Fisher class tours COE member Huntington

One of the Center for Operational Excellence’s many partnerships within the Fisher College of Business is its financial support of the Operations in Action class. This course launched in the 2010-11 academic year and is aimed at encouraging sophomore female students to consider operations management as a major and a career choice.

Now in its second year, the course got out in the field recently with a tour of COE member Huntington National Bank hosted by Jeannie Raymond and John Largent (click here for more photos of the student group). This was no normal walk-through. COE Associate Director Andrea Prud’homme tells me a team of students did research on Huntington and gave a presentation to the rest of the class on the morning of the visit. They then took the lead in engaging with Huntington managers and prepared questions in advance to fuel a Q&A session.

Andrea Prud'homme
COE Associate Director Andrea Prud’homme, far left, poses with Fisher students and Huntington executives at the bank’s headquarters

 

Raymond told us the bank greatly enjoyed hosting the students and said management was “very impressed by the students’ questions and their overall level of engagement and interest throughout the day.”

Huntington is one of a number of member companies that support this important course, and we’re always looking for female mentors to step up. Think that could be you? E-mail Andrea Prud’homme at prudhomme.3@osu.edu and we’ll make it happen.

COE welcomes member Mills James

You might not know the name Mills James, but chances are you’re familiar with their work.

Founded in 1984 by audio-visual production industry veterans Ken Mills and Cameron James, the company over the past three decades has grown and evolved into more than just the go-to shop for high-quality craftsmanship in Columbus. It’s a competitive player on the national stage with a broad range of capabilities and an innovative verve that feels in-step with what’s happening tomorrow.

On a tour of Mills James’ headquarters, from left: Robin Rasor Thompson, administrative director; Peter Ward, co-director; Matt Burns, program coordinator; and Peg Pennington, executive director.

It’s possible they had a hand in crafting and polishing that training video you had to watch. They might have helped you in the grocery aisle with an electronic display or served as the man behind the curtain for your company’s annual meeting. And if you’re a regular viewer of or wannabe participant in Ohio’s “Cash Explosion” lottery game show, they’ve entertained you from their home office on Columbus’ northwest side.

Mills James is the latest company to become a member of the Center for Operational Excellence, and they’re yet another great example of the ever-expanding diversity of our member base. What once was a hub for best-practice sharing among manufacturing plant managers has grown into an exciting organization whose members are committed to pursuing excellent operational practices and sharing those journeys with others. While we’ll work to provide value to Mills James, they’ll also be helping our own center as we grow our brand and deliver a better experience to all of our members.

COE formally kicked off its relationship with Mills James this week with a tour of the company’s headquarters. They were nice enough to give us a welcome that’s a tip of the hat to the movie marquee days as you see in the photo.

Now it’s our turn. Welcome to COE, Mills James.

‘Adversity is a part of life’

The arc of Gail Marsh’s personal and professional life is part success story and part cautionary tale – and she’d acknowledge that as much as anyone.

Gail was gracious enough to share that story as part of a regular series of women’s leadership breakfasts the Center for Operational Excellence hosts, sparking a discussion with nearly two-dozen women from our member companies and students at the Fisher College of Business (check out more photos here). The strategy chief for the gargantuan operation that is the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University, Gail also is actively involved in community efforts around town. Those garnered her the honor of being named one of six Women of Achievement by the YWCA of Columbus last year.

Gail Marsh Wexner Medical Center
Gail Marsh shared her story and offered insights at a COE women's leadership forum.

If that isn’t enough, she’s a mother to three children she raises with her husband, Dr. Clay Marsh, an OSU professor and vice dean for research in Health Sciences and the College of Medicine.

Listening to Gail speak last week, I was impressed with how her story contains not only great wisdom for women but for anyone who works hard for what he or she earns and takes a step back, wondering how to balance it all. An undergraduate and master’s degree-earner from OSU, Gail was the proud owner of post-graduate student loans as she worked her way up in the male-dominated world of health-care administration, found love and started a family. It was the loss her mother that prompted her to realize she was moving too fast, life was too short and she needed to hit the reset button. With that, she began to create a work-life balance she says she’s still working to perfect, even though it has the flexibility she needs.

Not that her flexible schedule came on a silver platter.

“You have to be stellar at what you do for people to give you flexibility,” she said. “Everybody is balancing things.”

Some other wisdom Gail imparted at our event:

On taking the plunge into community service: “If you wait until all your work is done, your laundry’s done and all your kids have straight As you’ll never do it.”

On the secret to her own life: “Understanding that adversity is a part of life is the secret to my life now. It’s just going to be that way.”

On career mobility: “I like to think my promotions in the medical center have been because I know how to solve problems.”

Check out more from Gail in a video tied to her Women of Achievement honor.

A matter of life and death

Call it human nature, but there are few feelings in the world better than the relief of exoneration, in matters big (a courtroom comes to mind) or small (a fender-bender comes to mind). We all hope for it and that connecting of the dots, that sudden calming of a fast-beating heart is hard to beat.

Lean thinking, then, comes as a bit of a buzz-kill as it teaches us to avoid directing blame and take responsibility as a group instead. This concept came to mind in a recent Q&A I conducted with a pair of professors in the Fisher College of Business’ Management Sciences department. Drs. Aravind Chandrasekaran, pictured left, and Kenneth Boyer worked with graduate student Claire Senot to examine the relationship between the quality of hospital care and patient satisfaction as organizations work to reduce medical errors and keep in step with government regulations. What they found: Those efforts to “chase zero” might work, but that comes with a trade-off in the patient experience.

This is touchy ground. On the one hand, who cares if you’re not smiling and satisfied as long as you leave the hospital in one piece? On the other, as an insurance-toting “customer,” aren’t you entitled to top-notch, error-free care in and out of the operating room?

Boyer (pictured left) in the Q&A offered a fascinating take on how the overall patient experience has become a metric along with clinical quality, one that will be directly linked to federal reimbursements starting next year. In the culture of medicine, a natural defense mechanism is to – yep – seek exoneration in seeing a patient death as an unambiguous result of illness. Over the years, however, it’s been more recognized that while some patients will die even if they do get “perfect” treatment, preventable errors also exist. With this realization, health-care providers can’t just pretend clinical quality is near-perfect, so it’s harder to brush off other problems that lead to less-than-thrilled patients.

“Revealing that there are excellent opportunities for improving one dimension leads to a realization that the other can be too,” Boyer wrote.

Process improvement, when done right, is infectious – pun intended.

A great idea without data = Whining

Matt Burns

The Center for Operational Excellence earlier this week hosted a kickoff event for the IT Leadership Network, a new subgroup of COE you’ll be hearing more a lot more about in the future. While turnout – for an offsite event at Nationwide Insurance – was great at nearly 200 people, I was equally impressed by our keynote speaker.

Mike Orzen, who quite literally wrote the book on lean and IT (it’s, uhh, called Lean IT), emerged as one of the most dynamic and engaging speakers I’ve had the pleasure to hear since joining the center several months ago. While the content of his presentation was tailored to an IT audience, the kernels of wisdom he shared about lean thinking and its place in an organization were universal and applicable to anyone at any point in their lean journey.

Speaker Mike Orzen
Speaker Mike Orzen

That’s why I’d like to share some of them with you right now.

“We’re really really good at describing what lean is. We don’t have a good track record of being lean and staying lean.” – This quote speaks to a topic of rising importance to our membership: Sustaining process improvements after the tools initially have been used. This is a challenge many of us face and is often tied to the level of engagement or buy-in at all levels of the organization.

“When everything’s a priority, nothing is a priority.” – Orzen was a wizard at getting to the heart of problem solving in a lean culture: Identifying what the problem truly is, not through the prism of our own work but in the prism of how it’s affecting the customer experience.

“Lean is invented by everybody in this room. It’s a growing body of knowledge.” – These are, I believe, the most important words Orzen spoke on Tuesday. Lean isn’t just a collection of scholarly articles and books. It’s a living, breathing way of doing and thinking that can take the shape of whatever problem is before you.

“The No. 1 value I see in many organizations: Self-preservation.” – No explanation needed here.

“We often see things from our paradigm. The hardest thing to do is to see reality.” – File this bit of wisdom under “Siloes,” what Orzen wisely describes as a necessary evil in organizations as they create and nurture specialization, but a factor that can complicate communication and efforts to see the whole value stream.

“A great idea without data – some people call that whining.” – Indeed.

COE member Giant Eagle gets national TV spotlight

If any of you watch CBS Sunday Morning and live in Columbus, chances are you paused mid-coffee sip this past edition during a five-minute segment on the capital city.

The five-minute piece, which you can watch in its entirety here, starts with a look at how Dublin-based Wendy’s tests its new products, pointing to the Columbus area as a perfect place for product testing for a diverse population that creates “a near-perfect cross-section of the country’s consumers.” That’s thanks in part, of course, to Ohio State University and its international student contingent.

Along with tips of the hat to restaurant upstart Piada and the Jeni’s ice cream empire and a brief appearance by Center for Operational Excellence member Nationwide Insurance, the piece broadens into a look at the uniqueness of the city and what makes it tick.

Make it to about 3:13 in the videoand you’ll recognize another COE member: Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle, whose Market District concept in Upper Arlington was dubbed by the segment as “the mother of all grocery stores.” If you’ve been there and seen the store’s blend of restaurant-quality meals on the spot, wide selections in every category and the biggest sweet potatoes and onions you’ll ever see, it’s hard to disagree. 

Giant Eagle’s Market District
“Giant Eagle’s Market District location in Upper Arlington is a jaw-dropping shopper’s paradise.” Photo courtesy columbusfoodie.com

Giant Eagle is just one of our many COE members making waves with innovative new concepts, driven by an underlying focus on operational excellence. Whatever lean thinking led the chain to try selling wine by the glass in the Market District store to allow sipping while you shop, well – keep up the good work.

Aggreko runs into face of disaster while others flee

An interview I conducted a few weeks ago with an executive at British temporary power generation company Aggreko was a little more complicated than your standard call. David Campbell, who worked with a team on a remarkable project you’ll read about soon in our newsletter, was on assignment in Africa for Aggreko, a Center for Operational Excellence member. After arranging a time that split the time-zone difference and setting up the conference call, I was horrified when the signal dropped mid-conversation.

Reconnected again, I told David I wasn’t sure what happened. Had I pressed a button? Had the signal faded?

“Africa happened,” he said.

Aggreko, at any given time, is at work providing generator power all over the world, ranging from major sporting events to mines and in the wake of devastating natural disasters. In a fantastic interview with CEO Rupert Soames in the U.K.’s Telegraph, he recounts his team’s arrival in Japan three days after the tsunami. The reporter also poses a provocative question: When disaster hits the news, “does a little cash till ring in his head?”

“No. Naturally my thoughts go out to the full horror of the event,” Soames tells the reporter. “And the next thing is we book a ticket.”

One thing Aggreko can’t complain about is having a boring CEO. Winston Churchill’s grandson, Soames recounts once having DJ’d the engagement party for Prince Charles and Lady Diana and tells the reporter his plans for the evening: “Take my ferrets to Hyde Park and see if I can catch a rabbit.”

Aggreko’s next big gig is the London Olympics this summer. The company will be providing all the power that isn’t taken from the nation’s grid. That’s a giant leap for a company that only several years ago had its stock trading on the London stock exchange for the equivalent of a few dollars. Its stock today converts to nearly $40.

We’re confident at least a small debt is owed to Aggreko’s relentless pursuit of operational excellence – and we’re happy to help.

Huntington’s Buck ID deal shows customer savvy

Like many great innovations, Center for Operational Excellence member Huntington National Bank is adding a lean flourish to some of its customer interactions in a way that begs the question: Why hasn’t it always been like this?        Huntington Bank

The bank this week announced a deal that links Ohio State University student ID cards with some checking accounts at no additional card. As Columbus Business First explains it, the ID essentially becomes a debit card for Huntington’s Asterisk-Free and Plus accounts.

As someone always wondering how he can get one more card out of his wallet, this would have greatly appealed to me as a student. As someone watching Huntington progress on its operational excellence journey, I’m impressed with the move’s combination of ingenuity and loyalty building.

This bit of Buck ID reform isn’t an out-of-the-blue innovation. Huntington recently announced a $125 million deal with OSU to make it the school’s official bank for consumer accounts, which will increase the presence of its ATMs and branches on and around campus. It’s partnerships like these that make great strides – often with very simple improvements – in giving students up-close access to the growth and evolution at one of the city’s most important corporate institutions.

We’re proud to call them an important part of what we do at COE.

What a wonderful World Café

As a journalist, I was taught to eschew jargon and cut to the heart of the matter, sending corporate buzzwords like “synergy” to the trash bin along with serial commas. I’m pre-emptively asking for forgiveness, then, as I describe the great things that went on in a recent Center for Operational Excellence-sponsored event. If our first attempt at a World Café wasn’t a textbook example of synergy, I don’t know what is.

If you’ve never heard of a World Café (or, like I did, immediately think of the NPR music program), here’s a crash course: A group of people assemble with the goal to tackle a topic in an actionable way. They’re split up into small groups, each at a table, and switch at regular periods with the exception of that table’s moderator. For the event we hosted with the Operations and Logistics Management Association last week, we put the spotlight on logistics and opened the doors of the Blackwell Hotel ballroom to Fisher faculty, students and industry players, some of whom were COE board members. Check out a slide show of the event here.

World Cafe
The World Café event allowed Fisher students and faculty to interact with logistics industry players.

Like any maiden voyage, nerves were on high alert and expectations were uncertain, but a healthy and enthusiastic turnout led to rounds of stimulating discussion. We design the COE experience for our members in ways that connect them with faculty, students and industry peers but it’s rare that this occurs, well, at the same table. Just strolling around taking photos, I could feel the energy, and the session-ending report-outs were rich with thought-provoking conclusions on a range of different facets of the logistics trade.

Tom Goldsby, a Fisher logistics professor and COE associate director, tells me “our students benefited from the viewpoints offered and the very interaction with business professionals. The business professionals, meanwhile, seemed to enjoy the interaction just as much and indicated that the students provided fresh insights on the table topics.”

A crucial sign things were going well: Goldsby says several participants wanted to linger at the tables longer.

“In sum, it seems this first-ever event was a great success – one that we will repeat soon,” Goldsby said.

Break out the bubbly

It’s a point of pride at the Center for Operational Excellence that we’re able to maintain a strong link between our industry members and the inner workings of the Fisher College of Business as an educational institution. That’s accomplished in part by staffing our center with Fisher faculty who work closely with our students and add to the value we work to create.

Nancy Lahmers

We’re very unsurprised, but very pleased nonetheless, to let you know that two of our COE team members not only have raked in awards for their dedication to Fisher students but are advancing in their journeys at the college.

Nancy Lahmers, in charge of COE’s women’s initiatives, was given the 2012 Mount Award, an honor handed to “the faculty or staff member who is selected as the most exceptional example of commitment to leadership, scholarship and service and the dedication to students.”

Andrea Prud'homme

Additionally, COE Associate Director Andrea Prud’homme on Monday was given the Undergraduate Programs Teaching Award, a student-nominated honor.

On the heels of those awards, Fisher leadership has announced that Lahmers will be serving as executive director of the college’s Graduate Programs Office starting spring quarter. Lahmers over the past eight years has served as the director of Fisher’s Honors Cohort program. Taking over for Lahmers is – you guessed it – Prud’homme, a favorite professor among students who also advises the Buckeye Operations Management Society.

Very wise choices we couldn’t be happier about. Congratulations, ladies.