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?

Ohio State president, Momentive CEO to speak at COE’s April summit

E. Gordon Gee

Case studies. Plant tours. Simulations. Bestselling The Power of Habit author Charles Duhigg.

The list of reasons you should sign up for COE’s first-ever Leading Through Excellence summit is already long. We’re going to add a few more reasons, and one of them is none other than the bow tie-clad leader of our esteemed institution.

COE has booked Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee for an appearance on Thursday, April 11, at our summit. He’ll be speaking in the afternoon amid our triple threat of breakout sessions. Before that, however, you’ll also get to hear a special address from the chief of one of the 50 largest private companies in the nation: Momentive Performance Materials Holdings CEO Craig Morrison.

Craig Morrison

These are great additions to an already stellar lineup. Gee oversees six campuses, 65,000 students and 48,000 faculty and staff and is one of the most highly respected leaders in American higher education. Morrison led the 2002 effort to combine the former Borden Chemical with three other companies into Hexion, one of the nation’s largest specialty chemical makers. After merging with its sister company in 2010, Momentive as it’s known today emerged and has grown to a nearly $8 billion organization, dwarfing its size a decade ago.

Both of these men will be at our summit to talk about the crucial role leadership and problem-solving play in the success of your organization.

You can read more about the summit here, but trust me on this – just register.

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.

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.

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.

Bringing it all back home

It’s a common occurrence but a sad fact of life in the business world: Lured by cheaper wages and less red tape, a company uproots U.S. manufacturing operations and sends them to China or another country in an effort to cut costs.

Harry Moser has made a crusade out of asking those companies a simple question: “You sure about that?”

Harry Moser Reshoring Initiative manufacturing Fisher College of Business
Moser brought the message of his Reshoring Initiative to Fisher in January. Image courtesy Emily Tara.

In a recent visit to Fisher, the founder of the Reshoring Initiative outlined how he’s working to broaden companies’ understanding of all the costs of offshoring – and the benefits, in turn, of keeping or moving it stateside. Sure, the price tag initially might look cheaper on paper, but factor in a host of other risks and costs that escape that first glance and the U.S. is much more competitive, if not less costly altogether over the long term (run the numbers with Moser’s handy Total Cost of Ownership Estimator).

“We’re much more competitive competing here than we are competing there,” Moser said.

At the forum, sponsored by the Center for Operational Excellence, CIBER and the Ohio Manufacturing Institute, I was thrilled to see Moser talk about the costs of offshoring from an operational excellence perspective. Based on evidence Moser presented, a compelling case can be made that running an operation offshore can create waste that would make any lean thinker shudder.

Just think about the impact the big blue ocean between your offshore plant and your customer can create. Bringing product back makes the most financial sense with large batch shipments, but what happens when demand shifts your product mix? And what about defects discovered after a product has been shipped from half a world away? Research in the pharmaceutical manufacturing realm by our own John Gray indicates offshore production – even by U.S. drug-makers – carries a greater quality risk than its American-made counterpart.

Advocates for bringing it back home, take heed: It’s easy to make the case for reshoring not just with dollars and sense, but common sense.

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?

COE adds staff amid growth spurt

Life brings bad problems and good problems, and the Center for Operational Excellence is happy to be right in the middle of a very, very good one.

Tom Goldsby
Tom Goldsby

To put it quite simply, we’ve grown our membership base at such a steady clip that a group once numbering four in 1992 has hit 34. This has translated not only to more people actively working with Fisher on their pursuit of operational excellence but more attendance at our quarterly professional development meetings. A lot more. Our Sept. 30 event that featured a retired Kodak executive and Harley-Davidson CEO Keith Wandell peaked at about 200 attendees, a record. This past Friday, when hosting executives from Cardinal Health Inc. and Starbucks Corp., we would have hit and potentially exceeded that record by opening the events to the public but invited members only because of space constraints. Once again, a very good problem.

In our member roster and the decision-makers who come to our programming, these aren’t just manufacturers with a shop floor. COE is embracing the notion of continuous improvement in the most inclusive way possible, paving the way for the entrance of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., Huntington National Bank, OSU Medical Center and others in the transactional and health-care spaces.

Not that we’re leaving our core constituency behind. We’ve come to recognize a growing contingent of members in the logistics and distribution sectors needs specialized attention. For that, we’ve brought on one of the brightest minds tackling logistics in academia today, and we didn’t have to look far. Prof. Tom Goldsby, PhD, of Fisher’s Department of Marketing and Logistics, has stepped in as an associate director for COE to work closely with several companies that will benefit greatly from his award-winning research.

Goldsby already has made his debut before our COE board. We expect you’ll see a lot more of him.

Want some value-stream mapping tips from the pros?

Our good friends at the Cambridge, Mass.-based Lean Enterprise Institute are giving operational excellence junkies a chance this week to learn from a few masters this week – without leaving the office.

Tuesday Nov. 29 at 2 p.m. EST, the institute is hosting a free webinar titled “Learning to See the Whole Value Stream: The Power of Extended Value-Stream Mapping.” It’s set to last one hour and will be led by Jim Womack and Dan Jones. Those of you brushed up on your lean reading might notice they’re the gents who quite literally wrote the book on some hallmarks of lean thinking including, well, Lean Thinking, Lean Solutions and Seeing the Whole Value Stream.

recent value-stream mapping session
COE Executive Director Peg Pennington hosted employees from Grange and Huntington for a recent value-stream mapping session

The cost? Your time, an hour of it to be exact. Click here to register for the webinar.

The concept of value-stream mapping will be fresh in the minds of a few of our member companies: Grange Insurance and Huntington National Bank. A group of employees from each company came to Fisher earlier this month for a day-long session on VSM led by COE Executive Director Peg Pennington. They’re part of a growing contingent of transactional companies in COE – and they’re making great strides in apply operational excellence strategies to new realms of the corporate world.

Amy Tomaszewski, Grange’s assistant vice president of operational excellence, told me the event was a great success for her company and “provided quite a few ‘Ah-ha!’ moments.”

“The instruction was excellent and tailored to the service transaction environment, which is often overlooked in lean training,” Tomaszewski said. “Through the real-life computer simulation of the movement of electronic work and the team exercises around value-stream mapping and a simulated Kaizen event, we were able to see the result of both positive and negative changes that can occur when a company looks for and acts upon improvement opportunities in a value stream.”