MBOE recap: Opening the toolbox

The MBOE program trains our students to be leading problem-solvers in their organization by providing the tools they need and, more importantly, teaching the behavior that creates lasting change. This week, we started handing out the tools.

Peg Pennington, a senior lecturer and Executive Director of the Center for Operational Excellence, kicked off MBOE’s second day of week one by walking students through the DMAIC methodology. This gets them ready for their journey toward green and black belts in the program, which uses the online Moresteam University modules. DMAIC (check out the breakdown in the image) helps students define, measure, analyze, improve and control the change they are working on in implementing at their organization. The modules will also help them prepare for the Six Sigma exam.

Another important tool is the A3 problem-solving method, which Executive-in-Residence Gary Butler introduced. Most of us are used to seeing a 100-slide PowerPoint describing a problem and all the steps that were taken to address it. With the A3 method, it’s all on an 11×17 sheet, and not just by writing in fine print but by being very specific about the problem.  It’s not only a good problem-solving tool but a great communication tool. An attention span, after all, does much better with one slide than 100!

We also wasted no time getting students to their first gemba. The assignment: Visit various areas in Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State and Riverside Methodist Hospital, speak with people there and develop a problem statement. The goal was to help students understand that what you hear from people the first time are mostly symptoms. Observing the process and getting data to support the problem really help in the end. On a short visit with no data, a situation you might find yourself in at some point like our students, it’s important to keep these things in mind:

  • Keep an open mind. What you think is a problem may not be the problem.
  • Don’t walk in with a solution. When you have a solution in mind, you tend to listen less and lose out on the information you could potentially receive from people/frontline staff.
  • Listen. Make a note of issues/symptoms. They might not be directly related to the problem, but you might find good ideas to help people understand what’s in it for them when you come back to implement countermeasures and gain their buy-in.

MBOE recap: There’s an app for that

For Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence cohort this year, paper is so 2011.

MBOE took the leap to become a paper-free program this year with each student of the 2012-13 cohort receiving an iPad. Students can now access all materials on the iPad using iTunes University, type in notes, and then access them anytime without flipping through pages within a huge binder.

ipad apple
All MBOE students in the new cohort receive iPads with all course materials loaded. (Image courtesy Apple)

A big thanks to Randy Spears and Jacob Bane in Fisher’s Information Technology Services, who helped make it happen and were on hand to walk students through the various applications and modules on orientation day this week.

Orientation takes place not only for our students but for coaches. As they were briefed in a separate room, eventually everyone got together to get acquainted.  Bill Constantino senior partner at the W3 Group, introduced students the concept of Toyota Kata, a method that Toyota uses to innovate their products with built-in quality. He talked about change and what it takes human beings to change by posing this question: Why do humans have the ability to develop new neural synapses? That’s because humans have the ability to learn new things. Why is it then change is so hard? That’s because the uncertainty that lies between a current condition and target condition is not addressed in a way that facilitates change, Constantino said. So how do you address it? The answer is deliberate practice and asking the right questions over and over with a coach helping to do that. Some helpful questions to ask:

  • What is the current state?
  • What is the target condition?
  • What idea will you implement?
  • What do you expect to happen?
  • What did you learn?

The more people consistently follow this process, he said, change will become second nature.

With the work of MBOE also comes some play. We hosted an evening reception after orientation for students to relax and mingle with each other. Many students spent time with their coaches to get an understanding of the process, a great benefit the program offers by giving up-close access to major operational excellence experts.

With orientation finished, students began their year-long quest with the first official day.

Peg Pennington, Executive Director of COE, introduced the concept of systems thinking and exploring all possible root causes of any problem. The key to coming up with the right countermeasures/solutions to any problem is:

  1. Define the  problem
  2. Understand the root causes of the problem

According to Peg, there are various tools available for root cause analysis, most of which are limited in some way. A cause map helps to deep dive into all possible reasons that led to the problem and also helps link to the corporate that is impacted because of the problem. Peg drove the point home interactively using various fun exercises.

In the afternoon, Gary Butler reinforced the learning on cause mapping by walking the students through analyzing the reasons behind the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle that killed seven astronauts in 1986. He also stressed upon defining metric and defining them S.M.A.R.T.ly (Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Actionable, Relevant/Reliable and Timely).


MBOE recap: ‘Transformation is not for the faint of heart’

Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence degree program runs a health care-focused cohort on a parallel track. Following her recent recap of a week in the life of the industry cohort, Fisher Senior Lecturer takes a look at the other track through the remainder of the week.

To close out the week, let’s look at some additional concepts covered in our recent MBOE Healthcare session:

Sustaining the gains

James Hereford Palo Alto
James Hereford

“Transformation,” Palo Alto Health Foundation COO James Hereford told students, “is not for the faint of heart. Hence a lot of organizations do no prefer transformation.” Transforming the organization, Hereford said, involves leaders making changes themselves. He presented his top-ten list of strategies for sustaining the gains.

  1. Lean is not a program, it is the culture to which everyone in the organization must adapt. It is not a “flavor of the month,” it is the philosophy everyone must abide by.
  2. Executive leadership plays a key role in the change.
  3. The changes must have relevance to the organization’s strategic plan.
  4. It is a huge change to what frontline staffs have been doing until now. It is important to have systems to support this change. Middle managers need to change how they manage. Instead of solving problems for the frontline staff, they must coach and train their front line team to perform systematic problem solving.
  5. Iterative problem solving is key. Having the attitude that 50% improvement now is better than 80% later takes the organization long way.
  6. It is important that managers have standard work, a standard way to support ongoing improvements and response to unusual occurrences. There must also be a system in place to check that standard work is being followed.
  7. Develop internal resources. You may hire consultants but ensure that they are teaching you to fish and not fishing for you. Use your best and brightest and demonstrate that this is the path to success.
  8. There must a linked checking from top to bottom and bottom to top. Require senior leaders to mess with their most precious resource: Time.
  9. The board should understand and support when executive leadership demonstrates change in thinking and hold senior leadership accountable. There should be a succession plan in place.
  10. There must be supporting systems in place e.g. HR or IT to embrace and facilitate the new changes.

Can creativity be taught?

On the last day of the latest session, Barb Bouche, senior consultant and department director for the Continuous Performance Improvement (CPI) department of Seattle Children’s Hospital, along with Beth Carrington and Toni Brenner from the W3 group walked the students through the process of coaching and problem solving at the frontline level. They used a simple exercise using dominoes to experience the concept called ‘kata’. ‘Kata’ is a means for making creative work teachable. The iterative problem solving process is key to engage, motivate and empower people to sustain and enhance the gains from lean deployment.

So what are the kata patterns to be practiced?

Improvement kata:

–          Understand the direction i.e. how does the improvement relate to the strategic plan
–          Grasp the current situation: What are the gaps between now and the strategic goal?
–          Establish the next target condition: What is the goal you want to achieve?
–          Use the PDCA process to achieve the target condition: Using Plan, Do, Check, Act iteratively to achieve the desired goal.

The supervisor focuses on asking the right questions rather than providing solutions. The supervisor uses visuals to make the improvement visible and easy to understand for the front line people as well as the leaders.

Coaching kata: The process involves first coaching the supervisor. The manager coaches the supervisor. A master coach observes the process and gives feedback to the manager.

The improvement and coaching kata becomes the standard work for all involved.

MBOE recap: Gemba walking the Cleveland Clinic

Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence degree program runs a health care-focused cohort on a parallel track. Following her recent recap of a week in the life of the industry cohort, Fisher Senior Lecturer takes a look at the other track through the remainder of the week.

Cleveland Clinic MBOE
MBOE-HC students on a recent gemba walk at the Cleveland Clinic.

The health-care cohort of the MBOE program started its latest week in action with a trip to the Cleveland Clinic, where students visited four different gemba areas: The infusion room at the Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis Treatment and Research; the cath lab; Taussig’s Chemotherapy infusion room; and the clinic’s lab building. Students were able to see how using value stream maps and other lean tools these areas achieved higher level efficiency such as creating more appointments, reducing the lead time and creating more capacity. The process improvement leads, what the clinic call embeds, are dedicated to different areas and help doctors, nurses and staff apply process improvement strategies to improve how they do their work. Joe Seestadt and Timothy Pettry, key leaders in the continuous improvement effort, helped organize the gemba visit.

Later in the week, Executive in Residence Gary Butler in the MBOE session on tools, system and principles asked a provocative question: You can delegate responsibility, but can you delegate accountability? The consensus was that accountability comes from internal motivation. This notion that lean is more to the underpinnings of the people and the process is something Butler discussed in a recent MBOE session.

Students also got a look at how lean plays out in the health-care space from speaker Sharon Schweikhart. She pointed out the difference between service and manufacturing and mentioned how the unique characteristics of services are both challenges and opportunities for managing service operations. Those core differences:

  • Intangibility: Usually the outcomes of a service are activities, benefits or satisfactions which are intangible.
  • Perishability: Services are time dependent. E.g. an appointment missed without being filled by another client or an empty seat on the airplane once it takes off.
  • Heterogeneity: Service is delivered by different people whose performance may vary from day to day.
  • Simultaneity: Simultaneous delivery and consumption of services

Schweikhart also mentioned how, unlike manufacturing, a customer participates in the service process as an input. A customer is a co-producer in the operation and as a result customer variation has an impact on the operations. The key to deal with this is to understand the variability, and design systems to accommodate it and leverage it.

Fisher’s Benton, Ward honored for top-cited articles

Being a footnote isn’t always a bad thing.

WC Benton Fisher College of Business
W.C. Benton

Take the Department of Management Sciences at the Fisher College of Business. Department chair and Center for Operational Excellence Co-Director Dr. Peter Ward along with Dr. W.C. Benton recently were named authors of some of the most-cited work in the Journal of Operations Management from 2007 to 2011. Specifically, an article each researcher co-authored was among the publication’s 10 most-cited works of the past half-decade.

Check out the list of the top 25 here.

Dr. Benton’s heavily cited research was co-authored with Honggeng Zhou of the University of New Hampshire and published in 2007, titled “Supply chain practice and information sharing.” Dr. Ward with Rachna Shah of the University of Minnesota co-authored the heavily cited “Defining and developing measures of lean production,” also released in 2007.

Peter Ward Master of Business Operational Excellence MBOE
Peter Ward

Looking at each of the works, it’s easy to see why they’ve made their way to the list of go-to articles for the field. Both get to the heart of how we do what we do in process improvement. Benton’s article examines the relationship between information sharing and supply chain practice, finding each is inextricably linked to the other’s success. Ward, meanwhile, combed past literature and current lean practices to identify a list of the items essential to the concept of lean production.

This is a remarkable feat for a single business school. Congratulations to Drs. Benton and Ward.

COE members, graduate students mingle in first-ever Supply Chain Career Connection

The comfort zone.

It’s not easy to leave it sometimes, but so much about process improvement – and the professional world in general – hinges upon it. COE this week stepped out of its own with the help of two partners to create a new kind of event that in its own way asked the same of attendees.

Fisher Supply Chain Career Connection COE
Students and company representatives mingled at the Longaberger Alumni House for this first-of-its-kind event.

On Thursday, Nov. 1, we headed to the Klevay Gallery in the Longaberger Alumni House for a Supply Chain Career Connection, an attempt to eschew the rigid career fair format with which so many are familiar. No interview “speed dating” and no appointments. Instead, we positioned a great group of employer representatives at cabaret tables around the gallery, turned up the music and encouraged informal chats about career goals and, if it gets there, job and internship opportunities. See the bird’s-eye view to your right, and click here for a slide show.

Networking improv, if you will.

Thanks to the efforts of the Operations and Logistics Management Association and Fisher’s Office of Career Management, both students and employers enjoyed a great night we plan to replicate on an annual basis.

A special thanks to the following companies who stepped out of their comfort zones to join us on this first go-round:

  • Anheuser-Busch InBev
  • Boehringer Ingelheim Roxane Inc.
  • Giant Eagle
  • Greif
  • Emerson
  • Huntington National Bank
  • T. Marzetti
  • Rolls-Royce Energy Systems
  • Worthington Industries