5 Lessons from deploying Lean in the Education Sector

Since the book, Lean Thinking which was published is 1986, Lean has spread to many different business sectors, initially to other manufacturing types and then into the back-office processes of business and into processing centres for administration or service –call centres.

It has now spread far and wide across many different sectors. Although Lean has been heavily researched and discussed by academics and researchers, its use by the Education sector has only started to come forward relatively recently in Lean terms. At the Perfect Process Company, we have delivered several interventions within education with several key themes emerging from this work:

Lesson 1: The support and engagement of the Educational leadership team and the senior site leader is essential

Like the commercial world, the leadership team needs to support the Lean change programme and direct its’ efforts to succeed.

Lesson 2: An imperative for change is required to catalyse action

This normally takes the form of an Ofsted inspection result, where anything below “good” triggers an immediate action plan and a core review of the establishment. Where this imperative is missing, just like in the business world it can be difficult to get change started.

Lesson 3: There are many different stakeholder groups which have differing levels of influence and can be difficult to navigate

The governing body, local community, parents, religious stakeholders, LEAs, Ofsted, government department of education are all bodies which have a stake and influence schools, colleges and universities. The government for example can require rapid changes at short notice. These bodies may need to be consulted or at least informed when a Lean change programme is being implemented. This challenging landscape sucks up time and resources during the Lean journey.

Lesson 4: It is difficult to define the customer and understand value the older the pupil/student

Value is easier to determine in Key stage 1,2,3 as the customer (the child) is heavily represented by the key stakeholder (the parent) during their educational journey. At 16 the child starts to have an increasing level of freedom and the parents are naturally less directly involved in their education. Once the child turns 18 and enters higher education that link is lost and the stakeholder is naturally less involved. The challenge for further and higher education is to understand the attributes of value from an audience that has not necessarily reached a level of maturity to be able to provide a balanced view of educational needs!

Lesson 5: There is a resistance to standardisation and adaption of new processes

Excessive use of personal methods for recording data and management has been found in the places we have worked. There is also a reluctance to adapt new processes which hinders efficiency and standardisation in further and higher education.

Neil Trivedi

The Perfect Process Company