced sense of humour (I won’t repeat the one with KAI-COSTA though) and participant challenges. With the help of John Hogg, Susan Ali and Susan Hillis we managed to cover topics like the two main Pillars of Lean, the 5 Core Principles, the 8 Wastes, Value Stream Mapping, Evidencing Benefits, Lean Leadership Model, Improvement Kata, 5S, and even more.

In addition to all the expert (and friendly) teaching, coaching and training delivered as part of the course, my feeling is that it was one point in particular that enhanced learning for our group – and made for a classic and powerful Eureka-moment: We could actually witness ourselves that Graham and the rest of the BIT practice what they preach. After going through extensive training with examples and models, we could pop into the next room and witness them working on actual improvement processes throughout the university exactly the way they taught us. They told us how to do it, and showed us they were doing it.

We cannot recall ever having had that same experience in any other course we have attended. It is not even all about the processes they are working on, but the whole way the team is organised and how they work together. The office space, the project rooms, the course room, the mind-set of the team members, and even the storage space and cupboards are all live examples of working in a continuous improvement environment. Inspirational!

Yet, after all this, there is more. The whole key, of course, is not only to practice as you preach but also to evolve and improve. With the BIT’s Daily Stand Up meeting, they aim not only to help others improve, but to improve their own way of doing it. In short, impressive.

For our part, it remains for us to put some of the new knowledge to good use. Our improvement team will work closely with each of the ten participants to ensure that they will get support to form and initiate their own improvement projects within their teams. For us especially, it has been rewarding to be able to learn from colleagues with more experience and to be able to have ten leaders from UiT attend this course at Strathclyde (not easy or cheap to make this happen). Most importantly though, I look forward to following our leaders’ improvement projects and evidencing the impact this collaboration will have on our organisation. And you can all feel safe that we will share how things move on from here in another blog.

To sum it all up: Say it – Do it – and then  Improve it!

Huge thanks to John Hogg, Graham Ross, Susan Ali and Susan Hillis for letting us tap into their way of working and for being such excellent hosts for our arctic band of travellers.

-Svein Are Tjeldnes & Julia Sempler

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