Continuous Improvement blogContinuous Improvement at Strathclyde - A Fresh Pair of Eyes

Learning, practicing what you preach, and a different set of Glasgow

I arrived at the University of Strathclyde on a glorious Glasgow January day, overcast and raining, to meet the team I was going to work with for the next three months. I was a little nervous, to say the least. This team has a reputation for a great depth of experience and knowledge. However, I was excited as this is what I wanted to capture while I was here.

Coming into the team during a time of change with new staff members and an updated vision, it was clear to me that I would see change in this environment firsthand.

What I saw immediately was that they practice what they preach, they have standards and they endeavour to be driven by these standards. My visit was a further impetus to prioritise and focus on this internal improvement with a willing set of hands on deck.

Learning from others

For me, I aimed to learn as much as I could in three months and to use this knowledge to further develop the Lean programme at CQUniversity.

Initially, I thought ‘What could I possibly offer this team?’ - TimTams? Lamingtons? An accent?

All of those but also my strong training facilitation, Australian Higher Education (HE) knowledge, Project Management skills, and passion for Continuous Improvement. The team would benefit from a fresh pair of eyes on what they do every day and bring a different skill set into the team.

Practice what you preach

Continuous improvement practitioners are usually focused on working with other teams on their Continuous Improvement activities and we often forget ourselves.

As with a mechanic, their cars are always in need of fixing, we mustn’t forget our team and what we do on a daily basis. The Continuous Improvement team at Strathclyde is undoubtedly practicing what they preach, focusing on improving what they do every day, how they deliver it, and most importantly how others see what they do.

I have been lucky enough to be part of the WOW project – how do we create a WOW factor, ensure that our products are fit for purpose and continually improved.

I have seen first-hand that this team always looks for ways to improve everything they do, using survey feedback and testimonials, and then committing to improvement through action plans. There is a real passion to drive change, even when it means changing some of the things we enjoy delivering because they are not working for our stakeholders.

A different set of eyes

We talk about how important collaboration is and endeavour to do as much as possible. But do we truly do it and understand the benefits? During my time here at Strathclyde, I have worked on a number of mini-projects and I've been involved with the team in the development of their standards.

The largest project saw me add my experiences and thoughts to the Lean for Leaders training package. I drew from my training background to impart my knowledge of training facilitation and pair this with the team’s extensive Lean knowledge. This combined knowledge and experience resulted in an improved, well-rounded package, which is a better product for our stakeholders.


Everything I did while I was here was about the team’s standards, driving ourselves to continually improve, measuring that the standards are being met and continually asking ourselves “Can we do it better in a leaner way?”

I think the key to the growth and development of individuals and teams is to collaborate both internally and externally, and in my case across two different cultures and continents within an HE environment.

Hayley MacDonald with members of the Business Improvement Team What have I learned from my time at the University of Strathclyde? A few new Scottish words - baltic, wee, steamin', numpty, and bevvy, and then some are not suitable for publication.

It would be easy to give you a list of my learnings. However, I think the biggest lesson is that you have to truly be open to learning and not just think you are. Take yourself out of your comfort zone (you don’t have to move to Glasgow), practice what you preach, develop standards, and use the knowledge of others to further develop your ideas.

Watch this space for what happens when I return to the land Down Under.

Hayley MacDonald smiling to camera

12 April 2018

Hayley MacDonald, Manager Organisational Capability at CQU University