LeanCor CEO: Collaborative ‘ecosystem’ perspective critical to business success today

leancor robert martichenko

When Robert Martichenko isn’t running his company, LeanCor Supply Chain Group, he’s probably thinking about lean. And when he’s thinking about lean, he’s probably writing about it, too.

While his passion for storytelling might be a source of productivity and relaxation, Martichenko also says it’s a key leadership capability that’s too often overlook or underdeveloped.

“As leaders, we have to work harder to tell stories,” he told a crowd of nearly 200 at the Center for Operational Excellence’s 25th anniversary celebration. “Anybody can put 10 bullet points on a slide and build 50 slides. What’s the story? Why are we doing this? What’s important? We have to become closer to the narrative.”

‘We are a business, we are a system’

Martichenko kicked off COE’s fall seminar and quarter-century celebration with a compelling narrative of his own: Where he sees the future of lean thinking and lean management in a business world changing by the minute – and leaving some destruction in its wake.

“Fundamentally, we’re going to have to do something differently,” Martichenko said. “At this point, what’s happening on the outside is happening faster than what’s happening on the inside.”

Martichenko’s insights for how companies can leverage lean concepts to survive and thrive in a disruption-rich world are rooted in his personal journey as a business leader. He began his career in the transportation and warehouse industries, where he identified a need to integrate lean principles and techniques across the entire value stream. He founded LeanCor 12 years ago to meet that need and has grown the business into a leader in advancing the world’s supply chains. Just two years ago, Martichenko was honored with the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ Distinguished Service Award, the industry’s highest honor.

A supply chain-based “ecosystem” perspective is what Martichenko sees as a foundation for survival and growth today.

“The next frontier … is not about technology, or about apps – this is about core processes and functions and saying, ‘We are a business, we are a system, and as a system we need to manage it together,’” he said. “Do you really want to fail instead of getting three executives together and saying, ‘Can you please start collaborating?’”

What’s preventing leaders from the four core business processes — strategy, product life-cycle management, sales and marketing, supply chain operations — from doing this? Martichenko says it’s often a bias around our area of the business that skews our perspective and limits our ability to make the best decisions for the broader ecosystem.

“If you’re willing to step outside your safety zone, it will be amazing what you see,” he said.

Creating a culture with greater visibility and better alignment, Martichenko said, ultimately will generate the kinds of feedback systems that can enable the agility and flexibility businesses need today.

“All the technology we need for the supply chain to go from the supplier to the end customer is there,” he said. “What we don’t have is an equal amount of momentum from what actually happened back to the people in the business.”

Robert Martichenko was a featured keynote at COE’s fall seminar along with Goodyear executive Billy Taylor, who stressed the importance of people-inclusion processes in transformational change.  

A 15-minute recap and full-length recording for each session are available in the Digital Content Archive on COE’s members-only website (authenticated member account required).

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