Business Improvement

Business Improvement

The function of the Business Improvement Team is to facilitate and catalyse, remove barriers, and help groups work better together, with the overall aim of improving the university for students, staff and other partners.

In establishing a Business Improvement Team, the University of Aberdeen has recognised that we must:

  • Introduce a culture of continuous improvement in the University.
  • Ensure that all our processes meet existing and emerging needs.
  • Maximise all of our resources in the delivery of our services.

The Team

Marion Malcolm

Marion MalcolmBusiness Improvement Team Lead

Marion joined the Business Improvement Team in January 2013 and became BI Team Lead in April 2017.   She is passionate about Business Improvement and undertakes a variety of roles within the team to promote a continuous improvement culture in the University.  Examples of roles are facilitating lean improvement workshops and training staff in lean methodology and philosophy.  She worked previously as a Business Manager in the Health Services Research Unit (HSRU), bringing a wide ranging knowledge of University systems and processes to the BI team.  Marion is the chair for Lean HE Scotland and is also a member of Lean HE Europe.

Marion is a history graduate from the University of Aberdeen and also has an MBA from the University of Abertay Dundee. 

Office: +44 (0) 1224 27 4190

Craig Howell

Craig HowellBusiness Improvement Specialist

Craig joined the Business Improvement Team in July 2017 as a Business Improvement Specialist. Craig is a strong advocate of lean methodology for Business Improvement and works with staff and teams on a variety of projects (eg supporting strategic change initiatives) to promote a continuous improvement culture within the University.

Previously Craig worked at Aberdeenshire Council across a diverse range of roles including: Internal Auditor, Senior Continuous Improvement Officer and Project Manager - Improving the Customer Experience (iCE).


How We Work

Role of a Business Improvement Specialist

They do

They don't

Scope and define improvement projects. Impose their own views about how a process should be defined.
Ensure the structure, methods and proper channels are in place to give each project the best chance of success. Facilitate team building/away events with no clear and measurable objectives.
Support, coach and cajole project participants. Own or become responsible for the process at the heart of the project.
Challenge complacency. Undertake all of the actions needed to complete the project.
Facilitate groups to achieve a defined outcome. Bring any subject area expertise.
Bring and share expertise on business improvement.  
Champion the view of process beneficiaries.  
Support the measuring and reporting of output and outcomes.  
Ensure that all stakeholder views are inclued.  

Why Enlist the Support of a BI Specialist?

By enlisting the support of a Business Improvement Specialist to facilitate your improvement initiatives you are benefiting from our expert knowledge and ensuring consistency throughout.

Common Concerns

Listed below are several examples of why a team would benefit from the support of the business improvement team.

Process Improvement using Lean

"Lean" is a philosophy of improvement, a tool for change.

For Lean to provide the most benefit to an organisation it must become part of the 'philosophy' of that organisation.

Lean is about…

  • Adding value to everything we do and removing unnecessary burdens.
  • Continuously looking for ways to improve.
  • Always remembering who the beneficiary is of the work.
  • Employee-led improvements (bottom up, not top down).

The Lean Opportunity in a Typical Business Process

Elimination of Waste

A powerful way of demonstrating that there are opportunities for improvement, is to reveal the waste produced by a process. For example, a process may take 8 weeks to run its course from start to finish, but we only spend 45 minutes actually working on it. This waste is usually created by the rules of the system rather than the people. An understanding of what goes on in that time and having a chance to challenge those rules will help us provide better customer outcomes.

Categories of Waste

  • Transportation - Unnecessary movements of materials and products.
  • Inventory - Excess products and materials not being processed.
  • Motion - Unnecessary movements by people (eg walking).
  • Waiting - Wasted time waiting for the next step in a process.
  • Overproduction - Production that is more than needed or befroe it is needed.
  • Over processing - More work or higher quality than is required by the customer.
  • Defects - Efforts caused by rework, scrap, and incorrect information.
  • Skills - Failure to utilise talent or listen to suggestions for improvement 
Initiating a Project

Would you like to propose a business improvement project in your area?

Staff are the university’s greatest asset: they know what works well and what doesn’t, and possess the knowledge and ability to suggest and make improvements.

Please complete a project proposal form and send it to us via our suggestion box!

a collage of staff at various workshops

Staff Training
Lean @ Lunch

The Business Improvement Team facilitate lunchtime "taster" sessions designed to provide an overview of Lean methodology and a brief insight into the tools and techniques used by the team

Taster sessions will take place at 12.30pm - 1.30pm, in Edward Wright S95, approximately every 2 months

Visit the Course Booking System to book a place on your preferred date.

All staff welcome. Bring along your lunch - tea and coffee will be provided.

Please note, a minimum of 5 people must sign up for the development course to run. There is a maximum of 12 spaces available.

Lean for Higher Education

Our two-day training course, recognised by the Institute of Leadership and Management as a Development Programme, is designed to provide in-depth training in Lean methodology as it applies to the Higher Education sector, to further knowledge and expertise of university staff. This training programme is targeted at the following audiences:

  • Participants of the Learn Lean @ Lunch sessions who want to learn more.
  • Individuals who have been identified as a Project Lead for an upcoming BI Project.
  • Individuals who would like to take this course as part of their personal professional development.

The development programme is scheduled for 9.30am - 4.30pm each day, in Edward Wright S95.  

The course is free of charge for University staff.  An optional £50 fee is payable by participants/departments who wish to receive an official UoA/ILM certificate of completion, recognising and celebrating your learning and achievement. ILM accreditation officially endorses the quality of the training and outcomes of this course.

Visit the Course booking System to book a place on your preferred course dates.

Bring along your lunch - tea and coffee will be provided.

Please note, a minimum of 7 people must sign up for the development course to run. There is a maximum of 12 spaces available.

Lean for your Team

Tailored lean training courses and workshops:

  • Provide teams with exactly the right training to suit their needs.
  • Oriented towards the application of particular lean tools and techniques, with a practical focus and using case studies.
  • Help teams scope an issue to support an improvement project.
  • Implementation support.
  • From 2 hours to a series of sessions planned over a longer period.

Up to 15 people can be hosted in our Edward Wright workshop space, S95. Alternatively, the course/workshop can be delivered in your own work area.

Contact us at to discuss your requirements and obtain a course/workshop planning form.





Lean for HE Development Programme, April 2016

I was worried beforehand that I would find the course challenging and jargon heavy - it was quite the opposite and I am very pleased I attended. A light bulb moment for me!

Staff listening to the trainer at a workshop

Lean for your Team, March 2016

Some great ideas to help reporting on my projects regarding visual reporting ( A3 reports, burndown charts etc). I found the event, interesting, informative, engaging and challenging.

The day was a good mix of activity (we weren't left staring at a screen being lectured at all day)!

I'll endeavour to incorporate LEAN principles into my working practices. Particularly process flow mapping.