The first- and second-year Fisher College of Business graduate students who attended last Friday’s third-annual Link Symposium didn’t have to wait long to hear sound advice from our panel on lean implementation.

From left: Georgia Keresty; Asst. Prof. Aravind Chandrasekaran, Fisher College of Business; Chris Dillinger, Cardinal Health; Bill Michael, Huntington Bank; Reshma Pathare, Nationwide Insurance.

Moderating the event was Georgia Keresty, vice president of science, technology, and quality at Johnson & Johnson’s Advanced Sterilization Products. A 30-year veteran of the health-care industry, Keresty made the case for an enterprise-wide approach to lean in the opening moments of her remarks, kicking off a wide-ranging discussion on how lean is driving lasting, transformational change at a wide range of organizations.

“For companies to be successful with lean, it has to be end-to-end,” she said, adding that a more myopic approach to implementation can mean a company is “missing out on huge opportunities.”

The ensuing pair of panel discussions reinforced Keresty’s comments with a look inside manufacturers Greif and Emerson Climate Technologies, health-care product distributor Cardinal Health, Huntington National Bank, and Nationwide Insurance. Fisher professors Peter Ward, Mike Tanner, and Aravind Chandrasekaran also were on hand to share their research-based insights at the symposium, which the Center for Operational Excellence sponsors each year. View a slide show of the event here.

Teaching the tools and behavior that bolster lean thinking and leadership isn’t anything new for Fisher, which has been teaching lean in its MBA program for 25 years running, Ward said. To put that in context, the landmark lean text The Machine That Changed the World hit bookshelves only 23 years ago.

Notable insights from the panels, which focused on lean in manufacturing and services, respectively:

Lean leadership can be a career game-changer. One of the panelists, Geoff Merchant, serves as the manager of global commercial excellence for Delaware-based Greif, a member of our Center for Operational Excellence. He’s also an alumnus of Fisher’s MBA program. “The lean skillset I developed at Fisher was key to me getting a position at Greif and doing well in the organization.”

Lean can’t survive on an island. Bill Michael, a continuous improvement consultant at Huntington, told students that the bank has come a long way from a more siloed approach to lean, a series of “little embedded random acts of continuous improvement. This needs to be one cultural force.”

Lean can help organizations build quality in. This strategy has helped Cardinal Health successfully manage a wide range of challenges in the heavily regulated health-care space. It has even helped panelist Chris Dillinger, a director of operational excellence, view regulations themselves differenty. “A regulatory requirement is a voice of the customer,” Dillinger said.

A lean culture has many ingredients. Five of those pinpointed by the services panel: Respect, trust, empowerment, end-to-end application, and teamwork.

“Lean is a systematic way of showing respect.” – Peter Ward, chair, Department of Management Sciences; co-director, COE



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