Continuous improvement is typically a term associated with manufacturing or companies that produce products for the business and consumer markets. It relates to the Japanese term ‘kaizen’ that refers to activities that can improve the efficiencies and functions of a business and involves all workers, from top leaders on down.
The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) has adopted a continuous improvement model strategy and has not only applied it to its IT organization but has extended efforts to the business operations of its entire campus. The principles of improving overall effectiveness and standardizing processes have also become a part of the university’s academic programs, preparing students for the challenges of the lean and agile business structures they may face in the real world.
University-wide continuous improvement efforts have also given rise to a Business Excellence Community of Practice that is available to everyone and provides a very open exchange of ideas and information, including workshops and mentorship. “It’s not really a mentorship program. It’s, like, roll your sleeves up and do it,” says Mojgan Amini, UCSD’s Director of Process Management & Continuous Improvement, who has spearheaded the project for that past three years.
Activities have also included the launch of Lean Six Sigma programs and certifications that have spread beyond IT to include close to 2,000 people from across the campus. A ‘Lean Bench’ was also established, consisting of a select group of Lean Six Sigma experts who were recruited to facilitate process review and improvement across the core business areas of the university, she points out in a recent case study profile distributed exclusively to fellow CEC members and member companies.
To help deal with the personal and cultural challenges that typically follow periods of rapid change and rebuilding (UCSD also consolidated and reshaped its IT organization over the past few years) UCSD’s IT leaders established a set of IT service values or principles that serve as a foundation for excellence:
- We’re better together. Individuals or groups are always better when they work together towards common objectives and goals.
- Think like an entrepreneur. Everyone in IT and even the business is a service-owner and has a responsibility to be innovative and continuously improve products and services.
- Make a difference. It’s all about customer service, so it’s important to leave a good impression on the customers and people that are served.
- Love what you do. Everything you do is important, but are you really doing what you want to do? Finding the nexus your passion, your abilities and your responsibilities are your ‘sweet spot’ and critical to establishing a continuous improvement mindset.
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