Student Centered Experiences

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In General

Lean principles have been around many years and were made more common after the publishing of the book, The Machine that Changed the World.  This book introduced the world to the fundamental difference between the way Toyota built cars and how other manufactures built cars.  Today, Lean principles are found and can be used in just about every industry.  Today, Healthcare and Education are two areas undergoing radical shifts in how they operate.  Lean has the opportunity to dramatically improve efficiencies and effectiveness in both of these areas.

Education in particular is changing in many ways.  Several keys changes include the move towards more online learning, changes in the way classes are taught, better utilization of facilities, and catering to changes in technology.  Lean has the ability to help in these changes by better understanding how these processes work and ensuring they are as efficient as possible.

One of the key tools to help with efficiency is the Value Stream Map or VSM.  A value stream is a representation of all work that happens in the effort to provide a product or service to a customer.   The goal of Value Stream Mapping is to document the current and future state process to identify and eliminate all non-value activities.  By doing this, the process becomes more efficient and responsive to delivering only what the customer desires in the least expensive way.

In education, it is becoming more critical to ensure all processes are efficient and responsive to customers wants.  Lean, above all else, focuses on the customer and ensuring their needs are met.  That sometimes becomes difficult in many organizations because there are generally multiple customers.  Education is no different.  The “customer” could be the student, parents, faculty, community employers, and government to name a few.

There have been many times I’ve seen an organization focus on using Value Stream Maps to make processes more efficient but lose focus on true reason for making changes; provide better customer satisfaction.  The typical activities used in a VSM activity are as follows:

  1. Create the current and future state map
  2. Walk the current Value Stream to identify waste
  3. Document and create projects to eliminate the waste
  4. Execute the projects

Lean is focused on eliminating the 7 types of waste originally identified by Toyota. These wastes, along with examples in education, include:

Transportation – Moving from one building to another, moving transcripts or other paperwork

Inventory – Unused rooms, obsolete books

Movement – Too many steps in the enrollment process, central place to pick up supplies

Waiting – Waiting in line to enroll or talk to staff, time between classes

Overprocessing – Too many drop/adds, excessive reminders to students

Overproduction – Creating too many classes that aren’t filled

Defects – Wrong class rooms or times, billing errors

While eliminating the 7 types of waste is great for making processes more efficient and less costly, they can sometimes get disconnected from the purpose, customer satisfaction.  While I think Lean and the VSM process is critical to the future success of education, I also think we need to focus more attention on the main customer during these improvement projects, the student.   I encourage process improvement projects in education to also focus on the student by adding a step in the general VSM process mentioned above.  The step is called “STUDENT focused analysis (SFA)” and goes between steps 2 and 3.   The STUDENT part of FSA is an acronym for the seven student concerns that should be managed during any process in the education system.  STUDENT means:

  1. Stressed – Stressed about what to do, where to go, or when to do it
  2. Trapped – The feeling that nothing can be changed and there aren’t any good solutions
  3. Uninformed – Not sure what to do or where to go
  4. Depersonalized – Feeling of being a number and not a person
  5. Embarrassed – Not comfortable about level of knowledge and don’t want to ask
  6. Neglected – Not being able to get help
  7. Terrified – Feeling scared and out of place

The new general VSM process becomes:

  1. Create the current and future state map
  2. Walk the current Value Stream to identify waste
  3. Walk the current Value Stream to identify STUDENT related experiences
  4. Document and create projects to eliminate the waste and STUDENT experiences
  5. Execute the projects

As you are walking the Value Stream to find waste, you can make sure you are also considering the student’s experience by keeping these elements in mind.  This will help to ensure that you create a process that isn’t just Lean, but Lean and student centric.

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