Skip to Content

Division of Human Resources


Process Improvement (Lean)

Assess your current workflow, eliminate inefficiencies in your process, and implement a plan for improvement using Lean methods and tools.

UofSC's Lean Community of Practice 

Lean practitioners are making work processes simpler, faster, better and less costly. They use Lean tools to solve problems, improve workflow and strengthen service to customers. 

Lean Process Improvement can flatten or decrease the increasing costs of higher education through practices and tools that reduce waste and create efficiency.

Lean practices and tools provide a common language and processes that are easily adoptable for individuals to work on their own, or join with others across the university, to tackle departmental and system-wide issues that ultimately improve the customer (student) experience.

Lean Basics Introductory Course: Register Now

Three parts to every project – prep, project and implementation. This roadmap [pdf] provides a snapshot for each phase of a project. 

Use this project charter [pdf] to plan and communicate key elements of your process improvement project.

This project flow overview [pdf] lays out the schedule for a 5 day event. 

Be sure you have plenty of room [pdf] to work in groups, while still being able to move around. Don't forget lots of wall space for butcher-block paper and sticky notes!

This document [pdf] lists the types of process improvements that surface time and again as the biggest drivers of positive change.

Use these measures [pdf] to gauge the effectiveness of your project. 

Enlist TIMUWOOD [pdf] (transportation, information/inventory, motion, underutilization, waiting, overproduction, overprocessing, defects) to pinpoint waste in your processes. 

Methods and concepts [pdf] that may be used to implement Lean-powered improvements. 

Use this quick worksheet [pdf] to determine who your customers are and how they feel about your service.  

Looking for other ways to begin Lean process improvement? 10 ways [pdf] to get started. 

"A3" a short-hand name used in Lean-powered organizations to describe structured problem solving and the continuous improvement approach. Sometimes you'll even hear it as a verb: "We need to A3 that problem." It's based on the plan-do-check-act cycle that's at the heart of continuous improvement. Process improvement leverages our "inner Sherlock Holmes" – study the situation, look at data, analyze the problem, identify root cause(s), and only then start thinking about improvement actions. The A3 approach is based on this, building all of the requisite front-end steps into the form. The form is an on-paper facilitator, guiding you along the path to improvement.

A3 Problem Solving Tool (Landscape) [pdf] 
A3 Problem Solving Tool (2 Page Portrait) [pdf]

Why two versions? The landscape version packs everything into one page. The portrait version is two pages, offering more writing space. In terms of content, both versions are identical.

The Lean Community of Practice (COP) recommends two frequently used tools:

  1. The 5 Whys (Root Cause of Analysis) – a simple but powerful technique for uncovering the root cause of a problem when you lack data. 
  2. Hensei (Deep Reflection) – a process of reflecting on ideas or experiences in order to learn from successes or failures to improve oneself in the future. 

Review the Lean COP presentation [pdf] to learn more about the 5 Whys and Hensei, or try the 5 whys exercise [pdf] to help determine the root cause of a problem. 

NOTE: These documents are not copyrighted by Tom Terez Workplace Solutions Inc. 

The copyrighted documents listed above (“the Materials”) are proprietary information of Tom Terez Workplace Solutions Inc. These Materials are provided for the exclusive use of administrators, managers and Lean practitioners at the University of South Carolina.

  • A faster process, fewer salary overrides, and fewer off-cycle paycheck requests to increase customer satisfaction.
  • The new workflow has 54 steps – rather than 104 steps (staff hire) or 119 steps (faculty).
  • Loopbacks are reduced from 9 to 2.
  • Process time compressed from 10 days to 5.
  • Download a fact sheet [pdf] or the team’s presentation visuals [pdf] for an in-depth look at the project.
  • The project created a virtually paperless process, eliminating 2,800 pages per year. 
  • The new approach streamlines the process from 100 to 56 steps.
  • Average time reduced from 32 days to 20.
  • 1,073 staff hours freed up yearly for value-added work.
  • Download a fact sheet [pdf] or the team’s presentation visuals [pdf] for an in-depth look at the project.
  • The leaner process frees 525 staff hours per year for other work.
  • The new process requires 14 steps, compared to the former 43 steps.
  • Loopbacks in the process are reduced from 7 to 2.
  • Eleven downstream decision points eliminated; necessary information is received early in the process.
  • Download a fact sheet [pdf] or the team’s presentation visuals [pdf] for an in-depth look at the project.

Submit a Lean Action Report [pdf] to let us know how you have improved your workplace.