Examples: The Application of LHE to Academic Processes: Research and Service/Outreach

Table 7.10 presents several academic processes related to research and service/outreach. We found few examples of LHE applied to faculty-level research processes and no examples of LHE applied to faculty-level service/outreach processes during our preparation of this book. While we can speculate why there are so few examples to report (e.g., the general focus of LHE to date has been outside of core academic processes; the relative importance of faculty service/outreach to other faculty responsibilities), those examples that were found clearly demonstrate the potential for removing waste and improving flow from academic processes related to research.

Several universities discussed in Chapter 3 describe successful improvements to the research process from their application of LHE. (In the interest of space, brief summaries are provided here; refer to Chapter 3 for more

Table 7.10 Academic Processes Related to Research and Service/Outreach

Examples: Research Processes

Examples: Service/Outreach Processes

Identifying research projects

Identifying outreach projects

Preparing grant proposal

Collaborating with external partners

Managing a research team or research laboratory

Gathering qualitative and quantitative information

Completing the institutional review board process

Coordinating community meetings and events

Preparing research manuscripts

Conducting outreach team meetings

Understanding failures: research findings, grant denial, manuscript rejection

Preparing a final report or presentation

detail.) The University of Washington described the successful application of LHE to their Contract and Grant Accounting (CGA) process that supports post-award financial management for a large number of external awards received by their highly research-active faculty ($1.5 billion annually in external funding). Results reported a significant reduction in backlogs (unclosed budgets, budget setups, and required reports to federally sponsored grants), more than $350K in annual cost avoidance, and a marked increase in UW researcher satisfaction. Michigan Technological University reported a multiuniversity kaizen event to improve the reporting process for certifying faculty effort on federally funded grants. The results of these efforts reduced the number of certifications to be completed by 90% and virtually eliminated the late submittal of the remaining required certifications. Finally, Macquarie University provided a brief report on an RIE to reduce waste and improve flow for the research project account setup process, noting a reduction of 81% in the length of time needed to create a budget account for awarded research funds.

Balzer (2010; the previous edition of this book)39 included the results from two LHE projects at the University of Iowa to improve the administration of research grants and contracts. Those findings are represented in Table 7.11. Results from these projects reported reductions in the number of steps in the process, reductions in the amount of time to complete the process, and other positive improvements to support faculty involved in externally funded research.

Finally, two additional LHE projects on research support were found. Edinburgh Napier University conducted a targeted intervention to address barriers faced by the university’s Institute for Sustainable Construction (COCIS).40 These barriers included the ability to be competitive and grow

Table 7.11 Summary of LHE Projects and Outcomes to Improve the Administration of Research Grants at the University of Iowa

LHE Project

Project Outcomes

Research administration contracts: simplify process for faculty and improve accuracy

Reduced number of steps in the process from 45 to 17 (62% improvement)

Decreased number of process loopbacks from 21 to 10 (52% improvement)

Decreased the number of total days in process contract waits for action from 42 to 15 (65% improvement) Reduced review time for complex contracts from 38 to 32weeks (16% improvement); simple contracts reviewed in <48hours

Research administration grants: simplify process for faculty and improve accuracy

Reduced time to inform Grants Accounting of award notice from 10 to 5 days (50% improvement)

Projected reduction of 25% in rework and post-grant submission corrections Established research liaison role to improve understanding of process within the decentralized university structure

Improved information gathering decreased number of unnecessary phone calls and emails to Office of Sponsored Research

Source: From Balzer (2010, Table 3.4).

external funding related to research and commercial activity. A 2-day RIE identified internal and external customer requirements to evaluate the current process and proposed and evaluated possible options for the future organization of COCIS research and support areas. Outcomes of this “Hot House” project (i.e., process improvements within this bounded place could be successfully transplanted and grown in other areas of the university) included a more streamlined pre-award and post-award process. Northumbria University New Castle (UK) used Lean to improve their research management processes.41 For example, the process for new faculty transferring their current grants to the university was poorly defined and confusing. A Lean team identified that the common element for all new employees was human resources, who agreed to include an item about grant transfers in the materials they send to all new faculty. This ensured that all new faculty holding grants to be transferred would receive the information they need to correctly navigate the grant transfer process. This resulted in a reduced number of queries regarding the grant transfer process.

Overall, despite the limited number of examples available, it seems reasonable to suggest that the application of LHE to scholarly/creative activities and service/outreach processes may hold promise for improving these academic processes (i.e., better value through the elimination of waste and better flow) to the benefit of the faculty, the employees involved in providing these processes, and the university.

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