Tag Archives: Continuous improvement

Det brenn på dass!

The Lean HE Global Steering committee (some missing the photo-opportunity).

Last week we boarded a plane headed for the UK, with Leeds and Sheffield as our destinations, where we participated in meetings in the Lean HE Europe and Lean HE Global steering groups as well as a community of practice seminar. Moreover, as customs demand we took the opportunity to teach our UK friends a tiny bit of essential Norwegian, such as “Det brenn på dass” (sure we could have chosen worse phrases). Now, you might wonder where we want to go with this, but you’ll know in a minute.

As of 2016, UiT the Arctic University of Norway has been a steering group member of an international network for lean in higher education (HE). The Lean HE network is a global consortium of universities, all aiming to promote continuous improvement philosophies in HE through networking, the sharing of best practice and by supporting the delivery of a conference series. You can read more about Lean HE on the website: http://www.leanhe.org/

Building, participating in and contributing to a network for continuous improvement specific to higher education has been a chosen strategy for our improvement initiative, and it was early quite clear to us that we had to turn to international waters in order be part of a larger community. To tell a long story short: By a semi-planned search, we came across a UK-based network for lean in higher education – The lean HE Hub, and as soon as we reached out, we were warmly welcomed.

Det brenn på dass! But the University of Sheffield is clearly doing something about it.

So what about the title: “Det brenn på dass”. (It literally means that the toilet is on fire). In English, you would use the phrase “burning platform”, but our UK colleagues rather took to the Norwegian term as a somewhat more colorful description of a state of emergency. When the john/wc/toilet/loo/shitouse burns, you’re in dire trouble. If you don’t put that fire out you won’t be able to go about your business the next day, and we wouldn’t want that would we?

The thing is, we all want to move from an organisational state where we operate by firefighting and to a state where fires are prevented instead of fought. Collaboration ensures new perspectives, massive learning and makes it possible to reach for something further away than you could reach on your own. Maybe even a small step away from firefighting.

For us, being part of a larger community has been beneficial beyond our hopes. There is great value to meet and discuss with people who work with the same challenges as you do. Discussions, both formal and informal that gives new perspective to old problems, workshops and coaching-sessions where everyone brings a piece of an unknown solution and the recognition from peers – all part of a common effort to lift ourselves. In this way, networking itself adds value to our processes.

The next step in our international collaboration with other universities working with continuous improvement is a visit to UiT from John Hogg, Director of continuous improvement at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. During his Erasmus+ funded visit from the 18th to April 22, we will make the most of it, having planned several activities with different groups of people and of course an open community of practice seminar. Make sure to read more and sign on to this seminar!

What better way to illustrate the value of international collaboration than to make sure the learning is of mutual benefit to everyone.

-Julia Holte Sempler and Svein Are Tjeldnes

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Stop what you’re doing!

Stop sign pictureHave you ever been encouraged to stop what you’re doing at work? No? Well then, here’s one. I encourage you to stop doing what you do as soon as you have any doubts about the value of the task at hand. Now, let me quickly add a disclaimer: My call for laying down your work should not be used as an excuse for not doing your job. Quite the opposite in fact. I would even argue that you’re not doing your job if you do not evaluate what you do and how you do it regularly.

A heads up for those of you who actually do stop what you’re doing upon realizing there’s something wrong: Laying down the work requires a commitment in which you have to work hard to solve the present problem. In fact, it calls for a session of pure improvement work. And for the best result: do it together with your team with encouragement from your leader.

In practical terms, what could this mean? The point is not to be overly critical to every process you participate in or task you perform, but to apply your experience, skills and common sense to it. A warning sign could typically be if you experience a process to be inefficient and tedious, a task to be of no value or a form to be inadequate or even with no purpose. The goal of course, is to call out ineffective processes and/or unnecessary tasks in order to improve flow.

In a busy workday, I know that colleagues find it hard to question procedures and the value of given tasks. The consequences of not doing the job on time could be hard to carry. The thing to bear in mind though, is that it could potentially be much worse (and more expensive) not to seize an opportunity to improve a faulty process or task. It is of course also important not to exaggerate. We have to improve our work gradually. We cannot afford to try to do it all at once, in which case we would not be able to get any work done at all. On the other hand, it is almost only when we stop the work we’re doing that we are able to take the time to review the process or the task with a goal to improve it.

In my opinion, we are in dire need to understand that continuous improvement is part of the job, not something that should be added on top of a full position. It is also my conviction that this is a vital key to success in our improvement initiative at UiT the Arctic University of Norway.

Now go and stop what you’re doing!

As complimentary reading, I would recommend “Aktivitetsfellen” (In Norwegian) by Øyvind Kvalnes (Associate professor, Department of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour, Norwegian Business School) https://www.bi.no/forskning/business-review/articles/2017/03/aktivitetsfellen/

-Svein Are Tjeldnes

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