This is the first in a new series by TSI as we highlight some of the more progressive (and cool) cultures, practices, methods and tools that some of our clients have put in place. We’ll try our best to cut to the chase and share some ideas that will help your organization’s performance.
In this entry, we are featuring the great work the ITS department at the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) has made progress that is well underway, transforming their department into one that truly embraces LEAN and Agile in a very pragmatic manner. In February, Dan Feely of TSI interviewed Lynley Dungan, Chief Information Officer (CIO), Information Technology Services (ITS) at the UNTHSC.
Organization Background – UNTHSC is one of the nation’s premier graduate academic medical centers, with five schools that specialize in patient-centered education, research and health care. They are part of the University of North Texas system. Lynley’s department, ITS, consists of approximately 45 employees/contractors.
What was your trigger to move this direction?
We’re always looking for new ways to address problems and continuously improve. A pivotal moment happened when we learned about and read the book, The Phoenix Project, by Gene Kim and Kevin Behr.
Describe your journey of transformation?
We took copies of the book, The Phoenix Project to the President, Provost and other VPs here. They actually read at least parts of this book and that created some momentum and a common language. This was the foundation so we could create a common vision to pursue.
So now we have a basic understanding of some fundamental concepts and we found ourselves talking about scrum, agile, lean, DevOps and others. Fortunately, we were able to attend training and about 4-5 of us received Lean, Agile, and Scrum training.
Over the last couple of years, we adopted Scrum for our development team, bought every whiteboard for miles around, and began to Kanban our work. As we expanded our use of Agile and Lean methodologies, we began to look at how we could better integrate our development and operation teams to gain efficiencies. Recently, we reorganized the department around the principles of DevOps. We also truly began to focus on what work actually brings value to our customers. Additionally, we moved our network team under our client services team. This was based on a study we learned about from Dan Pink at an Educause conference where cooks, who are able to view their customers eat and react to their meals, perform better. With this in mind, we moved some of the IT professionals near the help desk to see what impact that has.
What is your big idea or “ah ha”?
The idea that stuck the most centered on being conscious of bringing value. This was an epiphany, not something we’ve seen a lot of IT shops focus on. We always ask ourselves, “does this add value to the business” before taking on or prioritizing work.
What are you most proud of?
It would probably be the excellent feedback from customers in terms of how we interact with them. Now we are getting calls to be included on our customer’s projects versus not too long ago we used to be the last to know about a need. We were the first team to get a “Valubility” award – for collaboration and innovation. Now we feel like we are really aligned – more than ever. We are more knowledgeable about our IT business and our customer’s business.
What tools have been helpful?
We have implemented manual and electronic (LeanKit) Kanban boards and show our electronic versions throughout the department on large display screens. We utilize sprints and agile techniques frequently on nearly all of our work.
What would you do differently?
We would have thought about how we would measure things better first and baseline our current performance. A big help in our journey was management gave us permission to fail.
In terms of culture change, this has gotten people out of their comfort zone. It has not always been easy but our team has improved at adjusting to change, and we have become more efficient.
What information that you would suggest to someone going down this path?
A few books mentioned earlier have been helpful: The Phoenix Project, Stop Starting, Start Finishing, anything from Deming, Start with Why, Creativity Inc., Lean for Dummies, Speed of Trust, and anything from either Stephen Covey.
Where are you going from here?
We are expanding into knowledge management and for us that includes big data, BI, content/knowledge management.