Webinar explores challenges, payoffs of electronic communications

Connecting far-flung employees – across an office or across the globe – is becoming an increasingly common challenge for companies of any size. A number of organizations have turned to technological solutions for town halls, top leadership updates and team meetings – but how can they ensure communication leads to results and isn’t lost along the way?

mills jamesThe Center for Operational Excellence is thrilled to partner with member Mills James to offer a hybrid case study / discussion panel webinar featuring leaders from two of the largest companies in Ohio who have successfully embedded technology into their communication efforts: Procter & Gamble and Cardinal Health.

Joining the webcast on Friday, Nov. 14, from noon to 1 p.m. EST from P&G is Kip Fanta, associate director of Employee Experience/Meetings and Collaboration, an employee of the Cincinnati-based consumer products giant for more than 20 years who has worked in a variety of roles. From Cardinal Health is Eileen Lehmann, who directs internal communications and oversees the application of technology to communications problems.

Fanta and Lehmann will be joined by Mills James VP Bruce Reid and COE Executive Director Peg Pennington.

This isn’t a webinar about what technology your organization should choose – it’s an exploration of how these can be used to drive employee engagement, align an organization with strategic goals and drive results in the short and long term. Participants will offer their insights on what worked, what didn’t, and how companies of any size can take action.

Click here to register for the webinar.

November conference in Columbus explores intersection of Lean, Agile in IT

For two methodologies that can drive efficiency and change inside an organization’s information technology ecosystem, Lean and Agile seem to raise a lot of questions as well.

Is it an either-or proposition? (No.)

Are they one and the same? (No.)

Is there a way to leverage both to improve IT effectiveness? (Absolutely.)

leanintoagileThe Center for Operational Excellence is teaming up with the Central Ohio Agile Association to explore the intersection between both with the first-ever Lean Into Agile conference, set for Friday, Nov. 7, at the Fawcett Center on Ohio State University’s campus. Lean Into Agile will bring together a mix of industry leaders, sought-after speakers and faculty to highlight how lean and agile principles can be applied in the IT setting. Featured keynotes include Michael Sahota, author of An Agile Adoption and Transformation Survival Guide; Mike Orzen, co-author of Lean IT; and Michael Keller, executive vice president and CIO at Columbus-based insurer Nationwide.

In addition to the trio of keynotes, Lean Into Agile will feature three rounds of breakout sessions throughout the day, a mix of consultants, coaches and business leaders specializing in Lean IT, Agile or the successful combination of the two in an organization. This diversity enables attendees to “choose your own adventure” throughout the conference, filling in knowledge gaps and gaining a clearer, broader picture of the underlying process improvement principles that drive IT success.

Many companies today simply equate Lean IT and Agile, a common misconception but one that can lead to crucial missed opportunities, said Tom Paider, associate vice president for IT Build Capability at Nationwide and champion of COE’s IT Leadership Network.

“It’s not enough to focus on the creation of Agile teams,” Paider said. “In order to scale agile, there are so many other aspects that come into play: The management system, development of people, problem solving capability, and setting the correct expectations. Lean gives us an avenue to create the whole system, from purpose to process to people.”

Featured breakout session speakers throughout the day come from organizations including Fortune 20 health-care distributor Cardinal Health, software developer CI&T, Columbus IT solutions firm Pillar, Ohio State, Lean/Agile consultancy LitheSpeed LLC, and the State of Ohio Department of Administrative Services, among others.

Check out the list of keynote and breakout speakers at leanintoagile.org, where registration is open as well. Conference admission, which includes breakfast, lunch and a post-event networking happy hour, is $224. Group sign-ups of five or more people receive a discount of $45 per person.

Register for the event here.

Big data, huge potential: Scotts, Cardinal leaders talk trends in analytics

The stream of shapeless information dubbed “big data” in recent years has swelled to a full-blown waterfall– and for any company looking to maintain competitive edge, it’s drink or drown.

The Center for Operational Excellence at its April Leading Through Excellence summit tackled the issue of big data and analytics through the lens of operations management with a panel discussion that illuminated both the opportunities in wrestling with fast-moving torrents of information and the challenges many organizations still face.

big data analytics scotts cardinal health lexisnexis
From left: Ralph Greco, Fisher College of Business; Anson Asoka, Scotts; Andy Keller, Cardinal Health; and Dihan Rosenburg, LexisNexis. (click to enlarge)

From the discussion, moderated by Ralph Greco, director of the Business Analytics Initiative at Fisher College of Business, here are some key insights from Anson Asoka, VP of global insights and analytics at Scotts Miracle-Gro Co.; Andy Keller, VP of analytics and global process owner at Cardinal Health Inc.; and Dihan Rosenburg, director of product planning at LexisNexis:

1. There’s much more room in the big-data sandbox

High-profile victors at making the most of this ever-growing flood of social media, mobile, customer activity, and market information include titans such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook. The panelists, however, were a great example of how savvy companies are making the most of information to improve the supply chain, increase customer value, and make better decisions.

Scotts’ Asoka said it’s “an inherent part of our culture to capture information … and be able to leverage it.” That extends to constantly tracking a wide range of customer information before, during, and after product launches and feeding that back to the organization.

“We make products based on customer needs,” Asoka said of the $2.8 billion-a-year lawn and garden giant. “We don’t make products and then go find consumers.”

Cardinal, the $100 billion-a-year pharmaceutical and medical product distributor, is investing in keeping eyes trained on data tied to seasonally fluctuating illnesses, from the flu to allergies, and supply chain disruptions, such as product recalls, Keller said. That includes staying up-to-date on Google Flu Trends, a highly visible – but somewhat controversial – example of data analytics that Keller said is “surprisingly accurate.”

2. Data aren’t the meal – they’re the raw ingredients.

Panelists repeatedly stressed the fact that regardless of how much data a company is able to collect, it’s the sorting and analysis that ultimately create true value.

“Any one data point isn’t going to tell you the answer,” said Cardinal’s Keller. “It’s how we pull it all together, and use the tools and knowledge to pull (the value) out.”

One such tool was developed by Rosenburg at LexisNexis, the online information powerhouse commonly known for its exhaustive stash of archived news and public records.

SmartWatch, launched in 2012, allows customers to monitor supply chain risk through a range of market intelligence that’s color-coded and categorized by its political, economic, societal, technical, legal and environmental factors. The goal, Rosenburg said, is to get customers “ahead of the curve” – noticing, for example, that labor unrest is occurring in a factory’s home country before a full-blown strike occurs.

“When information becomes plentiful and free, the information about information is where the real gold is,” Rosenburg said.

Scotts’ Asoka said the root of the company’s approach to big data and analytics is simply a constant thirst for more.

“We need a lot (of data), and we don’t turn any down,” he said.

3. Infrastructure is important – very important.

Despite its status as a relatively new challenge for companies, the management of the data analytics function isn’t immune to some classic hurdles: Silos, project burn-out, and lack of infrastructure.

Keller of Cardinal said the company has taken a similar approach to the development of its analytics capabilities as its highly successful lean/Six Sigma deployment. In less than a decade, Cardinal’s operational excellence rollout has gone from a supply chain efficiency effort to a catalyst for enterprise-wide culture change.

“As I describe our (analytics) journey, it’s similar to our operational excellence journey,” Keller said. “It’s all about developing a structure, setting up career paths, and getting rigor around establishing a common language.”

This broad-based effort to align people and processes, though, can’t exist on an island, said Asoka of Scotts.

“Infrastructure is important,” he said. “I’ve seen over time that what really benefits an organization is to have analytics people within functions – and if you can have a horizontal cut across all those verticals you can properly manage data, tools and people.”

Most crucially is how data analytics ultimately fits into a company’s broader strategic course, said Rosenburg of LexisNexis.

“Quality requires vigilance,” she said. “It’s not a project you do and forget about.”

4. People are key – and we need many, many more of them.

In the end, panelists said, making better decisions through data analytics doesn’t come down to having the best software program or the biggest data center. It comes down to having people with the skills to sort, scour and shape the information into something valuable.

“If you don’t have the right people to really accelerate (your efforts), you’re going to continue to struggle, spending a lot of time as an organization getting alignment,” said Keller of Cardinal.

So who are these “data scientists?” Asoka of Scotts said there’s no rigid set of skills that can flag a slam-dunk analytics hire – rather, it’s an employee’s relentless sense of curiosity, paired with proven experience in problem-solving, that’s key.

Efforts to develop these data scientists of tomorrow are under way all around the country, but Fisher and The Ohio State University are taking an especially aggressive approach. The university just this year unveiled an undergraduate major in data analytics set to be offered this fall.

At Fisher, Greco said, the college for years has been providing its students with the skills needed to work in analytics, but efforts are afoot to develop an undergraduate business analytics minor and a graduate major for full-time MBA students.

“Students with an outstanding business acumen and skills in logistics, supply chain, HR, finance and other areas combined with analytics will be the managers of the future,” Greco said.

This article appears in the April 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.

Big data, huge potential for operations

Big data.

It’s the sea of information inside and outside your organization that’s so vast, and often so unstructured, it’s spawning a multibillion-dollar industry among those with the tools and skills to analyze it. It also has reaped huge benefits for a number of big-name companies, including Target and Amazon.com, among many, many others.

big dataThese days, though, big data isn’t just a game-changer for the retail and technology sectors. It holds promise for any industry, anywhere, and a wealth of potential lies in the field of operations management. But how do companies just wrapping their heads around the big data explosion harness, and profit, from it?

We’re exploring that very topic in the latest addition to our Leading Through Excellence summit, which kicks off exactly two weeks from today on Wednesday, April 9. On the final day of the summit, Friday, April 11, we’re offering you the chance to hear from leaders at three organizations that are making major inroads in big data and analytics: Anson Asoka, VP of global insights and analytics at COE member Scotts Miracle-Gro Co.; Andy Keller, VP of analytics and global process owner at COE member Cardinal Health; and Dihan Rosenburg, director of product planning at online information powerhouse LexisNexis. The panel will be moderated by Ralph Greco, director of the Business Analytics Initiative at the Fisher College of Business.

At this panel, set for the Fawcett Center theater after a morning address from restaurateur Cameron Mitchell, you’ll hear the ways in which these companies are leveraging big data from an operations perspective. They’ll also be on hand to take questions and scope trends in what will continue to be an increasingly important – and ever-challenging – facet of corporate growth and strategy.

Only six days remain to sign up for Leading Through Excellence before an April 1 price increase that applies to our COE members and non-members. Non-members, though, can save 10 percent on registration through March 31 by using discount code “save” at registration.

See you in April!

Are your meetings a waste of valuable time?

itln crowd

McKinsey & Co. Partner Krish Krishnakanthan shared a number of sharp insights about the application of lean principles to the world of information technology, but what seemed to resonate the most were his thoughts on how we view two very important features of any organization: Meetings and managers.

krishnakanthan mckinseyMeetings, Krishnakanthan (pictured) told a crowd of 80 at last week’s IT Leadership Network forum, often serve the function of an all-hands-on-deck “firefighting” session. Here, issues that could be resolved on individual team members’ time instead are tackled en masse, contributing very little value or eroding what value there is.

“Staff meetings truly have become problem-solving meetings, not status-reporting meetings,” Krishnakanthan said.

Check out photos from the event here.

Where organizations often fail to contain much-dreaded waste in processes, he said, is in firmly establishing objectives among individual team members and leveraging “huddles” or meetings for valuable communication – not triage.

This same attraction to firefighting, Krishnakthanthan said, has seeped into the role of managers. These leaders, he said, should find themselves coaching their teams to develop the skills they need to solve problems – not solve the problems themselves.

“Most managers, though, would love to just solve the problem,” Krishnakanthan said, “and they get rewarded for this. A reward system must be built to reward really good problem solvers, not crisis managers.”

The key, he said, is to be a leader who knows how to ask the right questions, not jump to provide the answer.

Krishnakanthan was the featured speaker at COE’s sixth forum in its IT Leadership Network series, which began with a visit from Lean IT co-author Mike Orzen in April 2012. Check out go.osu.edu/ITLN for a look at past speakers and our upcoming events.

MBOE recap: There’s an app for that

For Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence cohort this year, paper is so 2011.

MBOE took the leap to become a paper-free program this year with each student of the 2012-13 cohort receiving an iPad. Students can now access all materials on the iPad using iTunes University, type in notes, and then access them anytime without flipping through pages within a huge binder.

ipad apple
All MBOE students in the new cohort receive iPads with all course materials loaded. (Image courtesy Apple)

A big thanks to Randy Spears and Jacob Bane in Fisher’s Information Technology Services, who helped make it happen and were on hand to walk students through the various applications and modules on orientation day this week.

Orientation takes place not only for our students but for coaches. As they were briefed in a separate room, eventually everyone got together to get acquainted.  Bill Constantino senior partner at the W3 Group, introduced students the concept of Toyota Kata, a method that Toyota uses to innovate their products with built-in quality. He talked about change and what it takes human beings to change by posing this question: Why do humans have the ability to develop new neural synapses? That’s because humans have the ability to learn new things. Why is it then change is so hard? That’s because the uncertainty that lies between a current condition and target condition is not addressed in a way that facilitates change, Constantino said. So how do you address it? The answer is deliberate practice and asking the right questions over and over with a coach helping to do that. Some helpful questions to ask:

  • What is the current state?
  • What is the target condition?
  • What idea will you implement?
  • What do you expect to happen?
  • What did you learn?

The more people consistently follow this process, he said, change will become second nature.

With the work of MBOE also comes some play. We hosted an evening reception after orientation for students to relax and mingle with each other. Many students spent time with their coaches to get an understanding of the process, a great benefit the program offers by giving up-close access to major operational excellence experts.

With orientation finished, students began their year-long quest with the first official day.

Peg Pennington, Executive Director of COE, introduced the concept of systems thinking and exploring all possible root causes of any problem. The key to coming up with the right countermeasures/solutions to any problem is:

  1. Define the  problem
  2. Understand the root causes of the problem

According to Peg, there are various tools available for root cause analysis, most of which are limited in some way. A cause map helps to deep dive into all possible reasons that led to the problem and also helps link to the corporate that is impacted because of the problem. Peg drove the point home interactively using various fun exercises.

In the afternoon, Gary Butler reinforced the learning on cause mapping by walking the students through analyzing the reasons behind the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle that killed seven astronauts in 1986. He also stressed upon defining metric and defining them S.M.A.R.T.ly (Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Actionable, Relevant/Reliable and Timely).


Inside look: Nationwide’s lean IT management

This edition of Think OpEx features a guest blogger: Tom Paider, an AVP and build capacity leader at COE member Nationwide Insurance. Paider, also a graduate of Fisher’s MBOE program, will give an inside look at the lean transformation that took place in Nationwide’s IT division.

You’ve probably heard talk about the need for management to change when undergoing a lean transformation. The principle is simple: How can we expect our staff to change if we as managers don’t change as well? While the principle is simple, the implementation of the principle isn’t so simple. Many managers believe they’re where they are because they know best how to direct their subordinates They believe their role is to assign tasks, monitor progress and assess performance.

Culture, Values and attitudes, What we do
Focus on what behaviors you want people to exhibit, then design processes around those behaviors. It’s much easier for people to act their way into thinking than think their way into acting.

How, then, do we transform these managers to a lean mindset focused on coaching, problem-solving and empowerment?

In my experience at Nationwide, this management transformation follows the same general pattern as staff in lean transformations: Changes to daily behavior used to change thinking over time. It follows the pattern outlined in John Shook’s MIT Sloan article “How to Change a Culture: Lessons from NUMMI”. Shook surmises it’s much more difficult for an organization to think its way into acting than to act its way into thinking. By approaching transformation from a daily behavior standpoint, the change is baked directly into the DNA of the organization and backslides are much less likely.

When we first deployed a lean framework to Nationwide’s Application Development Center, our managers were supporters but ultimately didn’t change the way they worked. This caused confusion within our teams as staff moved toward collaboration, empowerment and problem-solving while the management team still operated in a command-and-control hierarchical style. A management team that didn’t understand how to channel the enthusiasm of the staff quickly snuffed out the initiative of our associates.

So how did we do it? We put in place processes that reinforced the behaviors desired: A focus on coaching staff instead of directing them, building problem-solving muscle throughout the organization, and getting them out of their offices and to the gemba.  We focused on daily accountability through tiered standups, visual controls and visual workflow for the work of management, and leader standard work that governed the expected behaviors.

In a subsequent blog post, learn what each of these looked like and how we implemented them. Stay tuned…

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.