Celebrating achievements in continuous improvement

13 Feb 2018
SMU Business Excellence Awards 2018

Over one hundred members of staff and faculty gathered on 7 February 2018 for the annual SMU Business Excellence Awards which celebrated how schools, offices, institutes and teams across the university have, through major and minor improvements, made a positive difference to learning and work.

“Through our collective efforts to review and revise work, we have saved $275,000, generated revenues of more than $38,000, reduced processing errors by 68 percent, and freed up more than 2,700 staff hours”, said Lim Wee Pin, Director at the Office of Business Improvement (OBI) -- the office which administers the Awards.

Lim Wee Pin, Director, OBI, shares with colleagues the ways in which they can drive higher impact at work.

“These kinds of improvements don’t just happen naturally. They are the result of open minded university leaders, faculty and staff who have come forward to problem-solve, and to make things better,” he noted. “Though awards are important in recognising awesome people who have worked hard in the past year, they ultimately celebrate the spirit of continuous improvement.”

Continuous improvement for meaningful impact

Thinking and talking about improvements is good. “However, it’s not enough to do that through words, but through concrete projects that are data-driven,” said Professor Arnoud De Meyer, SMU President and Chair of the Business Improvement Steering Committee.

Addressing the audience through a video message, Professor De Meyer reminded SMU colleagues that everyone needs to go further than simply looking at their own immediate areas of work. “We need to imagine a better future,” he said. “To make meaningful impact, we need high impact programmes; programmes that cross boundaries of different offices and departments; programmes that improve the processes that we have here at SMU.”

To drive such forms of improvement, SMU’s OBI team offers staff and faculty members Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt and Green Belt training, free-of-charge. Following the training programme, staff must complete improvement projects before they can graduate with a Lean Six Sigma certificate.

On top of that, staff and faculty members receive support for training and development. “Throughout the process of working on projects, staff and faculty members can also look to champions amongst university leaders, and to OBI members for coaching and mentorship,” said Terence Tan, Vice President for Human Resources and Faculty Administration at SMU. As he congratulated colleagues for their achievements at the awards event, Terence urged everyone to champion a culture of continuous improvement at work.


Professor Arnoud De Meyer, SMU President and Chair of the Business Improvement Steering Committee and Terence Tan, Vice President for Human Resources and Faculty Administration.

Celebrating individuals and teams

The overwhelming turnout at the event reflected how much university staff and faculty members support the spirit of continuous improvement at work. Many showed up to cheer on colleagues who have successfully completed improvement projects over and above their day-to-day jobs.

This year’s winner of Outstanding Project (Black Belt), Ang Teck Hoe from SMU-X, Office of Provost, freed up more than 60 hours of talent resources per year in his project to improve coordination between the teams charged with recording student community service at the School of Law’s Pro Bono Centre.

Outstanding Project (Green Belt) winner, Eugene Leong, from the Postgraduate Recruitment and Admissions team at the Lee Kong Chian School of Business, led his team to streamline processes in marketing. Changes in these processes increased efficiencies, which translated to savings of more than $200,000.

[Front row; from left] Winners of Outstanding Role Model, Chew Seng and Kevin; Winners of Outstanding Project, Teck Hoe and Eugene. [Back row; from left] Green Belt graduates, Nasrol and Jin Chang.

Three individuals were recognised as Outstanding Role Models for their work in championing change and continuous improvement. These individuals not only sponsored and supported projects tirelessly; they actively encouraged colleagues around them to do more, and do better. Kevin Koh from SMU-X, Office of Provost; Chan Chew Seng from the Office of Alumni Relations; and Ng Boon Thai from SMU-TCS iCity Lab, are award recipients for the year.

The Office of Alumni Relations took the trophy for Outstanding Department. Having sponsored and completed both Black Belt, Green Belt and student projects for business improvements, the department made the greatest impact; from the ways in which they reformed analytics and reporting, to the processes to increase sales efficiency at the alumni-supported bistro on campus.

Towards meaningful impact

More than handing out awards, the event celebrated the graduation of 26 colleagues under the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt programme, and one graduate of the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt programme. Colleagues who had completed Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt and Just-to-it projects were recognised as well.

Additionally, the event featured poster presentations to showcase 28 improvement projects from Office of Finance, Integrated Information Technology Services, Office of Alumni Relations, Centre for English Communication, Li Ka Shing Library, International Office, Centre for Teaching Excellence, Office of Postgraduate Professional Programmes, School of Law, Lee Kong Chian School of Business, SMU-TCS iCity Lab, and SMU-X, Office of Provost.


Posters featured problems that have been solved, and outcomes achieved in the past year.

Reflecting on the achievements from past years, Professor Arnoud De Meyer said: “I think we’ve done a great job in training people; in making people aware. We have many just-do-it and green belt projects; and we have a number of influential black belt projects; and we’ve achieved a lot over the last years. We need to go a step further.”

Yet, change can be challenging. It can disrupt patterns, habits and rhythms at work. It can bring about discomfort. Recognising all of this, Arnoud encouraged everyone to give change a chance. "This is an opportunity for you to take the future of SMU into your hands, and to make this a better university. Secondly, you will learn something... and also, you can win awards!" he quipped.

Main Photo: Group photo with award winners and graduates of the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and Black Belt programme.

Last updated on 13 Feb 2018.

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