Cardinal Health’s Click honored with prestigious Founder’s Award

A longtime Cardinal Heath employee who’s a familiar face at Center for Operational Excellence events has been presented with the company’s highest honor.

click, charlotteDublin, Ohio-based Cardinal Health, a COE member since 2006, this spring announced that Charlotte Click, manager of manufacturing planning, was one of four winners of the Robert D. Walter Founder’s Award. The honor, named after the health-care distribution giant’s founder, is given to employees who exemplify Cardinal’s values and inspire others.

Click was one of four winners of the Founder’s Award, which also went to Daniel Bishop, director, Financial Planning and Analysis in Cardinal’s Houston office; Dianne Radigan, VP, Community Relations; and Michael Scrase, VP, IT Management. Winners came from a pool of more than 250 nominations and 15 finalists.

Click has spent a decade at Cardinal, which she joined after working for Constellation Energy Group in Baltimore for 13 years. At Cardinal, she has held a wide range of roles, including a two-year stint as a Black Belt with the company’s Operational Excellence team. She’s heavily involved in the company’s Employee Resource Groups and says she has a special passion for the Equality Network, a group for LGBT employees and their allies. A Pittsburgh native, Click and her husband, Brian, have five children in their blended family.

“I feel like my time here has mattered and I have been able to enrich lives,” Click said upon receiving the honor. “To me, that is the ultimate achievement.”

COE welcomes member Clopay Plastic Products

The Center for Operational Excellence at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business is continuing to expand its membership roster with the addition of a specialty plastics maker based in the Cincinnati area.

clopay plastic productsMason, Ohio-based Clopay Plastic Products has joined the COE, becoming the center’s 36th member. Clopay makes specialty plastic films used in everything from infant diapers and feminine hygiene products to equipment covers and product packaging.

The company recorded an operating profit of $16.6 million on $563 million in revenue in its last fiscal year, according to filings from publicly traded parent Griffon Corporation. Clopay Plastic Products employs about 1,500.

Clopay (a linguistic mash-up of “cloth” and “paper”) was formed in 1930 and gained steam during World War II, creating waterproof laminated paper and board for overseas packaging. By a decade later, the company laid the groundwork for its business today, entering the burgeoning plastics market and making the first of a string of acquisitions and international expansion moves that have carried it through its 1986 acquisition by Griffon and beyond. Clopay remains a keen innovator as well, holding dozens of U.S. and overseas patents.

Peg Pennington, executive director of COE, said the company’s continued drive to improve and innovate makes it a perfect fit for the center.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Clopay Plastic Products as they transition to pursuing global operational excellence,” Pennington said. “They’re already working to ingrain these principles in their culture, which is a huge leap in the right direction.”

Vance Greene, senior director of global quality and operational excellence for Clopay Plastic Products, is serving as the company’s representative on COE’s non-governing advisory board. Greene is a 2009 graduate of Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence degree program.

Study: R&D directors, project leaders need to view innovation through new lens

A new study from a Fisher College of Business professor suggests research and development teams could use some more outside-the-box thinking in how they structure and manage their own innovation projects.

Forthcoming in the Production and Operations Management journal is “The Role of Project and Organization Context in Managing High-Tech R& D Projects.” This study, which employs both qualitative case data and survey data from more than 100 R&D projects at nearly three-dozen high-tech organizations, is authored by Aravind Chandrasekaran, an assistant professor of management sciences at Fisher.

aravind chandrasekaran innovation R&D
Prof. Aravind Chandrasekaran’s (pictured) research surveyed nearly three-dozen high-tech companies.

In his research, Chandrasekaran found that companies are making a very common mistake in managing their R&D projects, and the consequences can range from an internal preference towards cut-and-dry, quick-turnaround innovation projects to loss of market share and competitive edge.

Context is key

At the root of this increasingly troubling trend among R&D teams is a common villain: The tried-and-true approach, backed by decades of research and results. Projects typically are categorized and managed by the extent of change in the product, process, technology and market dimensions. A routine iPhone upgrade from a 3G to a 3GS, for example, falls at one end of a continuum as a so-called incremental innovation project.

“If you’re going from a CD player to an iPhone, though, that’s radical innovation,” Prof. Chandrasekaran said.

This research posits that R&D project management shouldn’t be determined on a sliding scale of eventual change, big or small. Rather, it should be driven by project goals, whether they’re to explore a new technology or to exploit opportunities for efficiencies, cost savings or faster time to market, Prof. Chandrasekaran said.

The research found that incremental and radical innovation projects thrive under two entirely different sets of so-called project and organizational contexts. Incremental projects need diligent, transactional leaders at the helm, low levels of team-member autonomy and well-defined goals that are tied to outcome-driven incentives. Radical innovation projects, meanwhile, need a leader who’s willing to promote risk-taking and experimentation, give team members more latitude and reward them at milestones, not just the finish line.

Crossing these wires, the research found, can be deadly for project success. Put a rigid, transactional leader in front of a radical project team and the creative juices stop flowing. Give incremental project teams more autonomy and a hands-off approach and deadlines are missed.

A one-size-fits-all approach to project tracking, all too common in the companies surveyed, spells trouble, too. Teams juggling a mixed bag of projects, all with the same metrics and reporting structure will develop a Pavlovian affinity for the fast and predictable incremental ones and leave the long-term radical ones on the to-do list.


R&D innovation
(Click to enlarge) The study posits that managing R&D projects by intended goals ensures so-called hybrid projects won’t be missed.

Here’s the nuance that even the savviest high-tech companies miss in their ongoing R&D project management efforts: Some projects in these environments are driven by goals typically associated with radical innovation and incremental innovation, but existing research doesn’t offer much help on how to deal with them, Prof. Chandrasekaran found.

These so-called “hybrid projects” aren’t new to post-recession R&D departments, but they’re making more appearances as companies are asked to do more with less or – at best – the same.

“In this day and age, budget cuts are more and more visible in R&D environments, and companies are being asked to make big leaps in projects, pushing up deadlines without giving additional resources,” he said.

The growing stakes of maintaining competitive edge are outpacing overall R&D spending, too. An annual Battelle report on R&D expenditures found U.S. spending is set to grow about 2.5 percent this year, on par with the growth in the national Gross Domestic Product but slower than the global growth rate of 3.4 percent.

The key to nurturing these hybrid projects, Prof. Chandrasekaran found, is first not to let them get incorrectly classified as radical innovation projects, the most frequent mistake. Key red flags to look out for include the addition of deadline or cost pressure to an otherwise radical innovation project.

“In practice, organizations are pretty good at making changes between radical and incremental projects,” he said. “They often fail to make that change for hybrid projects.”

What these projects need, according to the study, is a so-called “ambidextrous leader” who knows when to shift between hands-off management during bursts of team creativity to taking the reins and steering the project on time and on budget.

“These are leaders who know when to push and when to pull,” Prof. Chandrasekaran said. “Unfortunately, they are in short supply, but this quality can be nurtured with the proper training.”

Not just for tech

Tapping into high-tech companies for this study, Prof. Chandrasekaran said, wasn’t an act of random selection. The tech sector remains the R&D industry’s most fertile ground for growth, but that doesn’t mean this research is valuable only to them.

Any company investing in R&D should take notice of the opportunities they’re missing as they organize and deploy project teams, he said.

“This research shows management has to make key changes,” Prof. Chandrasekaran said, with the following questions: “How do you reward these people? How do you lead these teams? When do you give them decision – making autonomy? When do you take back the same decision-making autonomy?”

In short, effective senior management support in R&D doesn’t stop after signing off on a budget. That’s just the beginning.

Columbus-area school district eyeing state funding for op-ex rollout

A Columbus-area school district is turning to operational excellence to help drive efficiencies and funnel more dollars into the classroom, armed with a pledge of partnership with Fisher College of Business and hopes of help from a competitive state funding program.

todd hoadley
T. Hoadley

Dublin City Schools recently applied for $555,000 through Ohio’s Straight A Fund, which encourages districts around the state to find collaborative and innovative ways to reduce costs and better serve students. Dublin’s plan, spearheaded by Superintendent Todd Hoadley, is a structured lean/Six Sigma implementation district-wide that looks to cut costs in utilities, transportation, and other areas.

That’s where Fisher comes in. Through the funding proposal, several district staffers would enter Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence program, a one-year degree track designed to create Black Belt-level practitioners with lean leadership skills. Hoadley himself is a graduate of MBOE, whose alumni routinely execute highly successful process improvement projects at their companies and often see promotions.

MBOE, though, is only one part of the Dublin plan, which looks ultimately to train more than 200 district employees – roughly 10 percent of its work force – in operational excellence concepts. This all-in effort, which also has Center for Operational Excellence member Cardinal Health on deck as a partner in training and education, looks to save more than $2 million through new efficiencies in utilities, transportation and other costs, according to a recent Columbus Dispatch article. The initiative is designed not only to be self-sustaining in the future after the initial funding round, but allocate more funding toward students.

“If those operations are not lean, that’s pulling money out of the classroom and away from kids,” Hoadley told the Dispatch.

While grant funding decisions are yet to be announced, Dublin already is at work, collaborating with Fisher students to drive results.  A recent Dublin Villager article highlighted a study conducted by Fisher students since the beginning of the year and just unveiled to the school board. Fisher students in this project looked to speed up the rate at which maintenance problems around the district are fixed, a turnaround that sometimes exceeded a month, according to the article. Students’ recommendations incorporated milk run and 5S concepts, among others, to reduce the waste of maintenance workers looking for parts.

Dublin was one of 662 schools and other organization looking for a piece of the $150 million available through the latest funding round. The district’s proposal cleared an initial round of eliminations in late May and is headed to a more in-depth review process. Winners will be announced in late June.