The NESTT: Rapid Process Redesign at Queensland University of Technology
Situation faced: The higher education sector faces like most information-intensive industries an opportunity-rich, digital future. Nowadays, students demand contemporary, multi-channel learning experiences and fast evolving digital affordances provide universities with a growing design space for their future processes. Legislative changes, a globalizing market of learners and educational providers, and the emergence of new technology-based business models (EduTech) are further features of the current situation in this sector. In order to prepare for and to capitalize on this changing environment the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), like any university, needs to ensure operational inefficiencies are addressed as part of the required organisational transformation. However, traditional BPM approaches are often time-consuming, exclusively focused on pain points and not tailored to immediate process transformation, meaning a new, dedicated and agile approach for QUT was needed.
Action taken: A rapid process redesign methodology called the NESTT was developed by QUT, facilitating accelerated process improvement in the four stages of ‘navigate’, ‘expand’, ‘strengthen’ and ‘tune/takeoff’. An integral and defining feature of the NESTT is the way physical space is used as part of the methodology. Each of the four walls and the floor of the workshop space carry specific meaning leading to a new process design experience. Two such NESTT rooms have been established at Queensland University of Technology and a number of processes have been redesigned based on this methodology. Further, the involvement of QUT’s human resource experts ensured that the NESTT experience is embedded into QUT’s capability building framework.
Results achieved: The NESTT led to three tangible outcomes for QUT. First, the performance of the processes, which were redesigned using the NESTT, has been significantly improved. Many of the ideas were implemented within a 20 days timeframe and proposals for 20 months and by the year 2020 now guide QUT process implementation teams. Second, the NESTT, as a methodology, a dedicated physical space and with its growing team of trained facilitators has provided the organisation with a much valued, business-as-usual redesign capability and capacity. Third, participation in the NESTT has been an important up-skilling for the QUT staff involved (across a broad range of designations) and has had a positive impact on the organisational culture and attitude towards change.
Lessons learned: It is proven possible to rigorously redesign complex business processes in 20 days. However, a number of success factors needs to be addressed including (1) a sound methodology with short term milestones and well articulated and monitored intentions for each stage, (2) participants who are intellectually agile, collaborative and have a positive attitude towards emerging design options and the changes required to today’s process, (3) facilitators who are able to guide conversations under time pressure on multiple levels of conceptualization, from vision to individual idea assessment, (4) a decisive attitude among the NESTT team and the judging panel, and (5) a smart utilisation of the spatial affordances, in particular the ability to articulate the right level of information and to ensure an always correct, relevant and easy to use display of information across all dimensions of the NESTT space.
The NESTT approach has emerged from collaborative work with many colleagues at Queensland University of Technology. In particular, I like to thank Mr Paul Mathiesen from QUT’s BPM Discipline who piloted many concepts as a co-facilitator, Dr Michelle Vickers from QUT’s HR Organisational Development who made significant contributions to the three stage model of the NESTT and to Matthew Brown and Jamie Ford from Ernst & Young who were as reflective facilitators involved in the conceptualisation and design of the NESTT.
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