The Lean methodology is based on the understanding that people are your best resource.
The Lean methodology is based on the understanding that people are your best resource.

A lean, mean improvement machine

Staff representing almost every facet of the University have learned how take critical business processes and break them down and re-build them. By taking part in Lean methodology Rapid Improvement Events (RIE) staff are empowered to forge ahead to implement an improved, streamlined replacement process.

Recruitment, onboarding, Course Finder, offer to conversion, post graduate domestic admissions and library enquiry management were just some of the processes refined in 2015 through RIEs facilitated through the Business Process Improvement Initiative (BPII) team.

So why apply a Lean methodology? The BPII team break down the benefits.

  • It empowers staff to make changes to improve their process.
  • It gives staff the authority and responsibility to improve the way they do business.
  • It supports staff to always challenge the status quo.
  • It encourages staff to always look for new ways to do things.

Not only do staff come out the other end with an improved process, more importantly, they’re empowered. “The Lean methodology is based on the understanding that people are your best resources, front line staff know what works well and how to improve it. Nothing works without people,” says Valerie Runyan, Director, Business Process Improvement Initiative.

Three staff members share their experiences

Marios Elles, Student Administration Officer, Faculty of Human Sciences, took part in the Course Finder RIE earlier this year, and says the experience proved a successful team is greater than the sum of its parts.

“Our group seemed to click from get-go, which I felt created the kind of nurturing environment one needs to take risks and come up with bold ideas that might normally raise a few eyebrows back at the office,” says Marios. “I was blown away by the talent in the room so I was confident from the outset whatever came out of the RIE was going to be a significant improvement on the existing process.”

Marios explains that following the five-day event, the team met routinely for a few months to track delivery of the tasks divided between the group: “These fortnightly meetings served to deepen our friendship and collaboration. Magical things happen when people come together and trust and respect each other’s talents and abilities.”

Avril Moss, Department of Psychology Manager, who was part of the Onboarding of Fixed Term and Continuing Staff RIE, says the experience was empowering.

“I found it challenging as it confronted the usual way of doing business, and I also found it constructive in that it enabled the team, with guidance, to break down the process and then build one that would work,” she says.

Avril says the most rewarding part was being involved in a team across the University who had the ability and power to provide the solutions to drive the process improvement forward. “In addition, the support from the Executive in making swift decisions that would have immediate effect was exhilarating.”

Like Avril, Sharyon O’Donnell, Executive Officer, Department of Biological Sciences found the RIE process she was part of challenging too.

“Initially I found the RIE a challenge, but I truly believe it was worth every minute,” says Sharyon. “Previously I had been part of working groups that I thought failed – we talked a lot, but nothing changed.”

That failure was the reason Sharyon was initially apprehensive about the new approach, but by the end of the first day, she was converted.

“I knew for the first time, change was possible,” says Sharyon. “Although we faced many stumbling blocks getting people to think creatively outside their established process, the BPII team empowered us each step of the way to succeed in re-evaluating how we do things to create better systems.”

​​Looking ahead
In 2016 the BPII team will conduct workshops to identify common themes across Macquarie for process improvement initiatives to help inform future RIEs. The team are also developing a training plan to coach staff to use Lean tools in their day-to-day work groups and help embed the tools in the way they do business.

Finally, if you have an idea of a business process that needs improvement, you’re encouraged to suggest it to the BPII team so they can take account of it when working up their schedule.

1. Contact the BPII team ( or,
2. Request a project

Learn more about the processes improved this year.

Watch a short video about how the process works.