4.22.2010

Lean in Higher Education

Many initiatives and interventions in higher education have met with mixed success --The objective to dramatically improve colleges and universities has often plateaued after intial benefits or outright failed. I asked William K. Balzer (author of Lean Higher Education: Increasing the Value and Performance of University Processes), "Why would the results be any different after the application of Lean in a higher education environment?" His response makes some strong arguments in regard to the benefits:

"Lean Higher Education (LHE) is different in many important ways and can result in significant improvements in the critical services and processes that are central to colleges and universities. First, LHE is a comprehensive approach to institutional change and improvement based on an established set of principles and practices, increasing the likelihood of a long-term impact on faculty and staff attitudes and behaviors.


Second, LHE strikes a balance between the long-term needs of the institution and its employees. The elimination of unnecessary steps and activities that add expense and no value to the university saves resources, and it also allows overburdened employees to redesign their work so that it is more meaningful and satisfying.

Third, LHE offers an established set of practical tools for implementing change and improvement. LHE provides an established set of steps to understand, diagnose, and improve college and university services and processes with confidence.

Finally, there is considerable evidence of support for the effectiveness of LHE principles and practices. More than 50 years of use in a broad variety of organizations, business sectors, and cultures provides strong support for the 'transportability' of Lean principles and practices to higher education. In fact, a growing number of applications of LHE demonstrate significant improvements in college and university processes that result in better service to students, reduced costs for the institution, and greater employee ownership over how their work is done. Overall, LHE holds great promise for improvements in higher education at a time where resources are declining, greater accountability is expected, and higher education’s role in economic development and quality of life is increasingly important."

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