MBOE groups hit the road to see lean leadership in action

It’s a busy time for gemba walks, folks. Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence cohort recently spent time visiting Center for Operational Excellence members Nationwide Insurance and Cardinal Health. Meanwhile, MBOE’s health-care cohort met out in Seattle, visiting Seattle Children’s and Seattle GroupHealth, learning what role leaders take on in a lean environment. 

David Mann, author of Creating a Lean Culture, spent a day with the students explaining and demonstrating the tasks that lay ahead of a lean leader.  Lean, Mann said, is a higher-maintenance way of managing because there isn’t much of a buffer, or waste, built in the process. As a result it is important that leaders adhere to standard work. So what does standard work for leaders involve and how do you build in accountability? Per Mann, here are some questions one can start answering to find out what is lacking and eventually build a system to have the answers:  

Having tasks and deadlines on public display improves accountability
Having tasks and deadlines on public display improves accountability
  • Does your standard work involve going to the workplace or the ‘gemba’? How frequently? 
  • What do you do in the gemba? Are you problem solving or empowering people to identify and solve problems?
  • What feedback will you give the people about their processes?
  • How does information flow from the corporate level to the shop floor? What is the chain of command? How will you identify if there is a break in the link?
  • Are there standard work visual controls? What is their intent? How do they tie to the strategic goal?

According to Mann, if visual controls for leader standard work are easily visible to the public, have due dates for completion of tasks and name of the responsible person, you automatically build in accountability in the process. To summarize, focusing on the process, adding visual controls with built in accountability and having the discipline for following up the first three elements are the basis of leader standard work. 

The MBOE cohort got the insight on developing efficient teams by hiring the right people by Larry Inks, faculty at the Fisher College of Business. The MBOE healthcare team learned about team building and basics of 3P taught by Barb Bouche, Director of process improvement at Seattle Childrens’. The students also witnessed seamless flow at Seattle Children’s outpatient surgical facility in Bellevue, which was built by implementing the principles of the 3P and involving all the stakeholders responsible for providing care.


Finding flow in daily life

If you haven’t followed my advice and moseyed on over to Slate.com to read the online newsmag’s operations series,  bookmark me and make haste. Writer Seth Stevenson over the past couple weeks has turned out a great batch of pieces on operations success stories that, while a bit elementary for your average ops vet, are a reminder that simplicity breeds success. His latest piece – the result of a call-out to readers – is the best yet, sharing process improvement success stories in our daily lives.

Based on the theme of the piece, the grocery store appears to be a major problem – sorry: opportunity – for many of us. Like many processes, the chances for variation between that initial opening of the automatic doors and the final bag during check-out are myriad. As a writer with little to no exposure to the ops world before joining the Center for Operational Excellence, I’ve found myself making changes in that process. Coupons are organized in the order of where I’ll see the product on my route, and the shopping list itself gets the same treatment. 

Grocery shopping
Grocery shopping can provide plenty of stress but provides plenty of opportunities to go lean

Some grocery shopping frustrations remain: The deli counter still takes forever, a sign I should follow one Slate reader’s advice to drop off the order and pick it up at the end of the trip.

Opportunities like these in daily life are everywhere, and I’d like to hear yours. Where have you gone lean outside of the office in an effort to find a few more precious minutes to spend while off the clock?

COE member Aggreko tackles fuel-spill problem

You’ve probably seen one or 50 of those Morgan Freeman-narrated Olympics promos already, but you might not know that one of our Center for Operational Excellence members will have a front-row seat to the action.

generator aggreko
Aggreko's generator fleet at any given site can be massive.

UK-based temporary power supplier Aggreko Plc’s generators will be a behind-the-scenes player for this year’s Olympics, marking the biggest moment in the sun yet for the company. Ever a process-minded organization, Aggreko recently has turned to the Fisher College of Business and COE for training and project work. I wrote about a fascinating and important project one group of Aggreko improvement leads undertook over the past year in this quarter’s COE newsletter.

Read the full article here, but here’s a snapshot: Aggreko in recent years has experienced massive growth and secured deals all around the world in all kinds of climates. With that variability came the occasional fuel spill in its generator fleets, a problem team members were determined could be resolved through process, not a mechanical fix.

They were right, and their journey illustrates the remarkable change that can be brought about by a thorough, reasoned approach to problem-solving instead of the knee-jerk quick fix.

That’s a story that merits some Morgan Freeman narration.

Online series takes a look at operations

Leisure reading and work are typically two things I like to keep separate, but our operations readers might want to mix the two and check out an interesting new series at online news mag Slate.

A new series on the website, crafted by author Seth Stevenson, is taking a look at key tenets of operations over the next few weeks. You can get started by reading his first article here, one entitled “What You Hate Most About Waiting In Line.” This is solid, sprucely written material, though anyone with a years-long background in operations management might find it a bit basic. He’s already waxed poetic on Eli Goldratt’s The Goal and viewed operations through the prism of Southwest Airlines’ successful string of profits.

None of this might be new, or news, to you. What’s at play here, though, is a spotlight being shined on operations at a well-read website that spends much of its time on current events and pop culture. If even a few enterprising, undecided college students feel a light bulb going off reading this, that’s a few steps forward for a field that needs all the bright minds it can get.

Culture counts – inside and out

Depending on your level of skepticism about the intangible in work and in life, the notion of culture being as important – or more important – than process and strategy might ring true or completely hollow. Culture itself became an important aspect of the past two events the Center for Operational Excellence has hosted, and the arguments for its impact on building a team and dealing with the outside world are enough to convert a non-believer.

In late May, we hosted Quicken Loans President and Chief Marketing Officer Jay Farner at our quarterly professional development seminar. In a compelling look at how Quickens’ culture has driven its success, Farner said the nation’s No. 1 online mortgage lender doesn’t really talk mortgages much in its hours-long employee organization. 

Jay Farner
Quicken Loans President Jay Farner

 “We’re a technology company, we’re a marketing company and we just so happen to do mortgages,” Farner said.

 Instead, it’s all about the kind of company the employee is joining and what maxims – they call them “isms” – they need to live by. It’s this focus on “isms” such as “Every client, every time, no excuses, no exceptions” that have helped Quicken win honors for being one of the best places to work and for having one of the best corporate IT infrastructures around.

“When people join an organization, if they don’t understand what they just joined, they can’t become a part of the family or understand its philosophies,” Farner said. “How can they be expected to excel?”

 What better way to foster a sense of ownership – a do-or-die ingredient to driving process improvement – than getting everyone on the same page culturally?

A different angle on culture took center stage at COE’s June 1 forum “Business in Brazil: An Insider’s View.” A group of about 60 COE members and guests joined to hear from a trio of experts on the challenges in doing business in and with the South American country, one that’s on fire economically these days but not the easiest to navigate. Sean Corson, an international sales exec for Ohio’s Cast Nylons Ltd., gave a look at import export challenges, while David Wilson, of counsel at Kegler Brown Hill & Ritter, helped the crowd scale legal hurdles. 

Closing out last Friday was Atila Noronha, a Brazil native who’s now an executive at McDonald’s Corp. Noronha gave a lively look at the key cultural differences between the U.S. and Brazil and how they might come into play while striking a deal. 

Atila Noronha
McDonald’s Corp. executive Atila Noronha

Think the “American way” is the best route? Tell that to a Brazilian and see where your transaction goes, Noronha said.

When it comes to driving change for a group based on “my way,” that same caution might be useful.

Congratulations to COE-funded scholarship winners

Aside from putting on events and connecting our members, part of the Center for Operational Excellence’s mission is to support the great work our faculty and students are doing here in the Fisher College of Business. A big way we do that each year is in giving out scholarships, and we’re proud to recognize a group of students we selected.

COE this year awarded five students $500 each through the Logistics Scholarship Fund. The first-year MBAs to receive the honor are: Jennifer Bartlette, Arshita Raju, Joe Robinson, Jeremy Mink and Bradley Stuetzer.

Awarded the $2,500 William L. Berry scholarship was Piyush Sinha. This honor, endowed by the emeritus professor, is designated each year to a student expected to have an impact in the operations world. With his strong experience in the field and a reputation as a high achiever, Sinha was a natural choice for the honor this year.

Our winners this year, along with past honorees, posed (left) with COE leadership and associate logistics professor Mike Knemeyer to celebrate the honor. Check out more photos on our Flickr page.

As the icing on the cake, some of our honored students are putting in work as interns at some COE member companies. Bartlette is headed this summer to Delaware industrial packager Greif Inc., while Stuetzer is headed to Greif’s Argentina office. Other members set to welcome our students: Rolls-Royce Energy, where Sinha will be interning; and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., where Robinson is heading. Congratulations as well to Raju, set for an internship at the Ohio auditor’s office, and Mink, who is heading to Petsmart.

Congratulations to all of these students, and best of luck as you continue your journey at Fisher.