Lean Methodology

Lean Methodology

The Lean Methodology is defined as ‘the right people continuously searching for the smoothest and simplest process to meet customer needs’.

Although Lean is about finding ways to create more value with fewer resources it’s really a philosophy -  a way of thinking – applied to the way you work, focused on the needs of the customer. Lean is about flexible, motivated teams that can continually solve problems.

Lean is sometimes thought to be more suited to manufacturing, however, there is a specific methodology for Higher education.

Core elements of Lean

Fundamental concepts

Continuous improvement – continuously striving to improve work processes

Respect for people – remembering that people are our greatest asset. The staff of an organisation know what works well, what needs to be improved, and who must make the necessary improvements.


The five principles have come to define lean:

  1. Maximise value – aim to do work that is value adding and eliminate waste
  2. Understand work as a process – all work across the institution is interconnected
  3. Create smooth flow –eliminate peaks and troughs to maximise efficient use of resources
  4. Respond to pull –think about process from the client’s perspective
  5. Aim for perfection – continuously improve to provide a better service

Eight wastes

Waste is any step or activity in a process that is not required to complete that process successfully. Waste in lean can be broken down into eight categories:

  • Transport
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Waiting
  • Over-processing
  • Over-production
  • Defects
  • Skills


These links, documents and articles provide further details about lean methodology and implementation, tools for improvement and several articles about the BPII.

  • Robinson, M. and Yorkstone, S. (2011), Becoming a Lean University: The case of the University of St. Andrews. In Bergan, S., Egron-Polak, E., Kohler, J., Purser, L. and Vukasovic, M., (eds.), Leadership and Governance in Higher Education - Handbook for Decisionā€makers and Administrators, Raabe Verlag, Berlin
  • Doman, Mark S. (2011.) "A New Lean Paradigm in Higher Education: A Case Study". In Quality Assurance in Education: An International Perspective, Vol.19 (3), p.248-262 * Bremner, J and Trahn, I. Emergent to Mature: university library quality practices, staff engagement and cultural implementation, 11th Northumbria Conference, Edinburgh, 2015
  • Guide: Lawrence, H.; Cairns, N.J. (2015). Best Practice Guide: Evidencing the Benefits of Business Process Improvement in Higher Education. UK: University of Strathclyde
  • Book: Balzer, William, K., (2010). Lean Higher Education: Increasing the value and performance of University processes, CRC Press Taylor & Francis Group.
  • Conference: Lean in Higher Education Conference 2017: implementing, measuring and sustaining change. Macquarie University, 1 – 3 November 2017. Lean in Higher Education Conference presentations are available on the conference website.
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