Are you a glass half full or a glass half empty type of person? Do you see great opportunities for making significant change in higher education over the next few years or does it feel like the decrease in funding and financial instability will rob us of our ability to educate our students?
However you answer it is clear that higher education leaders need to be stewards of diminishing resources while providing hope and opportunity to their communities and to our society. This demands that we identify the crucial and eliminate the unnecessary. Or as the old saying goes, “doing more with less.”
While this is a daunting task one concrete place to start is to think LEAN.
Lean thinking asks leaders to fully engage the people on their team and identify how and where they make the greatest contribution to student success and, as importantly, what obstacles or inefficiencies exist in their day-to-day work. It focuses on the work flows and work processes that support higher education and applies a rigorous examination of how valuable each step in the process is and what is getting in the way of your people and making it harder to do their jobs!
A colleague of mine, Theresa Waterbury, wrote a book titled, Educational Lean:Theory and Practice. It provides an introduction to lean thinking and hands-on examples of how to make changes in your workplace. A simple way to start thinking lean is to ask your team the following questions – do this both with your whole team and with individuals:
• What things keep you from doing your work?
• What is something you should not have to do?
• What would make your work easier?
• What would make your work more satisfying?
• What would improve the skills and capabilities of those who work for you?
• What would improve your work environment?
• What would make you more successful in your job?
We can’t magically change the national economy or print more money but leaders can help ensure that the work they are doing and the work of their team is focused and efficient by thinking lean.
For more information on Lean Thinking in Higher Education check out the following resources:
Constanta Maritime University Annals, Vol. 18, 2012.