"I’ve been at Imperial for 27 years, as a Deputy and then Manager, and seen considerable change including a major restructuring two years ago and significant investment in technology and electronic invoicing. But with OE, we’ve never had such a concerted effort to introduce a framework of principles, and really look at our work and processes in a new light. Of course there have been attempts to benchmark our processes against other universities – but OE is different in that it is almost scientific in its approach, which is fitting for an institution such as Imperial. I attended a two day course and we also had an OE expert come and work with us for 8 months. It’s beneficial for the business, for the managers and the team, because everything is out in the open and very clear. If you look around our open plan office you’ll see a big wall-to-wall whiteboard where we gather on a Monday morning and record what was achieved the week previously, what the projected audits are and what the focus of the week ahead might be. We invite people in the team to voice concerns or ideas. It’s a more effective way of running a team and keeping everyone motivated."
Doru Procopiu, Accounts Payable Manager leads a team of 20 staff in the Finance Division. He has been involved in Operational Excellence through the Operational Management programme.
"Compared with other HE institutes I’ve worked at, Imperial has a very distributed approach, with the independence of the faculties and departments. This presents a particular challenge when you’re trying to standardise something as complex as timetabling. We’ve been trying to build up a framework that enables departments to work together more closely with a central database – the aim being to bring greater timetabling coordination across the College. We also carried out consultation work with students to ask them what they want and expect from their timetable. The message was quite clear – students want an individual timetable that is dynamic (so if there’s a late change they want to know about it straight away), and a timetable that’s electronic and preferably accessible on their mobile devices. We worked very closely with the ICT Applications Support team to deliver a product that is fully mobile, integrated with college email address, and can also pull through to mobile calendar solutions including Google Calendar. There are still challenges ahead as we aim for 100% student coverage − bringing in postgraduates across College and undergraduate medical students, whose timetabling needs are particularly challenging. I’d also like to improve the user experience of the product – for example introducing Facebook-style notifications for timetable changes."
John Crook, Head of Timetabling was recruited in June 2014 in a new role created to transform the College’s existing systems. Here he talks about his role and how he implements OE on the ground.
"I found out about Operational Excellence through my predecessor, who was involved in the College’s OE Space Programme, and when I came in as the incumbent it was something I was keen to continue with and support. I attended a three day training course, which lays the groundwork and crucially brings you into a network of people with the same training and ways of working. Primarily, it gives you access to a certain set of ‘tools’ or ‘processes’ which inform the way you work through problems. Something that I hope students might be noticing before the end of the year is the change in approach to room bookings. We’ve just reached the end of an audit on College Space, and we’ll be spending the next few months working with students, clubs, and departments to make the process more user-friendly for the person booking the room. Through my role as Deputy President I have gained fresh erspectives about how to work with staff and students, applying the language and structures learnt through OE. In terms of the longer term benefits of implementing the programme, I think it will feed into a more gradual culture change, encouraging less bureaucracy and more communication between different facets of the College. Operational Excellence certainly feels ‘student focused’; it feels like people are working hard to try and put the ‘end user’ first and include the student voice in College-wide decisions."
Ben Howitt, Deputy President (Clubs and Societies), Imperial College Union, recently finished the third year of an Msci in Mathematics.
“In the Library Services, we really pride ourselves on our user experience. We’re clearly not doing too badly as we regularly get NSS scores in the region of 96% satisfaction − but behind the scenes there are a lot of people doing a lot of things and there are increasing, changing demands on them. So we need to make sure we are doing things as efficiently as possible. What we are particularly focusing on are processes that go across teams or departments. So for example we ran an improvement exercise between Library Services and Finance to look at all the process involved in paying invoices. Our current, fifth Rapid Improvement Exercise is looking at our subscriptions to around 85,000 journals. At the moment, they all go through exactly the same renewal process but we’ve found that there are some journals that we are always going to buy because the academics need them – so why do we need to subject these to all the same renewal processes? This is not me as a Director saying: ‘right, I want you to make 20% efficiency savings here,’ or presuming I know exactly what goes on, therefore I know what the solutions are. The staff work together to improve the processes and so embedding those changes is likely to be much more successful. It’s not about finding fault; rather it is about improving processes and workflows and ultimately a better service for the end user. During the OE and Rapid Improvement process, staff use a toolkit that gives them a language and a way in which to ask questions to enable them to uncover an issue in the first place, then to start probing and finally finding solutions.”
Chris Banks, Director of Library Services joined the College in September 2013. She has worked with many change programmes throughout her extensive career.