USM’s First Rapid Improvement Event

By Jeremy Britton & Amy McDonald, UCD Agile

What is a Rapid Improvement Event?

A Rapid Improvement Event (RIE) is a Lean approach to team-based problem-solving centered on an event it self which takes place over one or more days. The event brings the subject matter experts together to breakdown and analyse a process, get to the heart of challenges and issues, then propose solutions to improve it, taking real decisions at the event. Leading on from the event, decisions are implemented efficiently and effectively. Usually run over one or more full days, the event’s scope is narrow, and its aims are clearly defined.

As part of the Unified Support Model (USM) rollout, we ran an RIE on October 22, focused on the implementation of the continuation policy.

Why did we run this event?

As part of the Unified Support Model (USM), one of our goals is to standardise common processes for common services shared by the offices operating the USM, ensuring a unified and sustainable experience for students and staff across UCD.  In simplest terms, USM rollout team found that 12 of the now called USM Live offices had 12 different ways of operating the continuation policy. By working with the experts – those who know the process best – we had some good ideas of how to reduce variation and promote consistency, leading to a unified experience for both students and staff, but we had no framework of how to gather these ideas and make changes happen.  The event helped us address this.

How did we prepare for the event?

We brought this to the USM Learning Team (a group comprising of members from all USM Live offices); the group corroborated that they each had different ways of operating some of the processes that were common between their offices. One process which had the most variation was the local operation of the Continuation Policy; we moved forward with this as our focus.

In an initial workshop, we focused on how the process varied between offices and why we should standardise it. With invaluable help from Dr Olga Murdoch (UCD Agile), we emerged with a plan for moving forward and a list of twenty-five stakeholder groups to meet with, brief and consult. These twenty-five groups represented stakeholders who have direct or indirect involvement in the Continuation Policy, or a potential interest in its implementation.

What did we do at the event?

On 22nd October we ran our first Rapid Improvement Event to agree the Common Process for local operation of the Continuation Policy. The Event was sponsored by the Registrar, Professor Mark Rogers, and supported by UCD Agile. Our objectives for the Event were to agree & implement a common interim process for local operation of the Continuation Policy, and to identify an ideal process for future implementation.
The Event was led by an external facilitator from SQT Training, and attended by the Subject Matter Experts. Participants included the staff most familiar with the current process from the 12 College/School offices, as well as representatives from Registry, Student Engagement, Conduct, Complaints & Appeals (SECCA) and the Academic Council Committee on Student Conduct & Capacity (ACCSCC).

By the end of the Rapid Improvement Event the group had agreed an action plan for both the interim and ideal Common Processes.

What comes after the event?

Decisions made at the event, included reporting, standardised invitations, outputs, and online information for students, left us with a list of Action Items to work on and track. Since the Event we have been working on the Action Items for both the interim and ideal processes alongside the subject matter experts with a view to implement the interim process by January 2020. The interim and ideal processes should lead to a reduction in variation in the operation of the Continuation Policy, as well as consistency and a unified experience for both students and staff. Continuation was just the first process we’ve approached in this way. With the Learning Team’s guidance and expertise, we have identified other processes to standardise, such as Extenuating Circumstances and Compliance.

What does it mean for UCD?

The Rapid Improvement Event format facilitates proposing and implementing effective changes in an efficient and collaborative way; it’s a new way of driving comprehensive, consistent and continuous improvement. We look forward to using this format again in the near future, and seeing the results of other Rapid Improvement Events taking place in UCD.
If you have any questions about the Continuation Rapid Improvement Event, or the Common Processes project in general don’t hesitate to get in touch – usm@ucd.ie  

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