Make the most of your and your colleagues’ time

Click for Dep. of Pharmacy youtube video

Last week we were fortunate enough to act on an invitation to do a presentation at the annual seminar for faculty and administrative staff at the Department of Pharmacy at our University. It is quite common for us to be invited to present some of the work we do, both internally and externally, but this was actually the first time the invitation came from a seminar mainly for faculty members. An interesting and very welcomed opportunity to discuss some of our ideas with those who actually work with our core business: teaching and research.

It all came to be as I for some time have had discussions on work efficiency, waste of time and how to deliver valuable contributions to the student experience with my colleague and good friend, Professor Morten B. Strøm. Morten is, as I see it, genuinely interested in developing his own teaching and looking at how he himself can change his ways in order to help the students learn better.

Svein Are and Julia

For us, being asked to present at such a seminar is a near perfect pitch to be able to raise some questions and maybe even get some new thoughts sparked off among the faculty members. The alternative is to invite ourselves out there, but as you know, pull is by far preferred to push.

We had 75 minutes in the program, and through a joint understanding with the Department Head, we decided to address three topics of interest with the heading “Make the most of your and your colleagues’ time”.

  • Identifying time thieves (using the 8 wastes as a reference) and dealing with them
  • How to start thinking of changing the way we interact, and
  • A session on a potential new way to increase the output of academic writing (with the help from Niklas Modig’s theory on looping[1]).

Feedback from the participants so far suggests that it was a fun and valuable session, with some inspiration for new ideas. Moreover, as we used some of the time to talk about waste, they fortunately pointed out that this hour was not an example of such.

It was interesting and felt important finally to be able to present and discuss aspects of the improvement process with members of faculty. They are the ones working directly with our core business, and they are the ones most able to improve the student experience efficiently. So far, we have been doing most of the improvement work within the administrative field, improving back office processes more than the front line.

For us, the most important take home message was an essential question from one of the faculty members: “How do we know that it works?” She was referring to one of our earliest improvement processes at UiT (back in 2010), namely the process of hiring phD-scholars. Even though the lead-time in this process, through a structured improvement initiative was reduced by 42%, she still experienced that it took too long from start to finish. Through this we find some core take-home points, valuable to be reminded of:

  • We need to show that the improvement process actually improves something
  • The processes improved must be perceived as important to staff and students
  • We need constantly to think of how to improve the improvement process itself

-Svein Are Tjeldnes

[1] Inspired from the TED-SSE lecture «lean on yourself»

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