Traditionally, “lean thinking” is a philosophy of continuous improvement often associated with manufacturing, where lean approaches are applied as a means to identify waste and non-value-added steps in the production of goods and the procurement of services. Applying lean thinking in a higher education environment may seem an unusual approach, but it’s one that makes sense considering the economic challenges colleges and universities are now facing. Lean is a comprehensive approach to developing and promoting a systematic—and, even a cultural—change that can help educational institutions fundamentally re-think how we can effectively respond to the needs and expectations of those we serve.
At Michigan Tech, we started our Lean journey in 2008, as we began to systematically look at ways to improve upon various processes within the University. We did this by seeking input from employees at all levels, and by promoting a problem-solving mindset as we examined how to enhance the value of University processes for those we serve. Our continuous improvement efforts are intended to involve everyone at Michigan Tech: students, staff, and faculty alike. Our hope is to encourage the Michigan Tech community to actively engage in problem-solving activities by identifying ways to use resources effectively, eliminate waste, and add value to the Michigan Tech experience at all levels.
As we accomplish our overarching goal of creating the future through high-quality education and research excellence, it’s vital that we continuously examine the ways we provide our services, so we can continue our work as a competitive research and educational institution, and as a desirable place of employment.