Continuous Improvement blogWhat is a Quaich and could it help you to improve processes?

A group photo of Svein, John and 3 others standing on a jetty in Norway

In a previous blog, I wrote about the importance of international collaboration within Lean in Higher Education, and in April 2017, we were proud hosts for John Hogg - Director of Continuous Improvement at University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. We have several connections with John’s team and this visit was an excellent opportunity to strengthen those ties and to reinforce learning from each other. Since early 2016, we have both been members of the Lean HE Global network Steering Group and in January this year the Arctic University of Norway (UiT) participated by producing a case study of Strathclyde’s “Guide to Evidencing the Benefits of Change in Higher Education”.

I will get back to the Quaich in a little while, but first I want to sum up some of the activities and learning points from John’s visit to Tromsø. We had several productive meetings with excellent presentations on Strathclyde’s experiences with lean and continuous improvement, amongst others with UiT’s senior administrative management – the University Director and Assistant University Director. A group photo of Svein, John and 2 others on a windswept beach in Norway. A meeting with the leaders from our department of academic affairs and department of finance was arranged with a clear focus on Lean for Leaders. It was inspirational to experience how the attendees grasped the opportunity to learn, ask questions and challenge themselves during these sessions. I have high hopes for a possible future collaboration between UiT and Strathclyde regarding Lean for Leaders.

We also managed to find time to have meetings with the Improvement Process Concept Group at Sommarøy (which for the occasion put up a display in dramatically beautiful spring weather). A tour of the Breivika campus with visits to several communication cells (tavlemøter), meetings with the University Library and the University Hospital.

The main event

This was presented by John Hogg and was an open Community of Practice Seminar, with over 50 participants, all eager to learn about how lean and continuous improvement had been implemented in another Higher Education Institution. We also had the privilege to host two additional guests from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, who are currently starting their own lean journey. NTNU is our “neighbouring” University, situated in Trondheim, “only” 1151 km south of Tromsø.

The visit ended with a round table discussion involving colleagues from across the university who have been involved in the improvement process at UiT.Round table meeting

The feedback after the key activities during this week has been amazing. Here are some of the learning points we have summed up so far:

  • Openness and a philosophy of sharing increases internal and cross-institutional learning
  • Having a team to deliver support for improvement processes seems to have high impact
  • UiT to develop a Lean for Leaders programme
  • Evaluation and discussions within UiT after the visit suggests there is a higher consciousness on the importance of evidencing benefits from improvement processes
  • We see only mutual benefits by continued collaboration between our teams and we will seek to strengthen it

There was also a rich social programme, which included dinner at Skirri (a restaurant in Tromsø focusing on fresh local produce); a traditional Norwegian family dinner at Julia’s (one of the colleagues involved in the improvement process) house; and a farewell beer at two local pubs (Blårock and Ølhallen Brewpub).

So what about the Quaich?

A quaich

The word ‘Quaich’ comes from the Gaelic word ‘cuach’ meaning cup. The Quaich is also known as the Scottish “Loving Cup” or “Cup of Friendship”. John presented us with two University of Strathclyde Quaichs on the evening of the family dinner at Julia’s. This was a mark of our friendship and collaboration and highlighted the importance of collaborating with other similar institutions internationally. The Quaich stands as a symbol of the importance of coming together with an open mind, good intentions, and the desire to speak and share without pointing your sword towards anyone.

About the Author

Svein Are Tjeldnes - The Arctic University of Norway (UiT)

As project manager of UiT's improvement initiative, Svein’s role is to plan and coordinate activities throughout the university. A crucial part of the job is to inspire colleagues, leaders and students to see the benefits of applying continuous improvement as an element in everyday university life. He is also responsible for their portfolio of lean/improvement courses.  Svein believes it is important to raise awareness of  how important the knowledge and experience of UiT’s employees is to the change process.

Arctic University of Norway's logo

10 May 2017

Svein Are Tjeldnes, Project Manager at UiT