Ah... here we are, again. Time to get out the tattered cheque book and write a big number down that represents the first term installment for my daughter's third year at University.
Costs can vary depending on program, but in Canada, the average annual tuition may end up costing $6,000 to $7,000. Added to that, the incidentals, and you can tack on another $1,000 to $1,500 per year.
Of course, there is the accommodation, utilities, meals, transportation and other "necessities", and the cost then doubles to $15,000 per year or more.
As a Lean practitioner, (I hope I am justified in laying claim to that honorary title), I think more and more about "value" lately... especially when my cheque book comes out and it involves several digits and a comma, ($xx,xxx.xx).
What value DOES my daughter, my family, her future family, the Canadian community and the world in general, for that matter, derive from this large investment? How much of what we are paying to institutions of higher education is actually earmarked for "wasteful" use of resources? Is 30-40% a fair assumption? Should the annual tuition paid, when only considering "real" value add, be in the neighborhood of $4,000 per year instead of $7,000? My "Lean Thinking" and "Six Sigma" hats say YES!
On the upside, universities and colleges have recently started to "dabble" in Lean Thinking, but resistant to change is extremely high, and it is tough slogging to make meaningful progress... three steps forward, two steps back.
My attention naturally turns to the public sector. Living in the shadow of our nation's capital, Ottawa, I also find myself questioning the real value-creation that occurs within the walls of our government and across this fair land. How well IS our personal investment in public service is managed? Does every civil servant look at their work with "lean eyes" and can they assess if what they are doing is value-added? Would they even care? I like to think so. Perhaps a better question is, "Can they do anything about it?"
Perhaps, as I get older, I become more cynical, ("Is that even possible?", some might say), and I automatically derive the 30-40% cost of poor quality from my contributions to the public trough. That assumes, of course, that a given product or service they are producing and delivering should exist in the first place... "What DOES the customer (present and future generations) want or need?"
So, as I take out my cheque book, once again, and try not to stain the paper with my tears, I have one wish... That this year is witness to a REVOLUTION in both public service AND higher education thinking in terms what defines value and how it should be delivered and that they have the WILL to do something about it.
Baby steps, folks... I'm taking baby steps. As our Canadian comic icon, Mike Myers, might say in character as "Dr. Evil"... "Throw me a frickin' bone!"