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A fresh approach to Leading Colleges through challenge and change.

By guest, Feb 29 2012 09:20AM

In today’s ever changing marketplace we are constantly faced with the challenge of meeting ever tighter budgets, with fewer resources, whilst delivering improved quality of service provision.

As a College leader you can see the bigger picture of how the community, local economy, politics, social and demographic changes are impacting on the College. Painting a clear picture of the future is a key leadership skill to engage stakeholders and create momentum towards the vision.

Finding a way to adapting to change and getting the staff engaged in the change process is critical to success. Without this engagement you will struggle to deliver the changes required, and plans will be compromised

Over the past few years, some Colleges have started to adopt the Lean Six Sigma approach to enable them to release the skills of staff and deliver significant improvements in quality and efficiency.

So what is Lean Six Sigma and where does it come from and how does it work?

‘Lean’ started in the automotive industry and was famously led by Toyota who developed a process called the Toyota Production System or TPS. This powerful concept centres on getting a clear understanding of what the customer wants. Once this is understood all wasteful activities are challenged and where possible, removed from the processes throughout the business, since they in principle do not contribute to delivering value in the eyes of the customer.

Waste can take many forms in everything we do. Wastes such as waiting, motion, over processing and errors occur in a College environment like everywhere else. Once trained and armed with this understanding of Lean, College staff learn to see again through a new perspective and start to eliminate unnecessary steps and wasteful practices.

‘Six Sigma’ originated in the electronics and the mobile phone industries. Companies such as GE and Motorola were at the forefront of its development. It’s toolset is used to make processes much more reliable and robust. We can clearly see with the improvement in reliability and reduction in costs of these types of products that Six Sigma has played a major part in enabling this to happen.

The Six Sigma structured approach to the improvement of a process is very powerful and the project method can be readily applied to the College environment.

By combining Lean and Six Sigma and blending the appropriate tools, many Colleges have been very successfully in making dramatic improvement to processes.

The adoption of this process started in the College sector with an AoC sponsored project to look at shared services and how Lean Six Sigma could be used to improve processes before they were worked in collaboration.

Cross College projects in the West Midlands in 2011 and in London Colleges in 2012 demonstrated the benefits of the Lean Six Sigma approach giving a cross functional team the opportunity to deliver a significantly improved process as well as improved team working and morale.

Since then a number of individual Colleges have adopted the approach. Processes as varied as enrolment, student services, fee collection, payroll, examinations, registers, admissions and marketing have been tackled and significant improvements have been see.

Recently, tiered training specifically designed for College staff has been developed to support the process. This commences with a one day Yellow belt training programme and develops though Green belt to a practitioner’s course for Project Leaders. All this is aimed at developing internal skill sets.

It is clear from the first few years in the sector that good projects have to be selected and the right support from the top of the College is crucial. However, the potential benefits mean that all College leaders need to seriously consider the Lean Six Sigma approach to leading College improvement activity.


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