Looking Ahead: A summer/fall 2019 COE event preview

Throughout the year, COE blends its line-up of big events with other sessions designed to get member companies connected on a smaller scale. The beginning of the summer has a few notable opportunities like this.

June 5: Lean Leader Benchmarking

On June 5, COE’s three-year-old Lean Leader Benchmarking series continues with a session focused on sustaining continuous improvement teams. These quarterly sessions, which usually accommodate 15-30 attendees, are designed for the leaders at member companies whose job responsibilities best align with the topic. At this event, Huntington is inviting attendees to its operations center, an innovatively revamped former Meijer store on Columbus’ north side, to share its continuous improvement journey and its plans for “phase 3.0.” Huntington’s leaders will touch specifically on how the company is growing and developing continuous improvement team members and leaders.

A dedicated continuous improvement team often is the heart and soul of companies’ efforts to sustain a culture of operational excellence, but approaches vary widely, whether it’s how much (or how little) they centralize teams, how many Black Belts they staff, or how much training they keep in-house. While Huntington will be sharing its own approach to these decisions, a follow-up panel of lean leaders from other COE member companies will take part in an interactive discussion, bringing in additional perspectives.

This session is recommended for leaders at member companies who are involved in the development, training, and/or retention of continuous improvement staff. Interested in attending? Talk to your company’s main contact for COE and, if your organization’s seat is unclaimed, e-mail Krista Barezinsky at barezinsky.2@osu.edu to register. Attendees may be added to a waitlist, as well.

June 25: I.T. Leadership Network

COE’s long-running series focused on applying operational excellence to the I.T. space is hosting its first-ever executive gemba later next month. Center member Nationwide will be hosting a small group of leaders at its downtown Columbus headquarters for a session titled “Beyond Agile: How Lean, Agile, and DevOps Combine.”

At this event, attendees will take a deep dive into one of Nationwide’s technology areas that has moved beyond agile software development and lean management to create an end-to-end model focused on business outcomes and customer value. Nationwide leaders will trace this system from the frontline through the c-suite and discover the value of direct business integration and the elimination of embedded project-team proxies.

This session is geared toward upper-level leaders and intended to be a small-group session. As such, we recommend companies send a representative from business or I.T. management, or another executive with relevant managerial responsibilities. Seats will open the week of May 13, but e-mail coe@fisher.osu.edu if you’d like to be notified.

A look further ahead

Interested in what COE has lined up for the fall? Here’s a sneak peek at two events:

  • The center’s fall kickoff event will be hosted on Friday, Sept. 13, and feature as a keynote Jim Morgan (pictured, right), a researcher and former Ford Motor Co. engineering leader who’s the author of the newly released book Designing the Future. Registration opens in late July.
  • COE’s semi-annual Supply Chain Symposium series continues on Friday, Oct. 18. Fisher College of Business’s graduate-student run Operations and Logistics Management Association has selected “The Sustainable Supply Chain” as this fall’s theme. Featured speakers at this morning-only event will come from Patagonia, Anheuser-Busch, and DHL. Registration opens in late August.

Check out other save-the-dates and event details on COE’s website here.

Simple, Not Easy: Talking leadership with bestselling author Sam Walker

What seemed like a clear-cut research project on the “secret sauce” behind the greatest teams in sports history has evolved into a multi-year endeavor and bestselling book for Sam Walker, a Wall Street Journal columnist and one-time editor. Walker, author of The Captain Class: A New Theory of Leadership, took the stage as the kickoff keynote for The Ohio State University Center for Operational Excellence’s seventh-annual Leading Through Excellence summit. Before his visit, he sat down with COE to chat about the biggest takeaways from his book – and where the project is taking him next. The following conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

COE: A huge surprise in your research was that you were able to drill down to this captain role as a defining ingredient, but you sketch that captain role through several key methods. Which of these key behaviors surprised you the most?

Sam Walker: They were so surprising in the aggregate for one main reason, which is that it just had nothing to do with natural ability, or “God-given talent.” It’s not that that stuff isn’t good; it’s great to have talent and charisma, but that doesn’t mean you can be a great leader. The one the really surprised me the most, though, was the communication piece, the fact that these great captains don’t like to make speeches – and that’s not at all required, even a little bit. I thought that’s one of the key ways you motivate people, but the key to sustaining excellence is this one-on-one, intense individual interaction. I thought that was revelatory.

COE: You get into some tricky territory on the idea that some of these great captains weren’t afraid to commit “intelligent fouls,” or break the rules a bit. How does this translate to the business sphere?

SW: The takeaway for business is that it’s really about how people are perceived. There are people out there who may have a prickly or somewhat difficult personality who don’t want to go along with the initiative that everyone else is embracing. Sometimes these people will push the limits of what’s acceptable personality-wise in a business context. Be really careful before you rule them out as a leadership candidate. These people generally care more about a collective outcome and if they’re perceived as difficult they don’t care as long as the outcome is achieved.

If you’re dealing with someone like this you have to look at the behavior: Was the moment that cross the line motivated by the team or by ego? Most of the times you realize these people are willing to sacrifice their image to help the team. That, to me, is crucial; we have to be able to distinguish that from other kinds of negative antics.

COE: We’re in an era where CEOs have more visibility than ever, and we’ve even seen some of them become tabloid fodder. Do you see any particular danger, or opportunity, in how this may affect the way we cultivate these “corporate captains,” so to speak?

SW: I’ve thought a lot about this, particularly the fact that a lot of companies have gone in the other direction for a more low-key, humble leader who doesn’t call attention to themselves.  First of all, I think it’s OK to have a leader who comes in and breaks a lot of china and has an irreverent leadership style. Sometimes an organization needs someone like that to come in and disrupt things. But it’s very important to have the next person be very different: low-key, and with the ability to leave some broken things broken and fix the things that need fixing. That one-two punch is something companies should do intentionally.

I also think we’ve gone a little too far in finding low-key people; we’re almost over-correcting. I think we need to have a smart dialogue about what someone at the top of an organization needs to do. So much of the research suggests there’s a certain level of charisma and influence, fun and daring coming from the corner office. It’s infectious, and it motivates people. We need to be careful before we think we need some low-key apparatchik running the business.

COE: But does that dynamic work in middle management?

SW: That job is a complicated one because it takes a unique combination of skills. We spend too much time on personality, listening to what people say and thinking about tone and all of that – but we don’t look carefully at what people do, how they actually lead. We’re too quick to conflate personality with leadership, for example, whether someone is introverted or extroverted, fun-loving or serious. None of those things matter. It’s what they do, especially in moments of adversity.

COE: Turning back to sports for a moment, I thought it was interesting that LeBron James only comes up in passing a few times. What are your thoughts on King James and what leadership lesson can we take away here?

SW: I’ve looked at the entire history of sports, and LeBron is maybe the only athlete I’ve ever seen who’s the best player in the sport, a superstar talent, an unequivocal leader of a team who really has more power than anyone: the coach, even the owner in some respect. This has never happened before, and it’s also what’s holding him back. I think it’s too much for one person to do. My theory about him has always been that if he’s going to win a bunch of championships it’s going to be toward the end of his career when he starts to lose his step and get more people involved. He would have to change his relationship to the team and to the game.

Turning to a business context, the problem is that a lot of people have the potential to be a great leader, but not everyone has the motivation to put in the hard work to make it happen. That will either come in time or it won’t.

COE: Did this project take you where you expected it to?

SW: I wasn’t a leadership expert, and I absolutely didn’t think this is where this project would lead me in the end. What surprised me the most is that it’s actually pretty simple – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, being a good leader is incredibly exhausting and difficult, and it requires a level of selflessness and an ability to do something without getting the credit. It’s not something we teach and it’s not something that comes naturally to most people.

COE: Where is this project taking you from here?

SW: I’m working on the second phase of this idea, namely: How do you systematically, methodically try to create teams along these lines? The question isn’t so much how you achieve excellence, because inside every organization it’s different. The question is how you sustain it, and the research seems to boil down to one basic thing: People want to be on a great team where a good manager feels more like a coach than a boss.

We’re all realizing that management – not just senior management but management all throughout the organization – is really the key to everything, and so many challenges can be addressed by building better teams and being smarter about how you promote. We’re looking at a future where companies completely rethink the way they do HR and the way they train managers.

Walker’s book, The Captain Class, is available in stores and online. Highlights of his summit keynote will be available for COE members on the members-only website the week of May 13.

COE Summit 2019: A Look Back, in Pictures

Each year, The Ohio State University Center for Operational Excellence brings together hundreds of process improvement leaders from across the country for a deep dive into leadership and problem-solving best practices. This April saw the seventh run of the Leading Through Excellence summit, which launched in 2013 and remains the center’s marquee annual event.

As preparations begin a busy summer and fall event slate – not to mention the 2020 summit – let’s take a look back at moments from this year’s summit …

Wall Street Journal columnist Sam Walker kicked off the second day of the summit on April 10 with a featured keynote on some surprising insights from his bestselling book The Captain Class. The key to great teams, Walker contended, isn’t a star player or even a great coach; instead, it’s the captain, or “middle manager,” who has made all the difference in some of the legendary runs in sports. “Leadership is about the choices we make every day in the team setting,” Walker told the crowd.

The summit began the day before with rounds of tours and workshops, like a “lean 101” session hosted by Fisher College of Business faculty members Rick Guba and Jill Treece that used Mr. Potato Head as a key prop in its crash course on problem-solving basics.

Nearly 200 summit attendees headed out across Central Ohio the afternoon of April 9 for tours to sites including John Glenn Columbus International Airport, North High Brewing, and Hikma Pharmaceuticals.

Columbus-based healthcare software startup CoverMyMeds hosted a tour for the second consecutive year as it gears up to build a massive new headquarters west of the city’s downtown.

Tour attendees also stopped by the Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence, an arm of Ohio State’s College of Engineering that’s working with companies on their leaps forward in advanced manufacturing.

Rounds of breakout sessions on a wide range of topics form the heart of the summit. Here, Ohio State psychology professor Ellen Peters shares insights from her research on how our confidence in math ability affects our ability to deal with numbers.

Stories from center member companies can be found across summit programming, brought to attendees by leaders like Bruce Evans, the ebullient chief customer officer of American Electric Power. AEP has been a part of the center since 2013.

Operational excellence is just as much about people as it is process. Here, L Brands VP and Chief Diversity Officer Nichole Marshall offers an inside look at how the retailer has embedded inclusivity in its processes and culture. “Diversity is counting heads; inclusion is making heads count,” Marshall said.

Summit attendees work hard – and play hard. New York City based musical comedy troupe closed out the second day of the event with their signature mix of song parodies and audience interaction…

…while Columbus magician Drew Murray dropped by the evening reception.

Few companies based in Columbus are more representative of the digital disruption trend than retailer Designer Brands, which just rebranded from DSW Inc. to reflect recent and future innovations. “If we go down, it’s going to be because we are innovating and trying new things, not because we didn’t try,” Rawlins told the crowd.

Fisher College of Business students are vital to the summit, where more than three-dozen of them serve as volunteers …

…while others join to present results from process improvement projects they’ve conducted with Columbus-area nonprofits and corporations.

The disruption theme continued on the third and final day of the summit with a presentation from Sean Lane, chief executive of healthcare artificial intelligence startup Olive. “I think the rise of the digital workforce will be the biggest change we see in our lifetime,” Lane said in his featured breakout session.

To deal with all the change in our lives and work, we need to practice the art of gratitude, which “helps the good stuff stick when our brains are wired to remember the bad,” breakout session host and psychologist Dr. Melissa Briggs-Phillips told the crowd in her presentation.

To get attendees ready to apply the many insights they gathered across the three days of the summit, executive coach and The Hope-Driven Leader author Libby Gill closed out the event by asking attendees: “Do you have a job, a career, or a calling?”

Check out more photos from summit 2019 on our Flickr page.

DSW CEO Rawlins joins summit keynote line-up

The chief executive of one of Columbus’ best-known brands will be kicking off the third and final day of The Ohio State University’s seventh-annual Leading Through Excellence summit this April.

DSW Inc. CEO Roger Rawlins

Roger Rawlins, CEO of footwear retailer DSW Inc., will take the stage at 8 a.m. on Thursday, April 11, for a brief presentation and to take audience questions. Rawlins, who joined the company as a vice president in 2006, will be sharing how DSW has proactively adapted to rapidly changing and increasingly competitive industry conditions to effectively “disrupt” itself and continue growing.

Fourth-quarter and full year results won’t be revealed until March 19, but DSW in December reported a 17% spike in fiscal third-quarter sales, bumping its profit forecasts for investors. This came after one of the company’s best quarters in its history, which put DSW in line to top the $3 billion mark for the first time.

Rawlins joins a summit keynote roster that includes Sam Walker, a Wall Street Journal and bestselling author of the book The Captain Class; Libby Gill, and executive coach and author of The Hope-Driven Leader; and The Water Coolers, a New York City-based workplace musical comedy troupe.

These four keynotes are among more than 40 sessions spread across workshops, tours, breakout sessions, and networking events at the April 9-11 summit. Registration is open to members and non-members with group discounts available.

More details can be found at COE’s official summit website.

COE accepting proposals for 2019 summit breakout sessions

At The Ohio State University Center for Operational Excellence’s annual Leading Through Excellence summit, attendees get the chance to hear transformation stories and research insights from among 25 breakout presentations.

Want to lead one?

Through Jan. 15, 2019, COE is now accepting proposals for breakout sessions at its 2019 summit, set for April 9-11 at the Fawcett Center on Ohio State’s campus. For attendees, the 25 breakout sessions to be offered at the event – spread across April 10 and 11 in five 60-minute blocks of five concurrent sessions – allow them to customize their summit experience to choose the topics that fit their interests and best align with their personal and organizational goals. For presenters, the sessions offer the chance to share best practices and make connections with hundreds of business leaders.

As with past summits, COE is building its breakout session offerings to represent a mix of “case studies” taking place inside member and non-member companies; actionable insights from researchers; and best practices from thought leaders in the world of operational excellence. Topics are to be broadly focused on one or more of the following subject matter areas:

  • Industry disruption (technology, trends)
  • Innovation
  • Leadership
  • Lean deployment best practices (tools, techniques, behaviors)
  • Organizational behavior (team-building, communication, decision making)
  • Supply chain management

While COE will still be recruiting a number of breakout presenters outside this process, up to 10 sessions will be drawn from submitted proposals. Each accepted breakout presentation comes with complimentary admission to the summit.

Think you’re ready to submit a proposal? Have the following information ready about yourself and your presentation:

  • a) Contact information
  • b) Proposed title
  • c) Key challenge/trend the presentation addresses
  • d) A few sentences on the content you plan to cover;
  • e) Key “takeaways” attendees will receive at your session.

We’re also interested in past presentation experience, with video links welcome and encouraged.

Presentation proposals will be reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis, and all those who submit proposals will be notified of their status by Feb. 1.

To view the proposal form and begin the submission process, click here.

Summer event explores workforce digitalization, ‘mid-tech’ opportunity

Digital technology has revolutionized the way we exist as consumers. It’s no longer necessary to leave the house to get groceries, grab a new pair of shoes, or buy a new house.

This same trend has had sweeping implications for the other end of the transaction, too, but this wave of digital innovation isn’t limited to business-to-consumer trades. These days, no industry has been left untouched, and the digitalization of the American workforce has emerged as a formidable challenge, with plenty of opportunity along the way.

The Ohio State University Center for Operational Excellence joined three other Ohio State and Fisher College of Business centers this month to tackle this topic in the second of a two-part summer session on the so-called digital economy. At the session, co-hosted with the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, National Center for the Middle Market, and Risk Institute, Brookings Institution researcher Mark Muro (pictured above, left) presented findings from an illuminating report the think tank released last year tracking how technology is becoming a bigger part of the jobs we do.

“Digitalization is the fundamental source of value in our period in history,” Muro told a crowd of nearly 150 business leaders.

The data from Brookings bear that out. The organization classified hundreds of jobs in to low-, medium-, and high-digital skill levels on a scale of 1 to 100, based on how much knowledge of and interaction with computers and electronics is required. Your average software developer these days is a 94, while a personal healthcare aide would score below 20. In tracking changes from 2002 to 2016, Brookings researchers found that while about half of the jobs in Columbus that it rated required little digital skill at the beginning of the decade, that share has dropped below one-third in recent years. And while only one in 20 jobs required strong digital skills in 2002, that’s up to one in four.

“It’s getting much harder to find a job if you don’t know your way around basic computer equipment,” said Muro, a senior fellow in Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program.

Indeed, one in six working-age Americans can’t use e-mail, web search, or other basic online tools. Couple that with the fact that nearly half of all jobs in the Columbus area require a medium level of digital skill, and an imbalance emerges.

Breaking it down

Muro dissected his findings with a multi-industry panel at the session, which included representatives from COE members Honda of America Manufacturing and Mount Carmel Health System, as well as leaders from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and Columbia Gas of Ohio owner NiSource. At all of these organizations, this workforce digitization wave is intersecting with a mix of demographic factors and broader industry trends. At Honda, for example, a sizeable crop of Baby Boomers is poised to retire, while the vehicles rolling off the line get more tech-heavy with each new model.

“As production changes and there’s more digital technology in our products, it challenges our engineers’ IT skills,” said panelist Scot McLemore, Honda North America’s manager of talent acquisition and development.

Honda has been proactive with the digitalization trend, moving in 2014 to open a Technical Training Center with classrooms and robotics to help cultivate skills of emerging importance in employees. In a similar vein, NiSource has invested in training that’s tailored for a digital age, a selling point for younger employees and, sometimes, a harder sell for veteran workers.

“Adults still want to know why,” said panelist John Penziol, NiSource’s user experience strategy lead.

The “soft” side of digitalization, whether that’s communicating changes to workers or developing new problem-solving skills while working with technology, is a critical element to this new frontier, particularly in an industry like healthcare. At Mount Carmel, it’s a question of balancing high-quality, high-stakes personal touch with constant new digital innovations. As a result, the nationwide digital score for registered nurses moved from the low end of the middle digitalization level to the high end over that 14-year gap tracked in the Brookings research.

“As leaders influencing people, we need to grow into the technology aspect and the people aspect,” said Michelle Leedy, director of talent management for Mount Carmel. “We need to think differently about how we get work done.”

Mid-tech opportunity

Brookings’ key recommendations for meeting the challenge of workforce digitalization include expanding and widening the high-digital IT talent pipeline — for example, creating higher-education feeder programs and exposing K-12 students to computer science — and increasing basic digital literacy, especially among underrepresented groups. One area of opportunity specifically for the Columbus region, Muro said, is what he calls “opportunity jobs,” which require medium-level digital skill but don’t require a bachelor’s degree and pay better than the national mean annual wage; this includes executive assistants and industrial mechanics, for example.

“These opportunity jobs are an on-ramp to IT,” Muro said. “It’s very important that people in the workforce without a four-year degree get into these occupations.”

Regardless of the solutions at hand, said McLemore of Honda, they can’t happen in a vacuum.

“It’s important that industry, education, and the government come together to figure this out,” he said.

Click here to check out Brookings’ full report, or view slides from the August session here.

COE member discounts available for Baldrige, lean innovation conferences

Membership in the Center for Operational Excellence opens doors at more than just the Fisher College of Business.

COE is pleased to offer employees of member companies discounted admission to the following partner events coming up this fall:

Quest for Success – Sept. 10-11 – Columbus, OH

Quest for Success is the annual conference hosted by The Partnership for Excellence, the Baldrige certification organization serving Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia. At Quest for Success, you can hear presentations from Baldrige recipients, along with insights from other performance excellence professionals.

Presentation on performance excellence transformations include speakers from the city of Fort Collins, Colo., Eli Lilly & Co., and more.

Employees of COE member companies are entitled to a $25 discount on registration in addition to any general discounts, which can be claimed by entering code “OSU COE” at checkout in the coupon code window. Read more about the event and register here.

LPPDE North America – Oct. 1-4 – Columbus, OH

The Lean Product & Process Development Exchange has long been the most impressive gathering of lean product and process development practitioners. This year’s conference is no different and draws upon the rich examples of innovation taking place in and around Columbus and Ohio State. To bring focus to this year’s theme, LPPDE has assembled an impressive lineup of keynote speakers and case study presentations.

Keynote speakers include Billy Taylor, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company; Michael Walton, Director, Industry Solutions Executive at Microsoft; Michael Kennedy, author of Ready, Set, Dominate: Implement Toyota’s Set-Based Learning for Developing Products and Nobody Can Catch You; and Karyn Ross, author of The Toyota Way to Service ExcellenceClick here to download a full brochure on the conference.

Employees of COE member companies are entitled to a 30% discount on admission to the conference by entering discount code “COE” at checkout.

Read more on the event and register here.

Safelite CEO headlining fall center seminar

As Safelite CEO Tom Feeney hits local headlines while ringing in a decade leading the windshield glass repair and replacement giant, he’s also joining the Ohio State University Center for Operational Excellence for its fall kickoff event.

tom feeney safelite
Tom Feeney

Feeney will be serving as the featured keynote for COE’s fall seminar on Friday, Sept. 14, bringing insights from the cultural transformation he’s shepherded at the company since taking over as CEO in 2008. Feeney is a longtime Safelite employee who joined the company in 1988 and has served in a number of leadership roles since. Safelite has been a member of COE since last year.

In recent interviews with Smart Business and Columbus Business First, Feeney has spoken candidly about his restless drive to improve the customer and employee experience for a company that occupies a unique spot in its industry: It’s the market leader in the trade, and a household name at this point, but it also provides a service no one particularly wants. For Safelite, that’s meant getting even better at something it already does very well – digital transformation has been a key focus for the company during Feeney’s tenure – and creating a culture in which associates feel safe experimenting, sometimes failing, and learning from the experience.

The Feeney-led transformation has made an impact on Safelite’s top line and its headcount. Revenue today nears $2 billion, according to Smart Business, and it employs more than 14,000, about 2,000 of whom are in the Columbus area, according to Columbus Business First. On the cultural front, Safelite has been a regular honoree in that newspaper’s Best Places to Work ranking, while Feeney himself was named among the region’s most-admired CEOs.

Next month at the COE event, Feeney will share insights on how he’s championed the growth of a people-powered, customer-driven organization that fosters that “fail-fast” culture of innovation. His presentation will be preceded by a networking lunch and, before that, a presentation from Fisher College of Business faculty member and employee training and development expert Marc Ankerman.

Registration for this event, open exclusively to COE members at no cost, is open now.

Fisher summer sessions tackle customer, worker sides of ‘new digital economy’

Digital technology is the driving force in our faster and more connected world, transforming how we interact, how we live, and how we work. In the business world, this has led to disrupted industry titans and new power players, putting unprecedented power in the hands of customers and fundamentally changing the jobs we do.

In this “new digital economy,” how do we keep and grow a customer base with shifting brand loyalty and increasingly higher standards? And how do we adapt to the new technological demands in the jobs we have – and hire for?

The Ohio State University Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Center for Operational Excellence are pleased to partner with Fisher College of Business’ National Center for the Middle Market and Risk Institute to offer a pair of morning summer sessions focused on the new digital economy. The first session, in June, looks all the way downstream at the new imperative of the customer experience, while the second, in August, presents recent research that examines the “digitalization” of the American workforce.

Part 1: The Customer – Wednesday, June 27

Headlining this morning learning and networking session are Tom Stewart (pictured, immediate right) and Patricia O’Connell (pictured, far right), co-authors of the book Woo, Wow, and Win: Service Strategy and the Art of Customer Delight. Stewart, executive director of the National Center for the Middle Market, and O’Connell contend that most B2B and B2C companies aren’t designed from the ground up for the customer experience, a critical capability growing even more so in today’s digital age. They introduce the concept of Service Design, offering practice strategies to deliver on your promise to customers.

Following the Woo, Wow, and Win keynote, IBM iX Director of Brand Strategy David Shaw takes the stage to give an inside look at how technology is creating new challenges for established brands and their relationships with customers.

Part 2: The Employee – Wednesday, Aug. 8

Mark Muro

The summer sessions continue with this look at technological transformation and its implications inside the workplace, headlined by a featured keynote from Mark Muro, senior fellow and policy director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. Muro is the lead author on a fascinating and wide-ranging report published last fall, Digitalization and the American Workforce, that found the share of jobs requiring a low digital skill level has plunged since 2002 from 56 percent to 30 percent, while those requiring a high level of digital skill vaulted from a mere 5 percent in 2002 to 23 percent last year.

More details on the August session will be released next month, while registration for the June 27 session is set to launch Wednesday, May 23. These events are open to members of all four centers and the general public.

COE Summit 2018: A Look Back, in Pictures

The final speaker for the Ohio State University Center for Operational Excellence’s sixth-annual summit opened his keynote with a statement that had emerged as a running theme across the three-day experience: “We’re no longer a knowledge economy; we’re a learning economy,” said Dr. Bradley Staats (pictured, above), an associate professor of operations at the University of North Carolina and author of the forthcoming Never Stop Learning. “It’s not what you know today; it’s how you’re going to adapt, how you’re going to change to deal with the uncertainty you face tomorrow.”

COE’s Leading Through Excellence summit brought together nearly 500 process excellence leaders from across the country to Columbus in April for a dynamic variety of continuous learning opportunities, a record crowd for the event, which launched in 2013. Take a look back at Leading Through Excellence 2018 through this photo essay, featuring photography from Jodi Miller …

More than 200 summit attendees headed offsite on the first day of the event for gemba visits offering an up-close look at problem-solving and innovation strategies at companies around Ohio. One group traveled all the way to center member Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s Akron headquarters to walk the floor of its race-tire manufacturing plant and see how visual management is embedded in the company’s product development process.

Another group headed up Kenny Road to experience the student-industry partnerships under way at Ohio State’s Center for Automotive Research, which has partnered with the summit on two other occasions in the past.

Center member Clopay Building Products hosted a wide-ranging tour of its massive 1 million-square-foot-plus manufacturing operation in Troy, guiding attendees through the site on trolleys that stopped throughout for quick looks at problem-solving strategies embedded in the facility.

Back in Columbus, keynote Karen Martin opened the day with an exclusive workshop on her latest book, Clarity First, which examines how too many companies are leaving value on the table by letting ambiguity flourish – and details how to overcome it. “The words we choose and the actions we take make or break what happens to people’s lives and the financial well-being of organizations and employees,” Martin said in her keynote the following morning. “Clarity is a big deal – and we need to take it seriously.”

Fisher College of Business faculty member David Veech, who works with the Master of Business Operational Excellence degree program, led a half-day morning workshop that taught attendees hands-on team-building strategies to use in their organizations – and rarely had them in their seats.

Brutus Buckeye stopped by COE’s annual reception for speakers and board members at Ohio Stadium. Pictured are, from Columbus-based Leverage HR, breakout hosts Shawn Garrett (left) and Sapna Welsh (right).

Each year, COE features a number of Fisher College of Business researchers sharing the latest insights with their work in industry. Here, Nathan Craig, assistant professor of management sciences, gives his breakout session attendees a crash course in machine learning, a technology that’s transforming how organizations are putting data to work.

The COE summit isn’t possible without the support of more than 40 student volunteers, who assist on tours and workshops and introduce featured speakers, and other Fisher and Ohio State staff members.  Pictured, from left, are students Muhammad Shire, Anthony Lazerri, and Jin Li.

The threat – and opportunity – of disruption emerged as a running theme of the summit and was the featured topic in a number of breakout sessions. Here, Root Inc. Managing Director David Kalman in his breakout session offers insights on building a culture of disruption.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Charles Duhigg served as the first-ever keynote for COE’s inaugural summit in 2013. He returned this year to share insights from his latest book, Smarter Faster Better, telling attendees that “thinking more deeply has always been the killer productivity app. People who are able to think more deeply about their goals and priorities, and what they ought to be spending time on, or about how to innovate faster, about how to see insights better. Those are the people who end up succeeding over time.”

The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, a regular partner at past COE summits, returned again this year to entertain attendees during the second day’s evening networking reception.

At the annual networking reception, COE also features Fisher College of Business students who have successfully completed operational excellence projects with a number of Columbus-area nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

Fresh off his Big Ten Coach of the Year win, Buckeye Men’s Basketball Head Coach Chris Holtmann stopped by the kick off the third and final day of the summit, sharing his insights on leadership and offering a candid look at a blockbuster first season at Ohio State.

Companies willing to “lift the hood” and share how they’re tackling tomorrow’s biggest challenges are at the heart of COE’s summit line-up. Here, Nationwide leaders (from left) Kevin Yania, Tobi Milanovich, Tom Paider, and Erik Bennett take part in a panel discussion on how the Columbus-based insurer is incorporating artificial intelligence into processes.

Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence program is a driving force in creating tomorrow’s lean leaders. One of those graduates, Emily Jackson, hosted a breakout session on the summit’s final day to detail how she’s working to embed a culture of continuous improvement and respect as director of nursing quality at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.

Leading Through Excellence isn’t a solo sport. Each year, dozens of organizations bring teams – like this one from member BMW Financial Services – to learn new problem-solving strategies and search for the next great idea to implement at the office. Leading Through Excellence 2019 returns to the Fawcett Center in Columbus April 9-11, with registration set to open Dec. 10, 2018.

For a look at more photos from this year’s summit, head to our Flickr page