Lean Six Sigma in Higher Education

ISBN: 978-1-78769-930-4, eISBN: 978-1-78769-929-8

Publication date: 30 November 2020


(2020), "Prelims", Antony, J. (Ed.) Lean Six Sigma in Higher Education, Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. i-xxv.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021 Jiju Antony. Published under exclusive licence

Half Title Page

Lean Six Sigma in Higher Education


Praise for Lean Six Sigma in Higher Education

‘Higher Education institutions create true value when knowledge is being developed and transferred. Today’s Higher Education institutions however comprise of many processes that are supportive to these purposes, but in itself do not create true value. This book is an excellent guide for managers and professionals in the Higher Education sector looking for process or product optimization within their institutes. It guides in separating value adding from non-value adding or even wasteful activities, and provides practical aids and tools for process optimization in the Higher Education sector.’

Bart A. Lameijer , Assistant Professor and Senior Consultant, University of Amsterdam Business School, Netherlands

‘The importance of a long term strategic improvement framework for Higher Education has never been more necessary than today. Many attempts have been made by external policy makers in government, or internally by career administrators. Most have failed miserably to make any improvement in efficiency or effectiveness over the past 30 years. Costs have gone up and Quality has come down. Professor Jiju Antony and his team have gone outside of Academia to study the use of principles, tools and techniques with a proven track record in Manufacturing, business and service organisations. It is shown without doubt that Lean Six Sigma in Higher Education is needed right now! The book breaks down many myths and misconceptions about Lean Six Sigma and I encourage all administrators, leaders and policy makers to give this book a chance and read it with an open mind. Lean Six Sigma is a game-changer for Higher Education...and it needs to be given an opportunity to show its power.’

John Dennis , Chairman International Lean Six Sigma Institute, UK

‘This is another piece of art for the entire Lean Six Sigma global community! Higher Education (HE) is definitely an area full of improvement opportunities and Lean Six Sigma can be a critical component to change this game. The Editor of this book has addressed this topic brilliantly by showcasing a collection of articles including a dedicated chapter on the tools and techniques of LSS relevant to Higher Education context. This is a must-read book not only for academic leaders in HE but also for all continuous improvement practitioners that aim to promote a positive impact in this area.’

Marcelo Machado Fernandes , MF Operational Excellence, ASQ Certified Master Black Belt, Minitab Certified Trainer, Brazil

Title Page

Lean Six Sigma in Higher Education: A Practical Guide for Continuous Improvement Professionals in Higher Education

Edited by

Prof. Jiju Antony

Heriot-Watt University, UK

United Kingdom – North America – Japan – India – Malaysia – China

Copyright Page

Emerald Publishing Limited

Howard House, Wagon Lane, Bingley BD16 1WA, UK

First edition 2021

Copyright © 2021 Selection and Editorial matter by Jiju Antony.

Published under exclusive licence.

Copyright © 2021 Individual chapters by their respective authors

Reprints and permissions service


No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without either the prior written permission of the publisher or a licence permitting restricted copying issued in the UK by The Copyright Licensing Agency and in the USA by The Copyright Clearance Center. Any opinions expressed in the chapters are those of the authors. Whilst Emerald makes every effort to ensure the quality and accuracy of its content, Emerald makes no representation implied or otherwise, as to the chapters' suitability and application and disclaims any warranties, express or implied, to their use.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN: 978-1-78769-930-4 (Print)

ISBN: 978-1-78769-929-8 (Online)

ISBN: 978-1-78769-931-1 (Epub)


Dedicated to my wife Frenie Antony and my daughter Evelyn Antony

List of Figures

Chapter 1
Figure 1.1. Process View of Lean Six Sigma.
Chapter 3
Figure 3.1. Steps of Systematic Literature Review Methodology.
Chapter 6
Figure 6.1. Lean Six Sigma Project Charter.
Figure 6.2. Process Mapping Symbols.
Figure 6.3. Sample Representation of Swim-lane Process Map.
Figure 6.4. Example of a SIPOC Analysis in a Higher Education Setting.
Figure 6.5. Common Value Stream Mapping Symbols.
Figure 6.6. Current or Initial VSMM.
Figure 6.7. Fishbone Diagram to Illustrate the Causes of Student Dissatisfaction with the University Computer Center.
Figure 6.8. Root Cause Analysis Applied to a Postgraduate Research Application Process.
Figure 6.9. Pareto Chart of Student Failures in Subjects.
Figure 6.10. Histogram of Marks from a Postgraduate Course.
Figure 6.11. Different Scenarios for Relationships between Two Variables on a Scatter Plot.
Figure 6.12. Example of a Scatter Plot.
Figure 6.13. Example of a Run Chart in a Higher Education Setting.
Figure 6.14. Example of an Individual Control Chart.
Figure 6.15. An Example of an Individual Control Chart.
Figure 6.16. Standard Operating Procedures for Library Book Search Process.
Figure 6.17. Eight Forms of Waste in a Higher Education Sector.
Figure 6.18. Failure Modes and Effect Analysis.
Figure 6.19. Revised Failure Modes and Effect Analysis after Remedial Measures Taken.
Figure 6.20. Example of a Box Plot.
Chapter 7
Figure 7.1. Research Grant Application Support Tool.
Chapter 8
Figure 8.1. High-level Customer Definition Tool for a Higher Education Institution.
Figure 8.2. Student-customer Definition Tool for a Higher Education Institution.
Chapter 9
Figure 9.1. A Lean Six Sigma Maturity Model for Academic Leaders and Institutions.
Figure 9.2. The Final Maturity Model for Leaders Implementing Six Sigma in Academic Institutions.
Chapter 10
Figure 10.1. LSS Implementation Roadmap for Higher Education Institutions.
Chapter 11
Figure 11.1. Six Sigma Big Data Model.
Chapter 12
Figure 12.1. Input-Process-Output (IPO) Transcripts Process.
Figure 12.2. Fishbone Analysis.
Figure 12.3. Quality Improvements.
Figure 12.4. Box Plot – Cycle Time of Transcript Ordering Process.
Figure 12.5. Gemba – ‘before’ and ‘after’.
Figure 12.6. Vision of Sponsored Program Services Office (SPS Website, 2018).
Figure 12.7. Pre-award Proposal Submission Service Process Flow Chart.
Figure 12.8. Hierarchy of Pre-award SPS Office.
Figure 12.9. SIPOC Model of SPS Service.
Figure 12.10. Number of Proposals in the Pre-award Area (2015–2016).
Figure 12.11. Amount of Proposals in the Pre-award Area (2015–2016).
Figure 12.12. Distribution of Prior to Deadlines.
Figure 12.13. Time Series Plot of Late Submission Proposal (2015–2016).
Figure 12.14. Distribution of PL Lead Time.
Figure 12.15. Descriptive Statistics for Proposal Effort Score.
Figure 12.16. Process Mapping for Proposal Submission Process in Pre-award Office.
Figure 12.17. Descriptive Statistics Report of Processing Time.
Figure 12.18. Categories 1–4 of Proposal Submission Prior to Deadline in Terms of Different Grant Types.
Figure 12.19. Cumulative Percentage of Prior to Deadline Timeline.
Figure 12.20. Fishbone Diagram for Imbalanced Workload.
Figure 12.21. Pre-Award Service Timeline (SPS Website, 2018).
Figure 12.22. Failure Mode of Effect Analysis (FMEA).
Figure 12.23. Project Charter.
Figure 12.24. Pareto Chart of Vital Few Causes.
Figure 12.25. Box Plot of Project Metric before and after the Project.

List of Tables

Chapter 6
Table 6.1. Data for Comparing the Average Marks of Students.
Chapter 7
Table 7.1. Semi-structured Interviews.
Table 7.2. Recommendations.
Chapter 8
Table 8.1. VOC Research vs Management Perceptions of Student Dropout Drivers.
Chapter 9
Table 9.1. The Positions of the Interviewees from Case Study Organisations.
Table 9.2. Linking the Evidence to the Themes.
Table 9.3. Conceptual Model Testers and Reviewers.
Table 9.4. Level 0 Characteristics and Descriptors.
Table 9.5. Level 1 Characteristics and Descriptors.
Table 9.6. Level 2 Characteristics and Descriptors.
Table 9.7. Level 3 Characteristics and Descriptors.
Table 9.8. Level 4 Characteristics and Descriptors.
Chapter 11
Table 11.1. Comparison of Six Sigma and Big Data Principles.
Chapter 12
Table 12.1. Opportunities for Improvement.
Table 12.2. Project Charter.
Table 12.3. Categories 1 to 4 of Proposal Submission Prior to Deadline in Terms of Different Grant Types.
Table 12.4. Regression Analysis for Proposal Effort Score and PI Lead Time with Final Submission Prior to Grant Deadline.
Table 12.5. Identified Lean Wastes in Percentage of Proposals.
Table 12.6. Percentage Reduction in Seven Typical Lean Wastes.

List of Contributors

Dr Stephen Anthony Heriot-Watt University, UK
Prof. Jiju Antony Heriot-Watt University, UK
Ms Nimita Atal Purdue University, USA
Dr Attracta Brennan National University of Ireland, Ireland
Dr Elizabeth A. Cudney Maryville University of Saint Louis, USA
Mrs Mary Dempsey National University of Ireland, Ireland
Dr Sandy L. Furterer University of Dayton, USA
Mr Joe Healy University College Cork, Ireland
Dr Roger Hoerl Union College, USA
Dr Chad Laux Purdue University, USA
Dr Na Li Purdue University, USA
Mr John McNulty University College Cork, Ireland
Mr Tom Murphy University College Cork, Ireland
Ms Helen O'Donovan University College Cork, Ireland
Mr Ronan O'Dubhghaill University College Cork, Ireland
Mr Seamus O'Reilly University College Cork, Ireland
Dr Ronald Snee Snee Associates, USA
Dr John Springer Purdue University, USA
Prof. Vijaya Sunder M Indian School of Business, India
Mr Scott P. Thomson Heriot-Watt University, UK


Businesses today are always on the lookout for ways to improve their bottom line by systematically eliminating waste from business processes as well as reducing unnecessary or undesirable variation in business processes which result in defects, errors or even failures leading to customer dissatisfaction. Lean Six Sigma (LSS) has become predominant in many fields. It is among the most common continuous improvement methodologies today. And while other industries, namely, manufacturing, service and some public healthcare services have adopted LSS to improve operations and focus on efficiency and effectiveness, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have largely been impervious to such continuous improvement efforts.

HEIs have been a cornerstone in educating society's leaders, an incubator for advanced technologies and an accelerator for economic development. The situation within the Higher Education (HE) sector is very similar to that of firms within the manufacturing and service industry – facing fierce competition, limited budget availability, government funding slashed, and students adopting a consumer approach to their learning. There are a few books on Lean in Higher Education, but the editor and contributors of this book would like to highlight the point to readers that both Lean and Six Sigma or even its integrated approach (Lean Six Sigma) can equally be applied to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of business processes in the HE sector. Moreover, only some problems can be tackled using the Lean approach in our view and hence the integrated approach can be more beneficial for tackling problems where variation is the primary issue (e.g. variation in turnaround times, variation in recruitment times of research staff for funded projects, etc.).

Higher education has become a competitive enterprise, with the characteristics of an organization that must compete for scarcity, as students replace funding from state resources. As universities compete for status and rank, the competitive nature can contribute toward a decline in the sense of academic mission, community and values. The ability to maintain the academy requires effort from a variety of resources, disciplines and ideas as the commercialization of higher education strains the social mission. LSS as a powerful Operational Excellence strategy is one contributing effort that can impact these trends of massification of the academy, and we hope the literature presented in this work will support a concerted effort to respond to the concern for quality in Higher Education.

This book is a collection of articles written by a number of contributors from three continents: Asia, Europe and North America. The book is a carefully edited work by an academic and a practitioner of Operational Excellence based in the Higher Education sector. The book encompasses state-of-the-art literature review on LSS in HE sector, case studies of LSS in HE, tools of LSS which can be used in HE, challenges in the implementation of LSS in the HE setting, significance of Voice of the Customer, LSS Maturity Model for HE and emerging trends in the area. This book will benefit students, researchers, professional staff who would like to engage in process improvement projects in HE environments, and academics who would like to understand the concepts of Lean Six Sigma, as well as the challenges and barriers in the implementation and sustenance of this powerful Operational Excellence methodology. I firmly believe that the applications of LSS in HE will continue to grow over the years and this book is very timely. The book can be a great resource for training staff members in the HE sector or for self-study to understand the challenges in the implementation. Moreover, it provides the most powerful tools of LSS which can be used in Higher Education setting for problem-solving scenarios. Finally, I would like to thank all readers who are using this book for the LSS journey, and we wish the very best of luck with your endeavours.


I am deeply indebted to a number of people who, in essence, have made this book what it is today. First, and foremost, I would like to thank a number of contributors who have devoted their time in writing a chapter or chapters for the book. I am most grateful to the reviewers of the proposal and sample chapters for their invaluable suggestions that guided the preparation of this book. It is my sincere hope that by reading this edited book, you will find something new which will challenge your personal thoughts in a new way. Your suggestions and constructive feedback regarding the contents of the book will be taken into account, and I will do my best to overcome any shortcoming in the future editions of this book. Finally, I would like to express my sincere thanks to my family for their encouragement and patience as the book stole countless hours away from family activities. Finally, I take this opportunity to thank Emerald Publishing for their incessant support and forbearance during the course of the project.