Taco Bell COO hosting exclusive chat with students Friday

When the Center for Operational Excellence hosted Taco Bell COO Rob Savage on campus last month, he told the crowd it’s important to never feel stitched into one line of work.

“You have a lot of skills you can apply to different industries in different situations,” Savage said.

Taco Bell COO Rob Savage
Taco Bell COO Rob Savage spoke at a COE seminar last month.

He would know. A graduate of Ohio State University’s engineering program, he got his start in the world of manufacturing, working as a production supervisor for General Motors. Two decades ago, he joined Taco Bell as a market manager and has risen through the ranks to oversee the operations of a chain that serves 35 million customers a week.

Savage’s undying love for Ohio State (and its undefeated Buckeyes) is bringing him back to Fisher this Friday at 9 a.m. in Pfahl Hall 202 in an exclusive chat with students, hosted by COE. Fisher offers students a wealth of opportunities to interact with successful people in the world of business – but not every chance will be as intimate as this one.

The smashing success of Taco Bell in recent years (Doritos Locos Taco, anyone?) says plenty about Savage’s skills as an executive, but his passions extend well beyond expanding the brand and driving financial success. Savage is passionate about the success of students at all levels of education – and he’s here this week because he wants to be.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity. E-mail Jackie McClure at mcclure.92@osu.edu to reserve a spot.

Culture counts – inside and out

Depending on your level of skepticism about the intangible in work and in life, the notion of culture being as important – or more important – than process and strategy might ring true or completely hollow. Culture itself became an important aspect of the past two events the Center for Operational Excellence has hosted, and the arguments for its impact on building a team and dealing with the outside world are enough to convert a non-believer.

In late May, we hosted Quicken Loans President and Chief Marketing Officer Jay Farner at our quarterly professional development seminar. In a compelling look at how Quickens’ culture has driven its success, Farner said the nation’s No. 1 online mortgage lender doesn’t really talk mortgages much in its hours-long employee organization. 

Jay Farner
Quicken Loans President Jay Farner

 “We’re a technology company, we’re a marketing company and we just so happen to do mortgages,” Farner said.

 Instead, it’s all about the kind of company the employee is joining and what maxims – they call them “isms” – they need to live by. It’s this focus on “isms” such as “Every client, every time, no excuses, no exceptions” that have helped Quicken win honors for being one of the best places to work and for having one of the best corporate IT infrastructures around.

“When people join an organization, if they don’t understand what they just joined, they can’t become a part of the family or understand its philosophies,” Farner said. “How can they be expected to excel?”

 What better way to foster a sense of ownership – a do-or-die ingredient to driving process improvement – than getting everyone on the same page culturally?

A different angle on culture took center stage at COE’s June 1 forum “Business in Brazil: An Insider’s View.” A group of about 60 COE members and guests joined to hear from a trio of experts on the challenges in doing business in and with the South American country, one that’s on fire economically these days but not the easiest to navigate. Sean Corson, an international sales exec for Ohio’s Cast Nylons Ltd., gave a look at import export challenges, while David Wilson, of counsel at Kegler Brown Hill & Ritter, helped the crowd scale legal hurdles. 

Closing out last Friday was Atila Noronha, a Brazil native who’s now an executive at McDonald’s Corp. Noronha gave a lively look at the key cultural differences between the U.S. and Brazil and how they might come into play while striking a deal. 

Atila Noronha
McDonald’s Corp. executive Atila Noronha

Think the “American way” is the best route? Tell that to a Brazilian and see where your transaction goes, Noronha said.

When it comes to driving change for a group based on “my way,” that same caution might be useful.

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 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.