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2nd International Conference on Lean Six Sigma for Higher Education June 2014 Arnhem, The Netherlands
2nd International Conference on Lean Six Sigma for Higher Education June 2014 Arnhem, The Netherlands
Each area will be di...
2nd International Conference on Lean Six Sigma for Higher Education June 2014 Arnhem, The Netherlands
for identifying hidd...
2nd International Conference on Lean Six Sigma for Higher Education June 2014 Arnhem, The Netherlands
science (versus art)...
2nd International Conference on Lean Six Sigma for Higher Education June 2014 Arnhem, The Netherlands
Balzer, W.K. (2010),...
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Balzer, William K; Why is the broad implementation of LHE failing


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Paper for 2nd International Conference on Lean Six Sigma for Higher Education
This presentation examines the difference between the promise and application of Lean Higher Education.

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Balzer, William K; Why is the broad implementation of LHE failing

  1. 1. 2nd International Conference on Lean Six Sigma for Higher Education June 2014 Arnhem, The Netherlands WHY IS THE BROAD IMPLEMENTATION OF LEAN HIGHER EDUCATION FAILING? William Balzer and Thaddeus Rada Bowling Green State University, Ohio USA For several decades, LEAN principles and practices have been used to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of universities (Balzer, 2010; Womack & Jones, 2003, 2005). Numerous articles and conference presentations provide clear demonstrations of the positive benefits of Lean Higher Education (LHE): improved processes and services that delight the beneficiaries of our colleges and universities (e.g., students, alumni, faculty, staff, donors); improved morale and engagement of employees who have a more active role in using their skills and abilities through a more enriched job; and university administrators who can reinvest resources that are freed-up due to the elimination of waste and improved flow of important – and expensive – processes and services (e.g., student recruiting, admissions, student orientation, academic advising, student billing, grant processing, faculty hiring, facility repairs, new course approvals, and much more). At a time when universities are being required to do more with less, provide greater accountability for the public’s investment in higher education (HE), and become more competitive on the basis of cost and quality in an era of declining high school graduates and an increase in the number of higher education providers. In light of the great need for the demonstrated improvements that LHE can provide, why then have so few universities adopted LHE principles and practices? Why, after 60 years of success in virtually every industry and service from manufacturing to healthcare, and almost 20 years in public and private universities around the world, are there at best a handful of HE institutions that have deployed LHE as a strategy for long term success? In the absence of alternative, evidence-based, strategic management philosophies that offer solutions for beneficiaries, employees, and senior leadership, why is LHE not used? This presentation examines the difference between the promise and application of LHE. While there is no doubt a shortage of hypotheses, I offer one self-introspective alternative, stated best in the historic American comic strip Pogo: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” Based on my own experiences as an LHE practitioner for ten years and as an organizational psychologist for over 30 years, barriers to the broader implementation of LHE may be of our own making. I hope to provoke some “5 Why” thinking to help deploy LHE strategically, broadly, and deeply and over successive senior leadership transitions, not in dozens of universities, but rather in hundreds of universities. Space and time limit the number of potential causes for our inability to implement LHE broadly. Four areas will be addressed: - Failure to speak the language of HE - Failure to communicate the language of LHE - Failure to demonstrate the effectiveness of LHE - Failure to understand the dynamics of organizational transformation and change
  2. 2. 2nd International Conference on Lean Six Sigma for Higher Education June 2014 Arnhem, The Netherlands Each area will be discussed briefly, with possible solutions offered to overcome these challenges in the future. Failure to Speak the Language of HE. There is an apocryphal lesson in the book and documentary of the 1980s, In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best Run Companies (Peters & Waterman, 1981). A 3M researcher is preparing to “pitch” compact disc media as a new product line for the company, requiring a multi-million dollar investment. The researcher, savvy to the language and culture of 3M, carefully demonstrates the CD media to board members by holding it so they see the thin, side view of the disc (rather than the round front view). His reasoning: 3M products are thin, and the board will see a better fit for a thin medium for storing information (much like reel-to-reel and cassette “tapes”). The pitch was successful, in part, because the researcher spoke the language of his company. LHE often fail to speak the language of HE. Consider the critical metrics used by LHE practitioners to evaluate the removal/elimination of waste and improved flow: total time, value creating time, value added time, on-time delivery, cost per unit, etc. (Balzer, 2010, pp. 143- 150). Presenting these statistics in “report out” sessions or A4 documents are unlikely to resonate with senior leaders in higher education. Furthermore, while senior administrators would no doubt be pleased that students, faculty, alumni, and others have positive perceptions of their university experiences (e.g., exactly what you want, exactly when you want it, exactly where you want it, exactly how you want it), these are not necessarily their language either. I became critically aware of this “disconnect” when, reporting out to management in glorious LHE detail how our kaizen to improve the delivery of counseling services for students eliminated long wait times for frustrated students, parents, and faculty to immediate “walk-in” service without any additional personnel cost. The first question I received by a member of the senior leadership team was, “How many jobs did you cut, and how much money did this save the university?” Like it or not, we need to speak the language of senior administrators to enlist their commitment and support. Including metrics that are part of their language for students (FTE Enrollment: # of full-time equivalent enrolled for a particular semester; Student Yield: % of student applicants who enroll; Fall-to-Fall Student Retention: % of first-time, full-time freshman students who re-enroll for the second year), faculty and staff (FTE Headcount: a measure of the full-time equivalent staff that deliver a service; Voluntary Turnover Rate: % loss of faculty or staff who left on their own accord), and external support (Private Giving: $ raised from alumni and friends; Grant Submissions: % change in number of grant applications submitted). Including the language of senior administrators alongside the metrics common to LHE practitioners will engage their interest and demonstrate the positive impact of LHE on the university. Overall, we need to connect-the-dots between the outcomes of LHE and the goals of senior leaders in HE. Speaking the language of HE might also benefit from showing the comprehensive impact of LHE. As noted above, I failed to articulate cost savings in our LHE project to improve mental health counseling services at our university. Our “report out” might have been better received if we accurately estimated the financial benefit. Harrington (1987) provides a useful framework
  3. 3. 2nd International Conference on Lean Six Sigma for Higher Education June 2014 Arnhem, The Netherlands for identifying hidden areas of cost savings and avoidance relevant to a current broken process or service that can be calculated on an annualized basis. For example, our project eliminated non-value-added group meetings that both consumed time and limited service hours available for students. Both the financial cost (X meeting attendees * # meeting hours per year * hourly salaries + benefits) and opportunity cost (cost avoidance of hiring new staff to provide drop in service by freeing up current staff from unnecessary meetings) are likely to be significant. Research that demonstrates causal linkages between the improved process and the benefits to students can also be used to calculate a financial impact. Lee et al. (2009) report an empirical link between timely counseling services and freshman and transfer student retention, providing the ability to calculate lost revenue (# students not retained * revenue per student * # college semesters to graduation). The annual cumulative financial savings of these hidden costs will draw a clear and tangible link between improved university processes thanks to LHE and the language of finance and accounting operations. Failure to communicate the language of LHE. Lean has a rich language that describe its strategy, methods, tools, and as noted above, performance metrics. Our language includes both “original” Japanese terminology that respects the early roots of Lean (e.g., Kaizen, Gemba, Poka-Yoke) as well as terminology specific to Lean/Six Sigma (e.g., SIPOC chart, 5S, FIFO lanes). It has been my experience that the language of Lean is both an asset and a liability in the application of LHE at universities. The language suggests a de facto level of knowledge and skills that lends credibility to LHE practitioners (e.g., the ability to “talk Lean” intimates an expertise not held by those outside the Lean community). LHE practitioners might hope that this perceived expertise (along with successful case studies - more on this below) translates into greater appreciation and acceptance of LHE. The language of Lean, however, may be a significant liability through the lens of a university administrator. The inaccessibility of the Lean language to others within HE makes it less understandable and, without understanding, less likely to be accepted. For example, a value stream map is difficult for senior leaders to fully grasp in the absence of a deeper background in Lean. Most will not take the time to learn our language; thus, it is unlikely that they will embrace a new and powerful institutional strategy driven by LHE if they don’t understand it. As a second example, faculty bristle at terms such as “Voice of the Customer,” actively resisting even the slightest suggestion that students are customers (HE is a business, their work can be standardized, etc.). Overall, we must do a better job translating the language of LHE. The use of alternate terminology can help in this regard (e.g., “Rapid Improvement Workshop” instead of Kaizen; “Visual Management System” instead of Kanban) and make the world of Lean more accessible, understandable, and acceptable. As a side note, the term “Lean” itself has incredible baggage (i.e., “lean and mean” cutting of positions or budgets). Failure to demonstrate the effectiveness of LHE. Surprisingly, there is very limited “scientific” evidence to demonstrate the positive impact of LHE at colleges and universities (Balzer, Smith, & Alexander, 2009). While there is a growing accumulation of successful case studies supporting the general effectiveness of LHE (e.g., Balzer 2010; Chapter 3; Behm et al., 2010), our field lacks rigorous field experiments that use control groups, random assignment, replication, statistical tests, and other basic research design considerations that define the
  4. 4. 2nd International Conference on Lean Six Sigma for Higher Education June 2014 Arnhem, The Netherlands science (versus art) of LHE. In fact, LHE interventions are often poorly operationalized concepts that include differing Lean concepts across case studies. For example, individual case studies use “non-standardized” work when implementing rapid improvement workshops, making it challenging to determine whether the outcome is due to the method, tool, the facilitator, or simply the engagement of employees (i.e., “Hawthorne Effect”). The evidence-based unique impact of Lean has not been studied rigorously outside of HE (Balzer et al, 2009), and must be addressed for wary senior leaders in HE to embrace LHE as a key institutional strategy. If we demand evidence-based practice in medicine, aeronautical engineering, and building design, why shouldn’t HE leaders expect the same before adopting LHE to resolve quality and cost challenges that threaten the survival of their university? Failure to understand the dynamics of organizational transformation and change. LHE offers an exceptional framework for visualizing and measuring all aspects of any process or service, and provides the “lean tool box” to remove waste and improve flow in a future state process or service. Black belt certifications, seminars, and apprenticeships prepare LHE practitioners to implement Lean systems thinking. Missing, however, is background in organizational diagnosis and change and an understanding of human behavior in organizations. Work organizations resist change (Balzer, Brodke, and Kizhakethalackal, in press), and universities are no exception. Institutions of HE are known for deliberative decision making and enduring cultures designed to ensure stability, traditions and long-standing practices. This creates inertia for change, and makes it easy for employees to revert to old habits following change. LHE threatens this culture, moving to bottom-up decision making that threatens established leadership and management roles (Katz and Kahn, 1978). LHE practitioners with a fervor and passion for Lean but limited understanding of organizational behavior are underprepared to help the institution accept and implement Lean as a strategic philosophy. A deeper background in organizational change (Burke, 2014) would provide the knowledge needed to align university structures and practices (e.g., personnel practices, leadership practices, organizational design and structure, motivation and reward practices, decision making practices) to help ensure the effective implementation of LHE. For example, a strategic plan that embraces LHE as the operational strategy, personnel practices that select and build Lean skills, and practices that incent and recognize successful LHE initiatives will work in concert to create a sustainable Lean university. Overall, the narrow training of most LHE practitioners and the absence of an “Organizational Development and Change” toolbox will limit our ability to implement deep and sustainable change through LHE. Summary The goal of this paper was to stimulate a conversation on the need for deeper self-reflection by LHE practitioners. If in fact our own limitations to effectively implement LHE more broadly and deeply are identified and addressed, we have made a positive step forward on our own continuous improvement journey. References
  5. 5. 2nd International Conference on Lean Six Sigma for Higher Education June 2014 Arnhem, The Netherlands Balzer, W.K. (2010), Lean Higher Education: Increasing the Value and Performance of university Process, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. Balzer, W.K., Brodke, M.H., & Kizhakethalackal, E.T. (in press). Lean Higher Education: Successes, Challenges, and Realizing Potential. International Journal of Reliability and Quality Management. Balzer, W.K., Smith, E., & Alexander, K. (April, 2009). What do we know about the psychology of Lean? Presentation at the 23rd Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, New Orleans, LA. Behm, J., Deseck, M., Gramza, M., Hermansen, S. (October, 2010) Lean thinking for business and finance. U of M Business and Finance Leadership Academy Action Learning Team Burke, W.W. (2014), Organization Change: Theory and Practice, (4th ed.), Sage, Washington, D.C. Harrington, R. (1987), Poor-Quality Cost, Marcel Dekker, Inc./ASQC Quality Press, New York. Jones, D. T., and Womack, J. P. (2009), Lean solutions: how companies and customers can create value and wealth together, Simon & Schuster, New York. Katz, D., and Kahn, L. R. (1978), The Social Psychology of Organizations, Wiley, New York. Lee, D., Olson, E., Locke, B., Michelson, S., & Odes, E. (2009). The effect of college counseling services on academic performance and retention. Journal of College Student Development, 50(3), 305-319. Peters, T., & Waterman, R. (1982). In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best Run Companies. New York: HarperCollins.