Introduction to the Second Edition

This book is written to appeal to a broad audience: individuals interested in learning how to apply Lean principles and practices to higher education (i.e., referred to as Lean Higher Education or LHE), university administrators interested in learning more about LHE and how it can help achieve academic and operational excellence, graduate students in higher education interested in improving university processes and introducing large-scale institutional change programs, and constituent leaders (e.g., university trustees seeking a competitive advantage over other higher education institutions, elected and appointed government officials balancing institutional support vs. institutional outcomes, business leaders dependent on college graduates and the intellectual output of universities). Practical examples are provided throughout the book, and the endnotes for each chapter reference additional readings for those interested in learning more about the specific topics covered.

This second edition includes a number of enhancements since the first edition, including updating the content to reflect growth in the field of LHE over the past decade, reorganizing materials to create improved flow for the reader, and adding new chapters on important topics in LHE.

Chapter 1 provides a contextual overview of the need for LHE. The challenges of declining support for higher education, and an increased call for accountability, underscore the importance of new models for delivering the complex set of processes that make up a university. The chapter introduces the success of Lean principles and practices outside of higher education and LHE’s potential for creating low-cost, high-quality, and “just-in-time” processes valued by those served by institutions of higher education.

Chapter 2 presents a detailed application of LHE’s most ubiquitous activity, the Rapid Improvement Event (RIE), for a process of growing significance to higher education: student mental health assessment and therapy services. This case study walks the reader through the key steps involved in preparing for and conducting an RIE, which culminates in the identification and implementation of solutions that remove waste and improve flow of the process that delivers campus-based mental health services.

Chapter 3 has been expanded to include 16 successful applications of LHE at universities around the world. These successful examples highlight how LHE principles and practices have been adopted, implemented, and sustained across a variety of institutions that differ in mission, size, culture, and rationale for introducing LHE. These exemplars highlight the dramatic improvements in critical university processes that are possible whether LHE is introduced university-wide or “locally” in specific divisions or areas of the institution.

Chapter 4 discusses initial considerations that should be taken into account prior to implementing LHE. Assessing institutional readiness for LHE is an important step to determine whether the institutional practices, including climate and leadership, are sufficient to support the success of LHE and, if not, what steps might be taken to improve a university’s readiness. The chapter concludes with general recommendations to support the successful implementation of LHE.

After briefly describing alternative LHE activities that can be employed to increase the value and performance of university processes, Chapters 5 and 6 provide a detailed presentation of the steps needed to prepare for, conduct, implement, and sustain the ubiquitous RIE. The RIE framework followed integrates best practices drawn from many successful LHE universities, and the chapters provide specific advice as well as general recommendations and considerations for scoping the RIE project, creating visual maps of the process, identifying wastes and impediments to flow, identifying solutions to improve the process, and implementing and sustaining improvements to the process. The freshman move-in process is used as a running example to demonstrate all steps in conducting an RIE, and Lean tools to assist practitioners at each step are identified and demonstrated.

Chapters 7 and 8 are new to the second edition, representing growing topics of interest in LHE. Chapter 7 focuses on the application of LHE to core academic processes at universities: processes related to teaching and curriculum, scholarly/creative activities, and service/outreach. Conceptual frameworks for the application of LHE to the core academic processes of teaching and curriculum are presented followed by case studies showing LHE’s use at the level of an individual course, an academic program or degree, and university-wide. Recommendations are offered to expand the application of LHE from academic support and cocurricular processes to these core academic processes central to the educational mission of the institution.

Chapter 8 looks at the role of senior leadership in LHE. The chapter presents information that can be shared with senior leaders to help them see the broad range of benefits possible from the successful implementation of LHE while also highlighting what is expected of senior leaders to help ensure the successful implementation of LHE. The chapter concludes with a section that emphasizes the new roles of leaders at all levels of the university when LHE is introduced and the critical role of immediate supervisors and mid-level managers in helping gain employee support for LHE.

Chapter 9 looks to the future, discussing a number of current challenges that limit the broader adoption of LHE as well as opportunities for extending the application of LHE today and in the future. Finally, Appendix A details numerous resources to support LHE including professional organizations and conferences, videos and simulations, and other materials useful when developing and implementing LHE.

Like most books, this is designed to be read from beginning to end in a linear fashion. However, given the broad audience for which this book is intended, different groupings of the chapters can be read independently of others. For those audiences interested in a more general overview of LHE, readers may focus on Chapters 1-3. For those readers interested in seeing a complete example of “LHE at work,” Chapter 2 can be read separately and supplemented by some of the case studies in Chapters 3 and 7. For an audience wishing to see for themselves (or show others) the “bottom-line” contributions of LHE, readers can focus on the successful examples of LHE included as Chapter 3 as well as the discussion of benefits described in the first half of Chapter 8. For senior leaders considering LHE, some or all of the following chapters can be helpful: Chapter 1 describes the rationale of LHE as a management strategy for leading institutional change; Chapter 3 provides some quick examples of LHE at peer and aspirational institutions; and Chapter 7 helps senior leaders understand what they can expect, and what will be expected from them, should LHE be adopted and implemented. Finally, for those wishing to roll up their sleeves and begin using LHE principles and practices to conduct a RIE, Chapters 5 and 6 provide step-by-step guidance and provide a practical reference guide in the workplace for introducing, implementing, and sustaining LHE.

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