Strategic Context

Hines P. et al (2008) Staying Lean: Thriving not just Suriviving pg. 9. Lean Enterprise Resource Centre, Cardiff University.

University Strategic Plan 2013-2017

The University Strategic Plan 2013 – 2017 sets five high level goals.

The first four of these focus naturally on goals which are close to the mission of the university - namely:

  1. Delivering research-inspired teaching and learning with world class student experience.
  2. Being a premier European university for research, discovery, innovation and commercialisation.
  3. Being pre-eminent in internationalisation, external engagement and contribution to society.
  4. Applying best international practice to attract, develop and retain staff of the highest quality and to enable all staff to reach their full potential.

The fifth goal recognises that these first four goals cannot be delivered without support. Thus the fifth goal states:

  1. Strengthen our infrastructure and resource base.

The LEAN initiative sits squarely under Goal 5 and is designated as Project Number 21 in the Strategic Plan.

Project 21 Goals

The goals of Project Number 21 are:

Introduce and apply structured Lean practices to the key enabling of the University to ensure optimum efficiency, effectiveness, agility and responsiveness to internal and external needs; prioritise the application of Lean to the programme approval, financial management, intellectual property and contracts process.

Thus LEAN is an enabling initiative designed to help build capacity in the University to free resources to deliver on its teaching and research goals. It focuses on processes and on promoting incremental change to achieve its results. LEAN, enabled by project management training, is part of the Continuous Improvement initiative which began in 2014. Progress to date regarding training is detailed in this document: Lean Training Summary.

The terms Lean and Continuous Improvement (CI) are used interchangeably throughout this website.

 A Continuous Improvement Steering Group was established, mandated by UMTO, to develop the CI/Lean strategy and vision for UCC.

Where Did We Start?

Work to date on introducing continuous improvement methodologies into Universities has shown that most success will be achieved by harnessing the initiative of early adopters.. The following areas have been actively adopting CI/Lean processes since 2014:

• IT Services
• Registrar’s Office Finance Office
• Medicine & Health

These pilot areas have identified their training targets up to 2017. Other interested areas will find details on the website on how to engage with the CI/Lean initiative and how to access training opportunities.

What Can We Achieve by 2017?

Not all elements of the vision set out above will be achieved by 2017. Rather, the aim is to gather experience, build capacity, develop a community of trained practitioners and demonstrate the benefit of CI through selected projects.

The targets for each of the pilot areas, as well as overall targets, are set out in this document: Lean Pilot Area Targets .

Sustaining CI/Lean


Since implementing a Continuous Improvement programme usually involves changing human behaviour, it is critical to include a carefully constructed communication plan that identifies and addresses concerns. Initiating transformation of any magnitude across the University requires meaningful dialogue with staff, colleagues and the student body. CI/Lean sponsors and project group leaders must communicate early and often – clearly conveying the vision, strategies and benefits for all concerned. UMTO and UMTS will receive regular reports on all ongoing projects. The CI/Lean website will highlight project successes, signpost supports available to staff and detail the progress being made with continuous improvement initiatives.


It is anticipated that input from expert black belt LEAN practitioners will be required to guide and advise on projects. The limited research done in universities to date has shown that facilitation is required to help staff advance. It is proposed that key project groups would have support from an expert black belt practitioner as required.


By 2017 the University will have had considerable experience with Continuous Improvement projects and will have a greater understanding of how CI fits with the UCC culture. It might seem too early to discuss sustainability but experience in other universities and institutions has shown that issues such as sponsorship of CI at senior level, building expertise and embedding the CI mindset need to be addressed from the beginning. The ‘invisible’ part of the Lean Iceberg Model [see figure above]shows that the visible aspects of CI (Processes, Technology, Tools and Techniques) are enabled by the elements under the waterline namely Strategy and Alignment, Leadership and Behaviour and Engagement. Ensuring that these elements are included in the roadmap increases the chances of success for the CI/Lean initiative.
It is now vital that the University is committed to support projects and staff as they learn these techniques and that communication and engagement with the University community is in a structured and constructive way.

Continuous Improvement

Feabhas Leanúnach