A “gemba” walk – and how I have been inspired by Kevin Costner

Reflections from Susanne Clarke – Head of Service Excellence.

Having recently returned from the fabulous “Lean in Higher Education” conference hosted by The University of Waterloo in Ontario, I have been brushing up on my technical knowledge of Lean and its application in Higher Education. One of the Japanese terms used regularly by Lean and process improvement experts is “gemba” which is a key principle of the Toyota Production System.

Gemba” means “the real place,” and in the world of Lean refers to the place where work is actually is being done, or where value is being created. Reflecting on my past couple of weeks, I realise that I have “gone to gemba” many times and have been inspired by so many colleagues here at BU who are working hard to create a great experience for our students. By going to the place where we add value and are doing the work, this also means I experience at first hand where I can provide most support to my colleagues. And now  I am going to explain in a bit more detail my latest “gemba” experience.

Following on from our “ How Brilliant Are We? appreciative inquiry project, I wanted to “go and see” and experience at first hand the really brilliant teaching experiences that our students have told us about during our research interviews. I jumped at an invite from  Professor Vasilis Katos to come along to a lecture he was due to give to our new computing students on cyber security. The lecture was creative, entertaining and truly inspiring. Vasilis delivered his lecture through a narration of the film “The Bodyguard” and along with around 150 students I was enthralled and importantly really got to understand much about the world of cyber security and its application.  I have  even had  many opportunities to apply this knowledge in my day to day work!

I am now   inspired to use film to deliver service excellence teaching for CEL – this will be a steep learning curve for me and I am tending towards “Finding Nemo” to give my message and will see how I get on, but other suggestions will be welcome.   If you can think of other films that give an underlying message around excellence let me know – or perhaps it’s a good excuse to go to the cinema, I am sure I heard a new film is coming out!

best wishes, Susanne

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