How Participative Process Reviews can nurture conversations and deliver efficiencies

Cover image from the Participative Process Review Toolkit by Oxford Brookes University
The Participative Process Reviews toolkit has been developed by Oxford Brookes University
After taking part in workshops run by the Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development, teams in Oxford Brookes University have changed their practices to make them less complicated, more streamlined and more cost effective. As part of a series of posts by the nine ITF-funded projects, Ian Whiting explains the aims of the Participative Process Review programme.

The process reviews that we have developed have been specifically designed to enable teams to subsequently self-facilitate further reviews.

Through a facilitated workshop, teams are introduced to the concept of carrying out process reviews. To take this forward we are launching our Participative Process Review (PPR) Tool Kit, which we are making freely available to the whole sector.

The first section provides advice on how to approach what we see as true participation, which has been validated through our research giving you an indication of the direct and indirect benefits you may gain for your own organisation. As one commentator from our research remarked, “even just calling it a participative process, using that adjective has an impact on how people engage with it”.

The second part of the tool kit contains all the materials to deliver and evaluate your workshop. This includes a powerpoint presentation with facilitator observation notes and delegate handouts. All are designed to be customised to fit local circumstances.

The third section provides a quick overview of what we have pared down to six key stages involved in carrying out a process review. The PPR workshop adopts a simple approach to process mapping, whilst acknowledging there are more sophisticated methodologies out there. For our purposes our participants greatly appreciated keeping things simple.

After holding workshops in seven different higher education institutions, including 17 at Oxford Brookes, our PPR project team produced a report of the findings and eight case studies.

The project found that performing process reviews can result in significant efficiency savings for teams and that the participatory nature of a PPR brought teams closer together and highlighted issues that might otherwise have been overlooked.

What has been most encouraging from our perspective is that on delivering it once, teams have subsequently gone on to carry out further process reviews in their area.

Here is some choice feedback from our research:

Manager 1:

“Before PPR, staff were not really thinking of and looking at a process in its entirety. People would just come do their job and if something wasn’t working they might change it a bit, but they wouldn’t necessarily look at the whole thing, which now they do. It’s completely changed the way we work. Now the team are constantly doing process reviews. We have now done eight or nine and reviewed almost every aspect of our summer business using the PPR technique”.

Manager  2:

“Personally, the workshop was a really good experience, as I’ve never really facilitated something like that before. We have looked at quite a few (processes) now….. we all realise how good a method PPR is for clarifying a process. I’ve used it in a lot of other places in my work and see just how straightforward it is – get it right, get it all mapped out and working – it’s a great tool to clarify processes and improvements. The more process reviews I’m doing, the more I’m learning about how to manage people and what it actually means to be in that facilitating role”.

In developing this PPR toolkit we are indebted to our collaborative partners SUMS Consulting and Belanda Consulting together with six universities who participated in the trial via the Staff Development Forum.

Please contact Ian Whiting, Staff and organisational development consultant, Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development (OCSLD), Oxford Brookes University for further information.  

The Innovation and Transformation Fund (ITF), supported by the Leadership Foundation and Hefce, stimulates projects to unlock and share good practice in order to advance efficiency and transformation across the higher education sector. The nine projects for 2014, focusing on engaging the higher education workforce in process review, performance and career management and development, are nearing completion and will be shared over the next few months.