In Search Of Operational Excellence
Learning institutions rely on many complex processes working together to meet the needs of stakeholders. And it’s these processes that come under scrutiny when institutions are asked to achieve more with less, be more accountable or flexible, or improve service to those stakeholders.
The recent Ernst & Young Universities of the Future report highlighted the need to streamline large back office operations. How a learning institution manages its many academic processes like course development, curriculum revision and advising, and administrative processes such as enrolling students can make all the difference when facing rising costs, reduced funding, falling enrolments of foreign students, increasing demands for flexible learning, and other pressures.
We’re all in search of that Holy Grail; operational excellence, and yet, the closer a trained eye looks at current processes, the more gaps appear, and the further off appears the goal.
This shouldn’t surprise us. We rarely encounter anyone who really understands how things are supposed to work from start to finish, and even fewer who can tell us what the organisational policy is for the existence and guidance of the process. Such a poor starting point inevitably leads to poorly conceived or implemented ‘enhancements’, often based on information systems that deliver expensive yet disappointing results. The outcome can often be poor service delivery, high cost and low flexibility, exactly the opposite of the ‘excellence’ being sought.
It needn’t be this way; our overwhelming message is one of hope and encouragement. From process-improvement experience across a dozen Australian universities and TAFEs, we’ve seen how common processes can be quickly, significantly and sustainably improved. It just takes the right approach.