LEAN Rapid Improvement Events (RIE)

What is LEAN and how is it used at Exeter?

At its simplest Lean is a set of process tools.  At its most powerful it is a way of introducing a customer focused, efficiency based culture - it gives front line staff new skills, empowers them to make decisions and gives them a new team based way of working. The University has used these tools to develop two models.  Lean Rapid Improvement Events (RIE) are one model, focussing on making improvements within smaller more self-contained operational areas. An RIE will be shorter than a strategic initiative, with the actual event lasting one to five days and the changes being agreed within this timescale.

The LEAN Exeter strategic initiatives are longer (6 months) and focused on improving complex process areas and directly support the University's wider strategy.  Both approaches use the same Lean tools and approaches in order to establish a new way of thinking and working for all those involved.

What is a Rapid Improvement Event (RIE)?

An RIE will typically involve 2-4 weeks prior to the event scoping and documenting the process, consulting widely and preparing a suitable programme and attendees for the event.  The actual event could be from one to five days depending on the topic and will include a significant period of time to make changes agreed by the attendees.  Following the event there will be a further 2-4 week period documenting output, preparing and implementing an action plan and liaising with stakeholders and sponsors.

What are the benefits?

  • Enables change to happen relatively quickly that will benefit customers immediately
  • Empowers staff to make some of the changes within the event, creating an appetite for change and sowing the seeds for a change in culture
  • Involves people working across teams, breaking down silos and creating an understanding of the end to end process
  • Equips staff with tools and techniques that they can transfer into their day to day job

Have I found a potential RIE? Here is a a checklist to help you identify if you have found a potential RIE.  Contact Chris Austin if you would like to discuss this further.

What have we done so far?

A project team comprising Megan Jones from EY Advisory, Chris Austin from Strategic Change and two Lean Champions from Campus Services and Academic Services was set up to run two pilot Rapid Improvement Events (see below).  Over the eight-week period the team reviewed two key areas of Forum services; the Career Zone and how student focused events are booked and run in the Forum Street. The team identified opportunities to further refine and improve processes and services for the future while also establishing and refining the methodology for future RIE activity.  The table below will log all RIE activity.


EventDatesLean CoachLean Champion
Pilot - Career Zone 17 April - 7 June 2013 Chris Austin/Megan Jones Leanne Fennell Green
Pilot - Non-Commercial Forum Events 17 April - 7 June 2013 Elaine Cordy/Megan Jones Catherine Hayman
Graduation Guest Ticketing 27-29 August 2013 Elaine Cordy Jodie Davies
DLHE (Destination of Leavers from Higher Education) survey  1 July - 6 September 2013 Leanne Fennell-Green Jenny Scarr
Penryn Career Zone 14-15 October 2013 Leanne Fennell-Green Leanne Fennell-Green

Placement and Internship Administration

15 and 17 October; 6 November 2013

Chris Austin

Steve Wallers


4-6 December 2013

Elaine Cordy

Jim Major

Penryn Deliveries

 6 January - 10 January 2014

Debbie Collins

Laura Hames

Library Shelving

 21, 28 January and 4 February 2014

Chris Davis

Kerry Pankhurst / Rachel Dawson 

Campus Services P2P Property Services  December 2013 Catherine Hayman Amy Jackson
International Student Support Visa Season  17-19 March 2014 Jodie Davies Jodie Davies
C&CE Invoicing (FXPlus) June - August 2014 Chris Austin Sasha Murphy
Individual Learning Plans 8-9 July 2014 Elaine Cordy Lisa Sandercock
Placement Data 19, 22 and 27 January 2015 Chris Austin Alison Macaulay
Codes for Inbound Study Abroad, International Exchange and Erasmus students 10, 18 March 2015 Chris Austin Clare Crick
AccessAbility: Non-medical helpers 16-20 March 2015 Laura Hames Hanna Millington
Change of Programme for Undergraduates 16th June and 23rd June Chris Austin Caroline Adams, Holly Wheaton

Change of Programme for Undergraduates

Coach: Chris Austin
Champion: Caroline Adams, Holly Wheaton

Objective: To review the Change of Programme process for Undergraduates

Desired outcomes:

  • To ensure there is a clear process with guidance and support for students at all stages and for staff in colleges and services
  • To improve the process for all by making efficiencies where possible and reducing errors
  • To ensure fair and transparent decisions and to provide an audit trail for reporting services
  • To enable decisions and actions to be taken in a timely way

AccessAbility: Non-medical helpers

Coach: Laura Hames
Champion: Hanna Millington

Objective:  To review the ‘non medical helper’ administrative process for DSA funded support

Desired outcomes:

  • Improve experience for customers of the service
  • Remove single points of failure
  • Create a consistent approach for both Mental Health and AccessAbility teams
  1. 'Non Medical Helper’ administrative process for DSA funded support

Career Zone RIE

Coach: Chris Austin
Champion: Leanne Fennell-Green

Objective: To increase student engagement with the Exeter Career Zone (physical space) to lead to an increase in graduate destinations.

Desired Outcomes:

  • Raise profile of Career Zone and career timeline activities
  • Increase group activity and utilisation of space 
  • Students more able to further career plans (indirect)
  • Improve the staff experience and increase staff capacity


4 months on - Career Zone Rapid Improvement Event Update

Non-Commercial Forum Events RIE

Coach: Elaine Cordy
Champion: Catherine Hayman

Objective: To improve the effectiveness and visual impact of non commercial events in the Forum Street and Piazza

Desired Outcomes:

  • Improve the effectiveness of the event booking system
  • Improve signposting, meet and greet and the signposting of events
  • Improve feedback loops 

Graduation Guest Ticketing

Lean Coach: Elaine Cordy
Lean Champion: Jodie Davies

Opportunities Matrix

Benefits Tracker - Graduation Ticketing

DLHE (Destination of Leavers from Higher Education) RIE

Lean Coach: Leanne Fennell-Green
Lean Champion: Jenny Scarr

Objective: To enable more effective facilitation of the DLHE survey

DLHE RIE Summary

Placement and Internship Administration

Coach: Chris Austin
Champion: Steve Wallers

Objective: To review, standardise and document the processes for UG placements and Internships

What were the issues and who was involved?

Project Plan Post-RIE


Penryn Deliveries 

Coach: Debbie Collins
Lean Champion: Laura Hames

Objective: To establish a clearly document procedure that is agreed by the 3 partners on the Penryn campus for the delivery of goods on to campus

Penryn Deliveries Action Plan

Library Shelving 

Coach: Chris Davis
Lean Champion: Kerry Pankhurst / Rachel Dawson


  • To enable students and staff to locate books easily when they need them
  • To introduce Lean to the Library



Coach: Elaine Cordy
Champion: James Major

Timetabling Expectations

Timetabling Outputs and Actions

CaS P2P Property Services

Coach: Catherine Hayman
Champion: Amy Jackson

C and CE Invoicing

Coach: Chris Austin
Champion: Sasha Murphy

Brief Summary

Issues, Scope and Stakeholders

Individual Learning Plans

Coach: Elaine Cordy
Champion: Lisa Sandercock

Placement Data

Coach: Chris Austin
Champion: Alison Macaulay


  • To determine how work and study placement data can be best and accurately carried over to SITS
  • To improve the experience for all customers, by reducing duplication and errors

Process, scope, issues and stakeholders

Overhaul of codes for inbound Study Abroad, International Exchange and Erasmus students

Coach: Chris Austin
Champion: Clare Crick


  • To ensure coding is accurate and meaningful for students and staff from application through to enrolment
  • To pull accurate reports and data via SITS

Latest news 

Further RIE's are being undertaken by the staff identified as Coach/Champion above and these will be listed in the table, with links to the websites for specific activity.