Bournemouth University Kindness – Taking Ubuntu to the Arctic Circle

Article written by Laura Roper.

A team of advocates for Lean Management Thinking and Service Excellence at Bournemouth University were given the opportunity to visit the Arctic University of Norway and attend the annual LeanHE Conference taking place there.   It may have been -3 degrees, but the welcome for the Bournemouth University delegation was very warm.

Throughout the visit I was delighted to meet over 200 delegates from Universities as far reaching as Michigan and Melbourne who had all travelled to the Arctic Circle to share their passion for Lean. The opportunity to meet so many positive and likeminded HE colleagues has had a huge impact and has left the delegation feeling reinvigorated with an increased passion for the excellent work taking place at Bournemouth University through the Service Improvement Community of Practice, Service Excellence activities and general sharing of best practice.

Whilst at the University we were taught some Norwegian and so thought it only right to return the favour by teaching delegates some Zulu through Ubuntu. Ubuntu is an area that my colleagues and I are very passionate about and so to share this ancient code of ethics, with a focus on respect for people (one of the key areas of the Kaizen (continuous improvement) components of Lean) was a new and exciting challenge. The delegates were introduced to the importance of the Zulu salutation of Sawubona. Sawubona is used as a greeting but it means so much more than ‘hello’. Sawubona translates as ‘I see you’ and underpins the importance of Ubuntu in recognising the value of each individual within a community/team. Ubuntu, much like active listening skills, encourages you to look past the words being spoken and recognise the strengths, backgrounds, beliefs and even weaknesses of each individual. By identifying these strengths we can better align and focus our teams to maximise output, minimise wastes in efficiencies and time and create a more harmonious and collegiate working atmosphere. Additionally, we introduced a toolkit of approaches for managing non-active listening colleagues to order to maximise outputs from meetings and teamwork. The toolkit was very well received and the delegates developed additional approaches for their own, individual situations. If you would like further information on LeanHE please see the website at

Or alternatively please feel free to get in touch to discuss Ubuntu and how it can be used within your own teams. Our BU Service Excellence Intranet also includes a workbook and more information about Ubuntu – kindly gifted to us by Helen Sayers.


Leave a Reply

Your details
  • (Your email address will not be published in your comment)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>