A survey undertaken across Australian universities by DVE back in 2017 highlighted that:
- 90% of processes contained manual work arounds to get things done
- 5 key processes created 80% unnecessary work
Although there have undoubtedly been changes since this time, my experience within the sector has highlighted similar issues. A straw poll of senior managers working across a range of university functions for a major top ten university in the UK believed that up to 57% of their time was non-value added. This manifested itself in a variety of ways from an excessive number of approvals, work requested that was never followed through to unclear remits/project briefs and scopes. However, this clearly highlights a significant level of excess cost, which if managed really effectively could be used to great operational effect. The key question to ask is, have these inefficiencies been eradicated with the pandemic or will they rise to the service as the effects of the crisis hopefully subside?
University leadership teams have responded to the pandemic in a variety of ways. Many have cut costs through voluntary redundancies or reducing capital expenditure. However, we all know that reducing costs without making system improvements is unlikely to be sustainable in the future. A number of teams will no doubt have taken the time to reflect strategically on what their institution is likely to look like in 10 years time. Whatever the scenario, operational efficiencies will undoubtedly be required to embed the savings made to drive future change to meet the new challenges the sector faces.
Spending time with employees to really understand and empathise with the day to day pressures and stresses that they face, to identify and quantify the level of waste that could potentially be reduced to create additional capacity to meet future organisational requirements is we believe one of the key challenges that affects the sector. By working together with teams and adopting improvement programmes, we've been able to motivate and empower individuals and groups to take on additional work at no extra cost, or simply to not replace employees who leave the organisation via natural attrition. By undertaking such reviews, a variety of teams including Maintenance have accepted that significant improvements, 25% in the case of one Maintenance department can be achieved.