UW News

April 29, 2019

Case study in ‘lean’ management wins prestigious award


Denny Hall on UW’s Seattle campusMark Stone/University of Washington

The University of Washington’s approach to continuous improvement management has been recognized with a national award.

The Shingo Institute, a program in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University, has awarded UW staff members Michael Martyn, Mark McKenzie and Doug Merrill with the award for their case study, “Implementing a Culture of Continuous Improvement at the UW.”

“Receipt of the Shingo Publication Award signifies an author’s significant contribution and practical application to the body of knowledge regarding enterprise excellence,” said Ken Snyder, executive director of the Shingo Institute.

By “challenging” or applying for a Shingo Publication Award, authors invite a group of professionals and examiners from the Shingo Institute to thoroughly review their publication. Shingo examiners select recipients based on a rigorous set of standards.

The winning case study follows the UW Finance and Facilities (F2) department’s eight-year lean journey. Challenging previously held norms surrounding such improvement initiatives, the team found success through clearly defined goals and a newly implemented, four-phase development model. This model, created to achieve the purpose “to develop our people, to design our culture, to deliver our results,” is based off teachings of the Shingo Model surrounding principle-based, ideal behaviors.

The F2 department focused on maximizing engagement and had a high level of participation in the program. The eight-year process resulted in numerous results, including over 8,000 hours of training and development, the development of 47 internal lean coaches, more than 80,000 employee-implemented improvements, $328 million in financial benefits for the university as a whole, as well as numerous awards and honors.

“The Shingo Publication Award and the UW case study represent the very best organizational and leadership qualities associated with enhancing the quality and effectiveness of an organization,” said Bruce J. Avolio, executive director of the Center for Leadership & Strategic Thinking in the UW’s Foster School of Business. “What was clearly represented in the case study were the strategic connections that were made that resulted in enhancing the ownership that the people took for improving the quality of their work.”

Brian McCartan, vice president for UW Finance, said, “2020 will mark the 10-year anniversary of the launch of lean at the University of Washington by the UW Finance and Facilities organization. Since its launch, the program has improved business processes and outcomes across the entire university, resulting in millions of dollars of savings. As a relative newcomer to the UW, I have been impressed with how lean has been embedded at the unit level. Lean is not the management ‘flavor of the month’, but rather is a sustained organizing principle.”

Copies of the case study may be ordered online at https://higher-ed.sisulms.com.

Martyn, McKenzie and Merrill will receive their award this week at the awards ceremony during the Shingo Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.