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Dear readers,

Firstly, particularly in light of this blog relating to work we undertook for a group from China, best wishes from us for a happy and safe Chinese New Year.

I believe this blog has been published on what is the fifth day of the New Year, which according to what we have read, entails some feasting. Sadly, for us, the University of St Andrews has just substantially increased the price of sandwiches and jacket potatoes, so feasting is alas firmly off the agenda for us here, but we hope any feasting is being enjoyed elsewhere.

On Monday 9th December we had the pleasure of being joined in London by a group of 25 deputy school leaders and deans from Universities in Chongqing City, China as part of their 3-week study tour in the UK. With a population of over 31 million people and lying on the Yangtze river, Chongqing City is one of China’s four National Central Cities alongside Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin and is one of the most important economic centres in Western China. The purpose of the tour was to study and exchange theories and experience in the area of universities and higher education, as well as seeking collaborations with UK Universities.

Having built an understanding of what the clients wanted from the one-day seminar, we led with experiences of improving University ways of working in St Andrews as part of the group’s set of objectives around the theme of ‘Ideas, Practice and Researches about Internal Administration of British University’. The seminar was designed to give the delegates an introduction to the principles of Lean Management, the St Andrews Lean Implementation Model and case studies which demonstrated the effectiveness of the approach.

The seminar was conducted in English but as over half of the delegates were not totally proficient in English, an interpreter was in place to translate into Mandarin. The interpreter was Vivian Qiang who did a great job of translating our technical and occasionally colloquial English.

With Vivian doing a fantastic job of the linguistic juggling, the Seminar could commence with a group exercise involving the more conventional juggling of balls to demonstrate some basics of Lean – this warmed the group up nicely and kept our translator on her toes as the exercise is quite fast moving. There followed an introduction to why and how St Andrews University got started on their Lean journey and how it fits with the overall St Andrews mission – “ever to be the best”.

The development of the universally acclaimed St Andrews Lean approach was described to the group alongside a video clip of one of the early successes in St Andrews, the improvement of the ‘Student Letters’ process – video accessible here! At lunchtime, the group were asked their preference of subject matter for the afternoon from a list of options – they were very keen on hearing more case studies of Lean successes in Universities, so the pm session was given over to 4 major case studies. This prompted a lot of discussion and hard work for Vivian our translator, but the group were highly energised by the type and magnitude of improvements demonstrated. There were many excellent questions and a lot of thinking about what could be done with Lean based process improvement back in their schools and departments. One delegate even offered an innovation of the St Andrews Lean Model which was well received by both group and tutor.

If the number of photographs taken by the delegates of the slides and the presenter are a yardstick of value gained by the group, this session was an unqualified success! Upon completion of the session, the group leader Mr Jinzhao Lin presented the seminar leader, Tim Washington with a gift from Chongqing Municipal Party.

St Andrews Lean Consulting would like to warmly thank Jinzhao Lin and his colleagues for a very interesting day and hope that there can be further collaboration between the St Andrews team and the Chongqinggroup in the future. Also, thanks to Vivian for the sterling translation job she did; keeping the session moving at a good pace whilst making sure all the delegates could understand the content – a tough task. A wonderful day or so, and we very much look forward to future collaborations.


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