Scott Converse from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, did a presentation on the use of Six Sigma in higher education. He has been involved in administrative redesign projects at the university.
Scott Converse - 6 Sigma PowerPoint
Six Sigma is a set of tools and techniques developed to better understand complex problems and processes. The emphasis is on process improvement. It relies on both developing a quality solution and acceptance and support of those involved in the process.
The higher education example was a process used for processing expense vouchers. The time, from start-to-finish, was six weeks, which was not acceptable. Scott emphasized the need to look at the process and gather data. In the example, there was a lot of "white space," or waiting time, between the steps in the process. White space represents the greatest opportunity for improvement and is non-threatening to those involved in the process. In this example, reducing the waiting time between steps provided significant opportunities for improvement.
Attacking the white space is a primary tool in 6 Sigma. The big gains are in reducing the long idle times.
Six Sigma projects at Wisconsin have included these areas:
• Transferring funds from foundation to department accounts
• Grant Award/Sub-Award process
• Access to IT resources for new, transferring and exiting employees
Scott favors a mixed approach to problem-solving, relying on experts to help the process teams work, but having process teams - comprised of employees - looking at processes and developing solutions. That creates buy-in, which dramatically increases the opportunity for success.