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Agile's Approach

UCD Agile is a small support unit established to help the University increase its agility and effectiveness through projects which deliver value and excellence, through empowering staff, and through developing a continuous improvement culture.  UCD Agile began operations in March 2016 and works with colleagues from across the campus in a number of ways:

  • Supporting improvement projects/initiatives
  • Driving improvements
  • Developing skillsets
    • Skills focus
    • Team focus
  • Shaping systematic change/improvement contexts
  • Community support

Agile's sponsor is the Registrar and Deputy President, Prof Mark Rogers, who chairs the steering committee which oversees Agile's evolving work programme, and it is through the steering committee that Agile reports to the University Management Team.  In the iterative spirit of plan - do - check - act, Agile annually updates its work programme and approach, through its work with the steering committee, and from there periodically reports the University Management Team. 

The ways of working with our colleagues from across the campus, listed above, are put into effect through our work programme.  Its current focus, in the period September 2019 to September 2020, has the following elements:

  • Skills focus
  • Project focus
  • Community focus 
  • Consulting focus
  • Support unit focus
  • Team focus
  • Advance recommendations from the Student Experience Mapping Project (SEMP)

Skills focus

Continue to provide skills development in Lean Six Sigma

  • Introductory level Lean Fundamentals /White Belt
  • Enhancement initiative level
    • Yellow Belt
    • Lean Practitioner certification
  • Project level
    • Green Belt Training
  • Team focused
    • Remit Mapping
    • Lean Operations
    • Visual Management
  • Management focused
    • Lean Champion

Development area: Re-orient the Yellow Belt training to a 2 day, team focused format.

Project focus

Continue to provide direct and indirect support to projects

  • Direct supports are provided through Agile’s participation in project work
  • Indirect supports are typically enablers, provided through mentoring those leading projects/initiatives, some workshop delivery etc.
  • Green Belt projects
    • 10 running January to September 2019; mentoring provided.
    • January 2020 cycle planned.

The sections below on plan - do - check - act and on the early history of Agile (March 2016 to December 2017) reflect our initial approach and what was gained from it.  

Community focus

  • Continue to support the Work Smarter Together Community of Practice
  • Continue the Agile Community of Practice (CoP)
  • Support/develop other WST communities of practice, existing and emerging
  • Explore Lean Green (23 October WST event)

Consulting focus

Agile provides a variety of services to Schools, Colleges, units and teams to further the goal of "increasing agility and effectiveness". Consulting engagements may be for a one-time need or on an ongoing basis.  (Note:  these are not general services but available in the context of the Agile strategy).

  • Initial exploration, challenge articulation and scoping of improvement initiatives
  • Strategic direction development, planning and implementation
  • SOAR workshops
  • Unit operational remit reviews
  • Visual management deployment
  • Mentoring and coaching in the broad Agile space
  • Group facilitation
  • Process improvement
  • ‘Why Statement’ workshops
  • New technology in service delivery workshops
  • Experience mapping

Support unit focus

We are working with one of the major support units as they begin using Lean’s ’strategy deployment’ approach, Hoshin Kanri, in October 2019.  This is a pilot of strategy deployment approach potentially of use in multiple strategy contexts.

Staff focus

Continue to work with UCD HR in looking to how the skills/developmental aspects of Agile’s offering support the job families/P4G space, thereby:

  • providing additional skills/developmental options for those having conversations in that space
  • hence leveraging such conversations to raise awareness of Agile, develop the continuous improvement culture and to expand the understanding and use of skills supported by Agile.

Create a recognition mechanism for example of continuous improvement

  • The poster element of WST 2019 was a success in this regard - extend this idea.

Team focus

Create a ‘Lean Team’ model for UCD: ‘operations management’

  • This is an extension of the ‘Decision Making, Authority and Empowerment’ theme, connects with job families and the competencies, looks for clarity of purpose and strategic alignment, develops the team’s capacity to self-monitor and self-manage in responding with agility and resilience to business demands and evolving contexts, and looks at the capabilities required, and the journey to acquirement, in being such a team.
  • In this, working with teams in five areas in the initial development of this model and approach.
  • In this, working with HR in developing ‘operations management’ as an understood skills cluster, and in the intermeshing of their supports, including Job Families and the competencies, with the ‘Lean Team’ idea.

Work with support units to develop new team leads

  • Matching training/formation with those taking on new responsibilities.

Advance recommendations from the Student Experience Mapping Project (SEMP)

SEMP was proposed by Agile to UMT in 2018 in order to create systematic contexts for ‘customer’ focused multi-domain improvement works.

  • Agile, having carried out the experience mapping, will keep ‘ownership’ of the student voice in this context.
  • Agile to have a portfolio management role in relation to the four projects, ultimately reporting on them overall to UMT in the context of SEMP.

Four projects were recommended.

  • ‘Findability’ project focused on enabling students better engage with the support ecosystem, driven by how students look/find and when they look/find.
  • ‘Trusted party’ project focused on helping trusted parties effectively be the support sought, connecting students with formal supports/services.
  • ‘Shaping living and learning’ project focused on students being best able to configure what UCD has to offer in meet their own space/food/access to service needs.
  • ‘Variations’ project focused on identifying the intrinsic and accidental differences between programme context for students, subsequently deciding which variations we want to address, ensuring a consistent high level of experience.

Experience mapping to be driven as a generally used approach when driving developments in multi-domain services and supports.

  • E.g. used when engaging with all major service/support initiatives in the student space.

Plan – Do – Check – Act: Lean Six Sigma in UCD

Lean Six Sigma in UCD brings an emphasis on both efficiency (Lean) and effectiveness (Six Sigma), broadly speaking, with the combination of these methodologies resulting in a large range of concepts, tools and techniques you can use when looking to enhance or create processes.

Two themes we have drawn from Lean Six Sigma, in Agile's first couple of years, is to learn through doing and to look at process enhancement often being about iterative improvements. You will see this most clearly in Lean's Plan – Do – Check – Act … or ‘how to iterate your way to a better future’.  

The following gives an idea of how this influences Agile's approach.

Plan Do Check Act

Plan:      Decide what you need and what you are going to do‌‌

Do:         Do it‌

Check:   Check and see what happened - did it work, what did you learn, did you get what you wanted

Act:        Cheer “that worked!” and keep on doing it OR “I know how to make it better” and repeat from ‘Plan’

PDCA is a general principle beyond simply a way to enhance a process - it is an approach to developing a solution from an initial idea, to testing assumptions through concrete action, or to gathering the experience to answer a question.  One of the key outputs of PDCA is more learning.

You can see how the PDCA idea expands as follows:

  • get a reasonable starting point - the plan or idea or question or assumption or process you are looking at
  • decide what you will do to follow through on this
  • decide how you will measure or track what you do
  • do the doing
  • gather the tracking or measures
  • review what happened against what you planned - gather the learning
  • do more to learn more OR stop because you got what you wanted OR change the approach and repeat the cycle 
Last updated on 03 October 2019

Please feel free to contact us at (opens in a new window)ag(opens in a new window)ile@ucd.ie or via our contact page.