Application of LHE to Program/Degree-Level Academic Processes

Academic Program Consulting Services to Industry (Roberts and Tennant, 2003).23 The Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University of Warwick in Coventry, UK ( was founded to help reinvigorate UK manufacturing and also help businesses overcome barriers to innovation. In 1990, WMG established the Quality and Reliability (Q&R) Team to develop teaching material and provide consulting services to the manufacturing industry in the UK and overseas. After 10 years

Table 7.6 Quality and Reliability Team Hoshin Planning System: Stages and Examples

Planning Stage

Overview of Stage

Planning Outcome (Examples)

Five-year vision

Formulate the vision and vital few goals

Vision: To be internationally recognized as a center of excellence of Q&R Vital few goals: Increase publication rate; grow consultancy

Annual plan

Define what is necessary and sufficient to realize the vision

Disseminate results of consulting; establish market presence


Agree on optimum targets and means for achievement

Create Quality Function Deployment (QFD) relationship matrix


Identify the necessary tasks to achieve the means

Implement the QFD relationship matrix

Monthly review

Teams measure results by self-assessment

Q&R Team meets monthly to review progress against plan and agrees on action to improve/accelerate progress

Annual review

Confirm 5-year vision, vital few goals, and annual plan

Q&R Team reviews overall process annually, affirms/revises vision and vital few goals, checks progress against milestones, sets new milestones, and discusses individual commitment to plan

Source: Adapted from Roberts and Tennant (2003).

of growth, WMG sought to extend Lean’s strategic deployment and execution methodology (Hoshin Kanri or Hoshin planning) used in the industrial sector to their higher education services group. Table 7.6 summarizes the six-stage Hoshin planning framework that the Q&R Team used to engage all team members in an iterative process of discussing and debating plans and targets for research, teaching, and consulting until a consensus was reached and specific methods for reaching each goal were established. Overall. Lean’s Hoshin planning approach created a deeper understanding of customer requirements, a consensus 5-year vision for the Q&R Team, and clear strategic goals and means for their achievement that were immediately deployed and executed.

Master’s Degree in Management (Emiliani, 2005).24 Based on the demonstrated success of his initial efforts to use Lean principles and practices to improve a single graduate course (Section 7.4.1), Emiliani received the support of senior administration, faculty, and staff to conduct similar rapid improvement workshops (kaizen events) for each of the ten courses in the executive MSc management program offered through the Lally School of Management and Technology at the Hartford, CT campus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Student surveys identified four major classroom components of the educational process targeted for improvement:

Purpose and Learning Objectives: A clear rationale for the topics, readings, assignments, etc. included in the course

Course Content: The relevancy of topics, the level of technical/analytical rigor, the inclusion of global comparative analyses of companies, the applicability of course skills to their workplace, and the appropriateness of technological solutions

Organization and Sequence: A logical flow and organization of course materials

Classroom Experience: An interactive and engaging experience (i.e., limited lectures and slide shows).

Lean teams of five to six members (including the course instructor, other faculty members, a senior manager or staff member, an alumni of the program, and a trained facilitator) were established for each course. Prior to each workshop, team members received a packet of information about the course (e.g., syllabus, key instructional materials) and written guidelines on expectations, member roles and responsibilities, and an agenda of activities. The length of the Lean workshops for each course ranged from 1-2 days, and the project team presented their improvement results to senior managers, faculty, and staff at the conclusion of each workshop. Table 7.7 summarizes the course-level improvements implemented following the ten Lean rapid improvement workshops. The team also recommended several program-level improvements:

■ Eliminating ambiguity in grading criteria and assignments across courses

■ Standardize syllabi format (e.g., course description, course objectives) across courses

■ Eliminate duplicate teaching materials (e.g., case studies, assigned readings) across courses

■ Ensure adequate opportunities for students to demonstrate learning and mastery of course materials (e.g., 4-12 graded assignments vs. final exam only)

■ Identify thematic “leadership and strategic thinking” connections among the ten program courses.

Table 7.7 Summary of Improvements to Critical Classroom Components Implemented Following Lean Rapid Improvement Workshops

Classroom Component Targeted for Improvement

Implemented Improvements (Examples)

Purpose and learning objectives

Written statement of purpose or learning objective for each class session and class assignment Oral review of purpose or learning objective by instructor

Course content

Updated course materials, with current articles incorporated into class discussions Incorporate root cause analysis methods (e.g., "Five Whys") into courses where appropriate Include non-US case studies, class readings, and current articles

Demonstrate (orally, written, visually) how class concepts are applied in real business settings Incorporate explicitly role/impact of technology on course subject matter

Organization and sequence

Reorder course-level and class-level sequence of topics to improve flow and make best use of time

Classroom experience

Increase diversity of "adult learning methods" that enhance student participation and match student learning styles

Self-reports by participants in a debriefing session following the workshops cited a number of benefits (e.g., the changes resulted in courses better aligned with student expectations, professors were energized to seek additional continuous improvements beyond those identified in the workshop). In addition, faculty and staff viewed their participation in the Lean workshops as a very positive experience.

Program-Wide Academic Course Review Process (Sinha, and Mishra, 2013).25 Recognizing that the quality of an academic program requires the ongoing assessment of the alignment of individual course content with the program’s curriculum plan (learning goals, program goals, expected outcomes), the Information Systems program at IILM University (Gurgaon, Haryana, India) applied Lean principles and practices to review and improve their current curriculum plan. The desired objectives of the course review process were improved course content and course delivery by learning from the last delivery of the course (e.g., feedback from faculty, students, and industry members), the elimination of non-value-added activity and strengthening value-added activity from courses in the program, and implementation of updates to course content and delivery. An RIE documented the “current state” map for the course review process as it now exists. Faculty members reviewed the current state map to identify non-value wastes (e.g., delay, over processing or incorrect processing, motion, defects). They then brainstormed improvements to the process, including the following:

■ Each course is assigned to a course leader, who has access to the last review of the course and action plan for improvements.

■ Each course leader follows “standard” course review activities within 4 weeks following the completed delivery of the course, maintaining a continuous improvement loop for course content and delivery.

■ Streamlining the course review meeting to save time and efforts by coordinating calendars, etc.

Overall, the Lean practices, while requiring effort and accountability, empowered faculty with the responsibility and ownership of the program curriculum. The application of Lean thinking through the RIE (process mapping, waste identification, and brainstorming) resulted in a reduction in non-value waste and an improved process for conducting course reviews for an academic program to maintain academic rigor and quality.

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