Office of the VP for Student Life

Lean processes in Student Life

What is the lean process?

In their book Lean Thinking, James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones defined Lean as a systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste. Launching Lean, in our case, involves value-stream mapping the current state, rapid process improvement, future visioning, and customer involvement. Lean engages staff to identify and solve problems, and provides support systems that ensure success. Womack and Jones identified five key lean principles:

  1. The customer defines value
  2. Organize the work to deliver value
  3. Focus on flow of work
  4. Produce at the rate of customer demand
  5. Improve continuously

Student Life and the lean process

What has Student Life as a division done in the last few years that points to “lean thinking”?

The 2010 efficiency document is dated but points to activity each unit has been involved in over the last few years to improve management of people and processes, as well as delivering more efficient and effective services to campus customers.

In the document we see the principles of LEAN in action, which includes everything from streamlining day-to-day work activities and processes, engaging staff and encouraging them to identify and solve problems, while encouraging people to continuously improve their work in a hands-on way.

The lean process is actively used within departments as well. For instance, over the past seven years, the Office of Admissions has reduced the cost to process and review freshman applications by nearly 50% (from $92/application in 2005 to $48/application in 2012). Over that same period, client (applicant, high school counselor, etc.) satisfaction with the application process, as well as University satisfaction with Admissions outcomes (profile, diversity, etc. of freshman class) has improved. They achieved these gains by simplifying application instructions, clarifying decision timelines, consolidating information required to what the applicants can provide in their applications, reducing the number of times applications are “touched,” monitoring/tracking process flows to identify bottlenecks, surveying applicants on satisfaction. Ideas for efficiencies came from listening to applicants, counselors, staff, and colleagues. No idea was too radical to consider or too small to implement.