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Working better with LEAN: Faculty of Science works on change

Keep improving: that’s the philosophy of LEAN, a method to tackle practical problems at the workplace yourself. After a successful start in 2017, in 2019 a third group started working with the LEAN training in self-selected improvement trajectories. In October the participants received their diploma. ‘Our meeting now only takes half the time.’

Solving your own problems

In the LEAN management philosophy, employees themselves get to work with problems they encounter on the work floor. They analyse the problems and come up with possible solutions, which they then implement and evaluate. Employees do this themselves, without interference from an external agency. The aim of LEAN is to eliminate wastage, such as long waiting times and unnecessary work. The philosophy provides for an ongoing process of improvement; you are never finished. Participant Evelijn Gerstel, institute manager of the Leiden Observatory: ‘The method teaches you to be careful not to get caught up in the delusion of the day all the time, but to take time for reflection every now and then, to see what can be improved. You have to learn to make time for this, but it will save you time in the end.’

Efficient meetings

In the last training, three groups worked on self-chosen improvement trajectories. One team from the Finance and Projects department focused on the process surrounding EU reports, another team focused specifically on safety, and the Lorentz Center addressed its meeting structure. ‘In order to involve everyone in our organisation, we decided to take a closer look at our team meetings,’ says Sietske Kroon, public relations coordinator at Lorentz. ‘This meeting was being seen as uninspiring and had no clear goals. Using the LEAN method we changed our team meeting into a so-called team board session with a clear planning board, in which input from all participants is actively stimulated.’ And with success: the meeting now only takes half the time and produces concrete ideas and actions.

And that's not all. Kroon: ‘We are going to further implement the LEAN method in our organisation and we are striving to create new working methods that we can eventually apply to our workshop programmes. Sharing knowledge in an efficient and active way provides inspiration and commitment.’

Continuous improvement

Even the best-oiled machine can falter a bit when the external environment changes, new wishes arise internally or new employees appear on stage. And also the wishes of students, researchers and teachers change with time. The LEAN method focuses mainly on who you provide the services for and how you can best help them, according to Dirkje Schinkelshoek, Director of Operations. ‘It is therefore good to regularly ask yourself for example whether what has always been seen as good support is still appreciated and for whom that support is ultimately intended. Together with all parties involved, you look at how the processes can run as smoothly as possible. It's all about continuous improvement.’

LEAN at the Faculty of Science

In the autumn of 2017, the Faculty of Science started three LEAN improvement trajectories. These trajectories concerned the processes: Planning & Control, Project Control and Marketing & Communication.

In 2018, three more LEAN improvement trajectories were started. This time in the field of education: International Student Experience, Certification and Grading.

In 2019, improvement projects started in the field of Safety, Project Control II and the above-mentioned project of the Lorentz Center.

In addition to the extensive Green Belt course, all secretaries and project controllers of the Faculty have meanwhile also had a shortened LEAN course, in which they obtained their 'Yellow Belt'.

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