Risk, lean leadership share spotlight at September COE seminar

Steering an organization toward operational excellence comes with internal and external headwinds, and next month’s quarterly COE seminar is tackling two critical ones with the help of its featured presenters.

rubik babakanian
R. Babakanian

Kicking off COE’s Sept. 26 seminar at 10:30 a.m. is Rubik Babakanian, senior vice president and chief procurement officer at hard drive manufacturer Western Digital Corp. Babakanian’s company stands today as a $15 billion organization with its stock price on a steady upswing, but the road to be there hasn’t been without risk. Like many manufacturers with heavy operations in Asia, Western Digital suffered severe disruptions and temporary shutdowns during the devastating 2011 Japanese tsunami and Thai floods. The events in a nine-month period rocked the global supply chain and forced Western Digital to examine its risk mitigation and management practices with renewed vigor.

Babakanian, a 30-year industry veteran, will outline the methods and tools the company has put in place to better understand its supply chain, track ever-shifting risk factors, and be prepared for the next “100-year event.” Western Digital’s story highlights the universal business challenge of investing in risk mitigation, one that’s never complete – but truly pays off when crisis comes.

walt miller
W. Miller

At 1 p.m., COE welcomes to the stage Walt Miller, who serves as director of operational excellence at engine maker Cummins. Miller is in charge of driving and coaching a culture of empowerment and continuous learning at the company. He’ll share in this session his approach not only to coaching and developing leaders of the future, but in transforming longtime leaders deeply ingrained in a “command and control” culture.”

Miller, author of will share these principles through the lens of a Cummins case involving the turnaround of a plant that started out with a lagging on-time delivery rate costing millions of dollars in missed monthly sales and a rigid, top-down leadership model. It’s a story that shows a lean organization can be built and sustained anywhere with people, a process and a customer – and that behind every good leader is a great team and a great production and management system.  The challenge is how you build it and, most importantly, sustain it.

Babakanian and Miller are just part of a full-day event that includes a networking lunch and a special event at 2;30 p.m., after Miller’s presentation . Co-hosted with Fisher’s Office of Career Management and the Operations and Logistics Management Association, the third-annual Supply Chain Career Connection is a chance to network informally with Fisher’s great graduate students interested in pursuing careers in the supply chain arena. Unlike a rigidly structured job fair, industry attendees are encouraged to mingle with students, share their career path, and share experiences with their current employer.

COE also will announce the featured keynote speakers for its April 2015 summit at the seminar, immediately prior to the 2:30 p.m. networking event.

Seating and space for all of these events are limited, so register now to reserve your spot in-person or to watch a live webcast of the morning and afternoon sessions!

At a glance:

Date: Friday, Sept. 26

Location: Ballroom, The Blackwell, 2110 Tuttle Park Place, Columbus, OH

Agenda:

  • 9 a.m.: Board meeting (COE board members only)
  • 10:30 a.m.: Morning Session – Western Digital (COE members only)
  • Noon: Networking lunch (COE members only)
  • 1 p.m.: Afternoon Session – Cummins (COE members and guests welcome)
  • 2:30 p.m.: Supply Chain Career Connection networking event (COE members and guests welcome)
  • 4 p.m.: Seminar concludes

Leadership development, innovation lead roster of April summit’s breakout sessions

With less than four weeks to go before we kick off our second-annual Leading Through Excellence summit, we’ve unveiled the full list of breakout sessions you’ll have the chance to experience throughout the day on Thursday, April 10, and Friday, April 11, in Columbus, Ohio.

The full list is available at our website, but here’s a quick look at some of the sessions available:

leading through excellence logoBehind the scenes at GE Aviation – It’s tough for many organizations to keep a fresh pipeline of leaders with the right problem-solving skills and cross-functional capabilities. Rick Guba, a Master Black Belt at GE Aviation, will offer an inside look at the company’s successful accelerated development process, which links skills and hands-on experience for a best-in-class learning model.

Kaizen 101 – Looking for a crash course in hosting a kaizen event week? Whitney Mantonya, owner of Collaborative Lean Solutions, will walk attendees through the purpose, flow, and structure of one, offering up a primer on basic tools and concepts applicable to all such events.

Leading from the middle – True lean success needs support from the top, but few organizations start out with this luxury. Ted Stiles, a partner with lean executive recruiting firm Stiles Associates, examines how creative mid-level leaders can navigate this landscape and the skills they must employ along the way to boost leadership engagement and influence without authority.

‘Buying’ a lean culture – Harvard University’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center was showered with 90,000 employment applications annually, but they needed a new, efficient way to determine which potential hires would thrive in a lean environment and be an integral part to its ongoing success. Alice Lee, vice president of business transformation at Beth Israel, will share the pre-employment assessment tool that was developed and implemented.

Innovation and the element of surprise – Award-winning Fisher professor and researcher Aravind Chandrasekaran will share his research with more than 30 high-tech organizations into the “disruptive innovation” that has dealt a blow to some companies (Polaroid) and, with the right strategy, allowed others (IBM) to thrive.

Paper or plastic? – Through an interactive game that challenges preconceived notions about the environmental sustainability of products in our everyday lives, Fisher Asisstant Prof. Gökçe Esenduran will introduce the concept of the life-cycle assessment (LCA), a powerful tool to evaluate a product from the cradle to the grave.

And there are a dozen more where that came from. Register now before pricing increases April 1!

Giant Eagle, Marathon Petroleum leaders: To get better, learn from the best

The two speakers for the Center for Operational Excellence’s Feb. 14 seminars couldn’t have been from two more different companies, but both emphasized a crucial truth about the journey of process improvement: You’re never too good to learn – or borrow – from others.

John Lucot
John Lucot

Take Pittsburgh-based grocery chain and COE member Giant Eagle Inc., whose President and COO, John Lucot, spoke to our crowd of more than 100 members and guests. The company has been in existence for more than three-quarters of a century, but Lucot said recent years have marked “the most exciting time in the history of our company.”

Emerging from an economic downturn in which consumers tightened the purse strings, Giant Eagle has developed new formats and transformed the customer experience. For proof, look no further than its Market District location a few miles from Ohio State University, which has become the unofficial epicenter of its neighborhood in a few short years. This has happened all while the company has aggressively maintained focus on health and safety and implemented lean principles throughout the supply chain. Lucot told the crowd that Giant Eagle has drawn inspiration from organizations ranging from the Cleveland Clinic – a gold standard in patient experience – to Alcoa, a fellow Pittsburgh company whose safety centric turnaround under former CEO Paul O’Neill is the stuff of legend.

And while Giant Eagle started down its road to operational excellence with an eye on removing cost and boosting efficiency, the balance sheet doesn’t rule the day, Lucot said.

“We never, ever talk about the financial impact of the things we do,” he said. “We are unwavering in our commitment to health and safety, and no one in our organization has the right to put money or anything else above those efforts.”

It’s that same focus on Giant Eagle’s employees and its customers that underlies a comment Lucot made that’s destined for the whiteboard: “We have no right to ask people to do things that don’t add value.”

George McAfee
George McAfee

Speaking later in the day, George McAfee, marine logistics manager at Findlay, Ohio-based Marathon Petroleum, shared the challenges posed to knowledge management and transfer in a work force with a widening generation gap and a growing share of over-55 workers.

With those dynamics, McAfee said, it’s even more crucial to develop standard procedures to capture and communicate processes so a company’s mission, vision and values don’t get muddled over time.

And echoing Lucot, McAfee said benchmarking – even outside one’s industry – is key to finding the right path.

“You must be willing to admit someone else might be better at what you’re doing,” he said.

This article appears in the March 2014 edition of COE’s Current State e-newsletter. Have a colleague who should be receiving this e-newsletter? Contact Matt at burns.701@osu.edu.

Chrysler exec, Cardinal CEO headline COE’s Nov. 22 seminar

Time and time again, we see evidence that the companies most successful in driving real, lasting change throughout their organizations are the ones that don’t treat operational excellence as a project – they treat it as a large-scale culture change that’s always a work in progress. We’re thrilled to be featuring for our final quarterly seminar of the year two fascinating examples of this: Chrysler Group LLC and Cardinal Health, the latter a member of our center since 2013.

Opening the seminar from Chrysler is Mauro Pino, who leads the NAFTA Manufacturing and World Class Manufacturing arms of the automaker. Since its 2009 alliance with Fiat, Chrysler has made huge strides in financial performance and industry market share – and part of the credit for that goes to its own renewed commitment to cutting waste while improving safety and quality. The operational excellence system it has deployed, dubbed World Class Manufacturing, focuses on giving workers hands-on experience in problem solving that they can take back to the company’s plants and apply immediately.

As it continues to roll out WCM, Chrysler means serious business. The company last year opened up a 25,000 WCM Academy in Michigan where more than 3,000 workers across North America were trained in 2012 alone.

Our featured afternoon presenter is George Barrett, chairman and CEO of Dublin-based pharmaceutical and medical supply distribution giant Cardinal, a more than $100 billion-a-year operation that ranks in the Fortune 20. Over the past four years, the company has increased its position in hospitals, clinics, surgery centers and specialty practices, doctor’s offices, and the home. Its journey to make health care more cost-effective and simultaneously drive balance and growth has included operational excellence as a key component of cultural transformation and a foundational capability of its go-to-market strategy.

Barrett will discuss the company’s approach to creating a culture of excellence and creative value across the health-care continuum in what is a rapidly changing landscape.

As always, the morning session of our seminar is open only to employees of our COE member companies, while the afternoon session is open to members and guests.

Join us!

Toyota presentation highlights lasting impact of lean transformations

Electrified.

That’s the best way to describe how our Center for Operational Excellence members and guests left our seminar this past Friday following a rousing, inspiring presentation from Jamie Bonini, general manager of the Toyota Production System Support Center.

Bonini, speaking at the Sept. 13, 2013, seminar.

Bonini powerfully made the case to a crowd of nearly 150 that the guiding principles of operational excellence can make a lasting impact anywhere – and at COE, that’s what we’re all about.

Bonini illustrated the Toyota Production System implementation strategy TSSC has thus far used with more than 200 organizations, which range from manufacturing – a classic setting for lean implementation – to the more unusual nonprofit realm. Roughly 40 of these projects are under way in a normal year for TSSC, which has been around since 1992.

A deeply compelling case study that attracted attention earlier this year in the New York Times involves TSSC’s work with the Food Bank for New York City, where wait times for meals have plummeted and efficiency at the food pantry has skyrocketed. Check out a video of TSSC’s work with the food bank here.

What resonates from this, and other videos from TSSC, is not only the success of the transformations but the passion that spreads like wildfire throughout the organizations they work with. My favorite part of the Food Bank video comes about 11 minutes in, when Teisha Diallo, program director Project Hospitality unguardedly voices the thrill of seeing the food pantry line running much more efficiently.

“When I come around that corner, the line is gone, and I’m like, ‘Yes!’” she exclaims.

Not that getting there is easy – and that’s where Bonini imparted some valuable takeaways on starting a transformation at the right time, in the right way, and with the right leaders on board. His most compelling advice came when he said it’s not a crime to reschedule a lean rollout if the time isn’t right. Often, Bonini said, the lack of an underlying drive to have a problem-solving culture can be a holdup – or a deal-breaker if it isn’t resolved.

“If you’re not willing to build an organizational problem-solving capability, then don’t bother (with an implementation),” Bonini said. “It’s often a very difficult missing element from what I see (with organizations).”

Check out more photos from Friday’s seminar here.

Airport tour added as COE summit moves closer to sell-out

The Center for Operational Excellence’s Leading Through Excellence summit is a little more than 30 days away and we’re selling seats at a rapid clip. If you haven’t pulled the trigger on registering just yet, we’re recommending you act fast as parts of the event are selling out.

leading through excellence logoAs of this week, three of the originally scheduled four plant tours for Wednesday, April 10, have been completely booked. We still have a few seats left to our trip to Mills James for a look at operational excellence in creative spaces and, to accommodate demand, we added a trip to Port Columbus International Airport. This, however, only amounts to fewer than 20 slots, which we expect to book soon.

We’re thrilled to have additional features to announce for the summit as well. Summit sponsor MoreSteam.com LLC is running a workshop Friday, April 12, from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on process design. This is a critical skill for every organization – but it’s too often left to chance. Every day, people are busy designing new processes with not much more to work with than good intentions. But process design doesn’t have to be a complicated engineering exercise – and MoreSteam is planning to outline some simple tools and common-sense methods to help get the job done.

And finally, we’re pleased to announce that we’ve booked a special appearance by Jon Waters, the director of the Ohio State University Marching Band, a.k.a. the Best Damn Band in the Land. He’ll be speaking at lunch on Thursday, April 11, in the middle of a day packed with simulations, workshops and case studies led by our Fisher faculty.

So what are you waiting for?

Happy New Year from COE

The Center for Operational Excellence entered its 21st year of existence in 2013, but it’s unlikely this year will be anything like what you’ve experienced before. At the top of the list for why is our Leading Through Excellence summit, which begins in little more than three months and marks the first-ever multi-day event for the center.

My task board is filling up already in the “Backlog,” “WIP” and “Done” columns.

On a smaller scale, we’re running the same busy slate of programming as usual but making some great changes to respond to member demand and keep things fresh. You can check out the first of those, also our first official event of the year, in little more than three weeks when we host our second-annual Link Symposium, which we ran last year under the guise of a “world café.” If you have a thing or two to say about sales and operations planning, you should join us by registering now.

Later on down the road, we’re offering a look at doing business in India, following up on our successful Business in Brazil forum last spring, and continuing our slate of lean IT forums. You’ll hear more about speakers for those events in the next few months and can take a peek at our other events in 2013 here.

As for COE’s resolution for 2013, we’re committed to practice more of what we preach, improving the processes we have in place for the events you attend and the connections you make. I took my own long-overdue stab at it around the holidays by creating a task board, inspired by a recentgemba to COE member Nationwide Insurance. Now, every day, looking down at me from above my screens, is a backlog, a WIP area and, best of all, a “Done” column. Just a few days in and I’m already enjoying moving those Post-Its.

Have something for my task board – or your own resolution to share? Drop it in the comments.

Show me what you got

I got my first real taste of old-fashioned, machismo-fueled negotiation when I wrecked my car earlier this year. Thankfully, I wasn’t the driver to blame, wasn’t hurt and was driving a 15-year-old parental hand-me-down I secretly wished would suffer that fate. Nonetheless, one totaled vehicle meant finding another with a settlement check from an insurance company in tow – and both of those would put me face-to-face with people who assured me they were giving me the best deal they could but were clearly lying through their teeth.

In both scenarios, I (naturally) feel I came out on top in retrospect. Talking an insurance adjuster into a few hundred extra dollars is no small feat and my performance in the car salesman’s office would make Ryan Gosling jealous.

I thought about both of those negotiations last week, when the Center for Operational Excellence hosted a forum for our member companies’ administrative assistants. The brave souls that trekked through an unusually blustery and snowy Columbus day got a hands-on crash course in negotiation from Maggie Lewis, a lecturer in the Fisher College of Business. Unfortunately, that thinking led me to realize the kind of negotiating I did wasn’t that tricky. I cared nothing for the results or the feelings on the other end of the table, a classic “win-lose scenario.”

Maggie Lewis
Maggie Lewis, presenting at COE’s administrative assistants forum

The kind of negotiating we do in our lives as lean thinkers is much tougher than balking at a sticker price. In a realm where responsibility is shared, blame is avoided at all cost and flow requires buy-in and cooperation from everyone involved, negotiation is a tightrope walk. On one end is the current state, riddled with problems and inefficiencies, and on the other is the future state your pursuit of operational excellence will take you. The last thing you need is a disgruntled colleague with a good pair of garden shears.

Lewis during her presentation made a few comments that struck me for their deep relationship to lean principles, chief among them: “Negotiation is just problem solving.” Any manager could tell you that sentence works in both directions.

Practicing what we preach

Even if many of the speakers who come before COE members have lean-transformation success stories to share, all of those tales have to start with some gory details about problems at their organizations. In the spirit of quid pro quo, I’d like to share one of ours and fill you in on what we’re doing to make it better. Think of it as the Fisher College version of US Weekly’s “Stars: They’re Just Like Us!”

Our Dec. 2 seminar featured fantastic and well-received presentations from Cardinal Health Inc. and Starbucks Corp. (don’t believe me? Check out these pics). If you logged in to watch either of these events via a live webcast, however, you got a front-row seat to some technical problems we had in the morning and afternoon. Live audience members in the afternoon were privy to an audio glitch at the start of the Starbucks presentation as well.

Fisher College COE cause mapping
COE joined with the audio and visual teams that helped with the Dec. 2 seminar to dissect some of its glitches.

In a world without lean thinking, we’d hoist the blame on the shoulders of the good folks at Fisher and the Blackwell Hotel who handle audio and video for us and be done with it. Easy? Sure. Fair? Not at all. So in the spirit of lean thinking, we spent a half-day this week creating cause maps with the audio and visual teams that revealed a number of issues that fueled the fire. And like the dutiful lean thinkers we are, we emerged with some proposed changes to our event planning and execution next year that should boost the quality of COE members’ experience and lower our blood pressure readings.

It’s disheartening and even scary to dig beneath the surface and expose the frayed wires in our process but they remain a problem waiting to happen until you do.

Discuss: How has operational excellence influenced the way you or your organization dissects problems after they occur?

Stepping outside the COE box

Attendees of last Friday’s professional development meeting hosted by the Center for Operational Excellence can thank the executives from Cardinal Health Inc. and Starbucks Corp. for the insights they carried into the office Monday. Those of us at COE owe them gratitude for a pair of touches outside the norm for our programming that proved wildly successful.

T-shirt folding activity led by Starbucks
Seminar attendees participated in a T-shirt folding activity led by Starbucks

In the morning session, at the suggestion of lead speaker and Cardinal executive Whitney Mantonya, we devoted the entire second half of her time to a panel discussion featuring her colleagues who have helped with the Dublin company’s lean transformation. A panel on a topic featuring all employees from the same company? It isn’t something we’ve tried before and it’s not even the traditional form of a panel.  What transpired, however, was a detailed dissection of the bird’s-eye view Mantonya provided in the first half, the exact kind of sleeves-rolled-up scrutiny our knowledge-hungry members want. It seems the group’s favorite part of the morning session was the very section we didn’t originally plan.

Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to step outside the box.

That’s exactly what we did in the second half of our afternoon session as well, when we escorted the entire crowd of attendees from Pfahl Hall to the Blackwell Hotel for a hands-on T-shirt folding activity suggested and led by Starbucks that taught the basics of standard work. We’ve been hands-off with hands-on activities at our seminars before, but the overwhelmingly positive feedback (and happy faces on our Flickr page) indicate it was exactly what the doctor – err, barista ordered.