Ohio State men’s basketball Coach Holtmann joins COE summit keynote line-up

The final keynote announced for next month’s Leading Through Excellence summit is the latest high-profile hire in the world of Buckeyes sports who’s off to an auspicious start.

The Ohio State University Center for Operational Excellence is thrilled to announce Buckeye Men’s Basketball Head Coach Chris Holtmann will serve as the morning keynote on the final day of the April 10-12 summit. He joins fellow keynote speakers Charles Duhigg, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Power of Habit; Karen Martin, author of Clarity First; and Bradley Staats, a researcher and author of the forthcoming Never Stop Learning.

Coach Holtmann’s keynote slot last year featured a visit from Buckeye Football Head Coach Urban Meyer.

The announcement comes just weeks after Holtmann clinched Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in his first season with the Buckeyes, who are 24-8 overall and 15-3 in the Big Ten. Holtmann, who’s won Coach of the Year three times now in three different leagues, coached the Buckeyes to a 9-0 run out of the gate in Big Ten play. That’s the first time that’s happened for seven or more games in nearly a century, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Check out his full bio on COE’s summit website.

In his keynote, Coach Holtmann will be sharing career and leadership insights – and some thoughts on the season – as well as taking questions from the audience.

“We’re thrilled to have Coach Holtmann take the stage at our sixth-annual summit,” said COE Executive Director Peg Pennington. “This event is all about developing team-building and leadership skills, and Coach Holtmann has shown he has a lot to offer in both.”

The four featured Leading Through Excellence keynotes are among more than 40 sessions offered at the summit, which is more than 80% booked a little more than a month out. The dynamic mix of workshops, tours, breakout sessions, networking events and keynotes is COE’s signature annual event, which is open to the general public as well as employees of member companies.

Check out the summit website for more details on sessions and pricing …


Lancaster Colony chief headlining COE’s Feb. 9 networking, learning event

For its first event of the new year, The Ohio State University Center for Operational Excellence is featuring the chief executive of one of Columbus’ iconic consumer brands.

Serving as the 1 p.m. keynote at COE’s Feb. 9 learning and networking session is David Ciesinski (pictured, right), CEO of Columbus-based Lancaster Colony Corp., which owns and produces the Marzetti food brand and many others. Ciesinski, who joined Lancaster Colony as president and COO in 2016, stepped into the top role this past May.

Ciesinski has spent years in the competitive packaged foods industry, including leadership stints at H.J. Heinz Co. and Kraft Foods Group Inc. He’s a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and received his master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University.

In his keynote, Ciesinski will share insights from his decades in leadership roles and offer a look inside a staple of the region’s business landscape that’s growing sales and margins in a transformative time for the industry.

The afternoon keynote will cap a day that begins at 10:30 a.m., when attendees can choose to attend one of three interactive learning sessions run by COE Executive Director Peg Pennington; researcher and sourcing expert John Gray; and Ralph Greco, director of the Nationwide Center for Advanced Customer Insights. After the 90-minute learning sessions, all attendees will converge for a noon networking lunch before Ciesinski’s keynote.

Registration for this members-only event opens Tuesday, Jan. 9.

COE in 2017: The Year in Review

18 events. More than 60 presentations, workshops, tours and benchmarking opportunities. Countless “a-ha!” moments.

The Center for Operational Excellence’s 25-year milestone was its busiest ever, and plans are in the works for another exciting year of programming designed to connect our members to the latest best practices in process excellence. With the new year just days away, we’re offering a look back at some of our event highlights from 2017 …

hban benchmarking
Attendees of the January benchmarking session, which represent roughly a dozen COE member companies.

January 2017: COE started and ended its year with member Huntington National Bank opening its doors to share how it’s driven transformational change.  Huntington hosted the first of four “grassroots” benchmarking sessions, where leaders from more than a dozen COE member companies meet quarterly at a host company to share best practices on a specific topic. Interested in joining the group? Contact session moderator and COE Executive Director Peg Pennington at pennington.84@osu.edu.

April 2017: For its fifth-annual summit Leading Through Excellence summit, COE took hundreds of members to seven different tour sites across the state of Ohio. Here, leaders from member Engineered Profiles show tour attendees best practices in leader standard work, a tour being offered again during the 2018 summit.

April 2017: Buckeyes Football Coach Urban Meyer kicked off the third and final day of COE’s Leading Through Excellence summit, sharing insights from his personal journey and encouraging attendees to always keep a look out for the next great idea: “Always learn. There’s always someone out there doing a great job with something.”

June 2017: How can lean principles apply to a nationally renowned startup culture? And what can big companies learn from it? COE’s popular I.T. Leadership Network series returned with a presentation from Nate Lusher (pictured, left) and Rick Neighbarger from Columbus-based healthcare software company CoverMyMeds. COE is offering a tour of CoverMyMeds’ award-winning headquarters during its 2018 Leading Through Excellence summit.

June 2017: Paula Bennett, CEO of women’s apparel retailer J.Jill, spoke to an at-capacity crowd for COE’s Women’s Leadership Forum series. Bennett, a graduate of Fisher College of Business, recently took the company public, staking out rare territory in the IPO scene: Research has shown that only about 3% of IPOs in the past decade have been led by a female CEO.

talent war wide shot
COE’s collaborative session in July drew nearly 140 attendees seeking insights on “winning the talent war.”

July 2017: A pair of summer sessions COE presented in collaboration with three other centers at Fisher kicked off in July with a look at the “talent war,” featuring a presentation from the Brookings Institution on changing workforce dynamics and a wide-ranging panel discussion with human resources leaders from Cardinal Health, Marathon Petroleum, Nationwide and Wendy’s. COE’s collaborative summer sessions will return in 2018 on June 27 and Aug. 8. Stay tuned for programming details.

Cisco’s Jeremy Aston

August 2017: COE’s summer sessions continued with a look at the “Digital Vortex” and how disruptive competitors are shaking up the business landscape for even the most established companies. Cisco’s Jeremy Aston (pictured, above) kicked off the session with a keynote on the company’s research, which has found that, while executives are expecting digital disruption, too few are actively preparing for it.


brutus buckeye peg pennington
Brutus Buckeye stopped by COE’s 25 anniversary celebration to ring in the occasion with Executive Director Peg Pennington.

September 2017: COE formally celebrated its 25th anniversary on Sept. 15, ringing in a quarter century of driving a culture of continuous learning in the broader business community, complete with a visit from Brutus Buckeye.

September 2017: Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. executive Billy Taylor (pictured, above) closed out COE’s anniversary celebration by sharing insights on how companies can drive change by engaging their people.

COE offers opportunities for students and members to connect at all of its events.

October 2017: COE’s semi-annual Supply Chain Symposium series held its second event of the year, connecting center member companies with Fisher MBA students pursuing careers in the field. Author and North Carolina State University Prof. Robert Handfield keynoted the session with insights from his latest, The Living Supply Chain.

Jeff Sturm, executive vice president and chief continuous improvement officer at Huntington National Bank, kicked off COE’s final event of the year with a keynote on how the organization is driving cultural change.

December 2017: How can we drive cultural change by changing the questions we ask our people? Opening up COE’s final event of 2017, Huntington National Bank EVP and Chief Continuous Improvement Officer Jeff Sturm showed how the organization has instilled leadership behaviors that are helping sustain a years-long cultural change effort. Sturm’s session, along with that of afternoon keynote Tim Judge, is available to stream in full-length and “ShortCut” versions on our members-only website.

Next year … COE already has a number of events listed on its website. Check out our roster – and grab your seat soon for Leading Through Excellence 2018, April 10-12!

Huntington, Fisher leadership keynotes available in full-length, “ShortCut” streaming formats

How can we drive the results we get as leaders by changing the questions we ask?

What does it mean to be a leader of vision, of purpose?

The Center for Operational Excellence explored these critical leadership questions in its final event of year on Dec. 8, featuring keynotes from a top leader at Columbus’s Huntington National Bank and a renowned management researcher who recently joined the faculty at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business.

Fisher professor and management expert Tim Judge closed out COE’s final event of the year

Both keynote addresses from Jeff Sturm, Huntington’s executive vice president and chief continuous improvement officer, and Tim Judge, Joseph A. Alutto Chair in Leadership Effectiveness, are now available in the Digital Content Archive of COE’s members-only website in their full versions, along with their presentation decks and a 15-minute video cut. The latter version – dubbed “ShortCuts” – is part of a new member benefit being rolled out throughout 2018, in which notable COE presentations will be available in a shorter format, suitable for breaks or team “lunch and learn” discussions.

Other available ShortCuts include September presentations from LeanCor CEO Robert Martichenko and Goodyear executive Billy Taylor, with at least two more coming in January.

Access all of these versions in COE’s Digital Content Archive by entering your unique, validated member username and password (Don’t have one yet? Get that here). The Digital Content Archive, which includes more than 100 past presentations, is just one part of the broader Members Only site, which also offers:

  • Exclusive access to session livestreams;
  • PDF presentations from COE’s annual Leading Through Excellence summit; and
  • A newly debuted MBA student resume book offering.

Fisher launches new analytics master’s degree program

In your pocket. On your wrist. In your shopping cart. On your browser.

Data are everywhere, and companies’ demand for workers who have the skills to translate those into insights is only growing by the day. The McKinsey Global Institute has predicted a gap of nearly 200,000 workers in the U.S. with deep analytical skills – just by next year. The gap for data-savvy managers with analytical skills is even wider, at 1.5 million and counting.

The Center for Operational Excellence’s home at Fisher College of Business is responding to this gap by launching a new graduate degree that’s set to offer its first classes next fall: the Specialized Master of Business in Business Analytics (SMB-A). In announcing the program last month, Fisher said the program is built to equip professionals with an understanding of the science of data analytics and its impact on business innovation, productivity and growth. Applications are being accepted now.

“Fisher’s SMB-A program directly addresses this workforce need and the needs of countless businesses and organizations around the world,” said Greg Allenby, co-academic director of the SMB-A program and a professor of marketing and logistics. “Data and data collection is in everything we do — from how we shop, to how we choose our music to how we consume our news and entertainment.

The SMB-A program is the third master’s program Fisher has launched in the past decade and comes just nine years after the debut of the Master of Business Operational Excellence program. MBOE, which launched largely as a result of COE member demand, has trained hundreds of lean leaders since its inception in 2008 and is heading into its 10th cohort next month.

Fisher’s latest innovation, the SMB-A, also represents another example of the college’s continuing efforts to accommodate the schedules of working professionals. After rolling out course options and offering weekend bus service for students in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Dayton this year, Fisher announced the SMB-A program will be a blend of online and weekend classes.

Spanning 10 months, the program has a curriculum built around descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics and includes a “capstone” project using real data from students’ employers or other businesses partnering with Fisher.

Waleed Muhanna, co-academic director of the SMB-A program and a professor of accounting and management information systems at Fisher, called the program a “relevant, high-impact graduate degree that appeals to professionals from across multiple fields and industries.”

“Those who enroll in the SMB-A are taking control of their career development as data-savvy professionals and consultants and are choosing to elevate themselves as leaders in an area that is critical to business now and for generations to come,” Muhanna said.

Want to know more? Check out the SMB-A website.

Leadership principles in Huntington transformation focus of December keynote

“How much will this save?”

“When will this get done?”

Jeff Sturm knows leaders need the answers these questions get. He also knows there’s a better way to ask.

“’When will this get done’ is a legitimate question,” said Sturm, Huntington’s Chief Continuous Improvement Officer, “but if you ask it over and over – and at the wrong time – you’re going to drive the wrong behavior.”

jeff sturm
Jeff Sturm

Changing leadership behaviors – starting with how they ask questions of their people – is a key component of a wide-ranging operational excellence transformation rounding out its fourth year at the Columbus-based bank, a stalwart among Midwestern financial institutions with more than $100 billion in assets. Sturm stepped in to lead the bank’s formal effort to build a culture of continuous improvement as it launched in 2014, and he’s appearing as a keynote on Dec. 8 for a seminar hosted by The Ohio State Center for Operational Excellence, where the bank has been a member since 2011. Registration for the event, open exclusively to employees of COE member companies, is open now.

Looking back at the early days of the initiative, Sturm said part of the foundational work was in communicating what the culture change wouldn’t be.

“Most people’s perception of continuous improvement was two things: this very rigorous Six Sigma orientation, and that everything was about expense reduction,” Sturm said. “Really, we wanted to help better equip our employees to have more formality around their problem solving to help in the day-to-day.”

The road map driving Huntington’s continuous improvement efforts is a three-pronged strategy that aligns employees on establishing cultural behaviors, creating capable colleagues and delivering results. That’s operationalized, Sturm said, as “making great, customer-centric, process-focused, data-driven decisions.”

Four years in, Sturm said a key focus is sustaining momentum. Huntington closed a $3.4 billion merger deal with Akron’s FirstMerit Corp. last year, and CEO Steve Steinour told Crain’s Cleveland Business this fall that Huntington is “investing in growing.”

A sustained continuous improvement capability, Sturm said, is critical to what the bank has achieved – and what’s in store.

“Our team has really focused on making sure we’re helping creating a culture where our people are able to identify and take advantage of opportunities because of that growth,” Sturm said.

Learn more about Huntington’s operational excellence journey on Friday, Dec. 8, when Sturm’s 10:30 a.m. keynote will be followed by a presentation on keys to visionary leadership from Tim Judge, the executive director of the Leadership Initiative at Fisher College of Business and a top-ranked researcher in the field.

COE accepting breakout session proposals for 2018 summit

Have a story of transformational change at your organization you’d like to share? Have research-based insights that can help business professionals develop their leadership or problem-solving skills?

The Ohio State University Center for Operational Excellence is accepting proposals for breakout sessions at its 2018 Leading Through Excellence summit, set for April 10-12 at the Fawcett Center on Ohio State’s campus. For attendees, the 25 breakout sessions to be offered at the event – spread across April 11 and 12 in five 60- and 75-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, between five and 10 sessions will be drawn from submitted proposals. All session presenters receive complimentary admission to the summit.

Think you’re ready to submit a proposal for a breakout session on April 11 or 12? 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 Jan. 15, 2018, at the latest.

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

COE celebrates 25-year milestone

The Ohio State University Center for Operational Excellence is celebrating its quarter-century milestone, which was formally recognized at a Sept. 15 seminar, where featured keynotes included LeanCor CEO Robert Martichenko and Goodyear executive Billy Taylor.

Check out the resources below to review recaps, video and photos from the event …

leancor robert martichenko
LeanCor Supply Chain Group CEO Robert Martichenko was one of two featured speakers for COE’s 25th anniversary celebration.

‘We have to connect the business’ – LeanCor Founder and CEO Robert Martichenko draws from his more than 20 years in lean supply chain leadership to share insights on how businesses need to speak a “new language” to truly deliver customer value in an era of unprecedented disruption.

For COE members: Access a full-length and 15-minute highlight recording of Martichenko’s keynote in COE’s members-only Digital Content Archive (authenticated user account required).

Goodyear executive Billy Taylor closed out COE’s 25th anniversary celebration.

‘Engaged, empowered people are your greatest asset’ – Billy Taylor, who oversees all North American manufacturing for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., delivers a dynamic keynote address focusing on his experience as a plant manager, where he discovered the value of engaging employees and giving them a sense of ownership over corporate strategy. Check out a 15-minute highlight video of Taylor’s keynote below …

For COE members: In addition to the 15-minute preview above, access a full-length recording of Taylor’s keynote in COE’s members-only Digital Content Archive (authenticated user account required).

peter ward coe 25th anniversary

‘Our members lead the way’ – COE Co-Director Peter Ward reflects on 25 years of the center partnering with the operational excellence business community and offers insights on what’s ahead. Ward, who has been with COE in some capacity since its founding in 1992, says the center quickly learned “our best ideas came when we listened.”

brutus buckeye peg pennington

A quarter-century celebration – Get your photo with Brutus Buckeye during the celebratory lunch at COE’s September seminar? Check out an album of photos from Brutus’ visit and download your photo via our Flickr page. To download a photo: Click on the image and, on the page that appears, select the downward-facing arrow to the bottom-right of the photo.

COE at 25: A look back – and ahead

The following is a lightly edited version of remarks COE Co-Director Peter Ward delivered at COE’s 25th anniversary celebration on Sept. 15, 2017.

peter ward coe 25th anniversary
COE Co-Director and Fisher College of Business Senior Associate Dean Peter Ward delivering formal remarks at COE’s 25th anniversary celebration.

We spend a lot of time as organizations preparing ourselves for the future, and that’s a smart move given the change we see all around us. But on the occasion of the Center for Operational Excellence’s 25th anniversary, let’s take a moment and look back.

In 1992, the then-new dean of today’s Fisher College of Business, Joe Alutto, visited the Department of Management Sciences with a compliment (of sorts) – and a challenge. The department, he said, was making strides in academic research and students loved the classes, but a disconnect existed with local industry. Can that change?

Our journey started there, with the founding of the Center for Excellence in Manufacturing Management, which the university recognized in the summer of 1992.

Getting started

After our first four members signed on — Central States Can, Lennox Industries, Copeland Corp. and Ross Labs — we quickly realized a very important lesson that’s become central to everything we’ve done in the quarter-century since: Our best ideas came when we listened, rather than when we talked. Hearing our members’ needs has directed COE’s path from the beginning and that continues. Our members’ issues are our issues, and our members lead the way.

That same momentum from our members helped us understand in the center’s first years that operational excellence wasn’t solely for manufacturing. Leadership, problem solving and process improvement are key to all industries – and that’s what led us to change our name to the Center for Operational Excellence little more than a decade after being founded. As we welcomed into the fold companies from the banking, insurance and healthcare industries, our members once again helped set our course and, ultimately, bring meaning to our work.

In 25 years, we’ve racked up some impressive numbers: five summits; 95 quarterly meetings; 300 COE-sponsored research papers; 500 workshops, seminars and tours; 700 student internships secured through COE member companies; and more than 20,000 admissions to our events.

But the true measure of the impact our members have helped make, for me, is in the moments that don’t have a number: The manager who lost his job in tough economic times and leveraged his center relationships to bring new vitality to his career; the MBA student who struggled to define herself until she tapped into the world of operational excellence; or the executive struggling with a seemingly insurmountable problem who turned to center colleagues for a solution. Our journey is teeming with these stories.

The next 25 … 

brutus buckeye peg pennington
Brutus Buckeye stopped by COE’s 25 anniversary celebration to ring in the occasion with Executive Director Peg Pennington.

After 25 years, a big question looms: Where to from here? The pace of change increases every day, and it’s by no means a stretch to assume the business world will evolve more in the next five years than it has in the last 25. One thing will hold constant, though: We’ll still need problem solvers, we’ll still need leaders, and we’ll still need people like our members, who work at the intersection of problem solving and leadership.

As we begin our next 25-year stretch, it’s the ideas and challenges of our members that will determine our future. Thanks for making us a part of your journey – I can’t wait to see what’s next …

Peter Ward
Co-Director, COE
Senior Associate Dean, Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University

Goodyear’s Billy Taylor: ‘Engaged, empowered people are your greatest asset’

Billy Taylor wrapped up a three-year stint running Goodyear’s manufacturing plant in Lawton, Oklahoma, with more than a few reasons to be proud.

Under his leadership, safety improved, processes streamlined, and projects racked up millions of dollars in savings. The turnaround job was enough to win the coveted Shingo Prize Silver Medallion for Operational Excellence, what’s been dubbed the “Nobel Prize for operations.”

It was, Taylor thought, his ticket to world headquarters.

The powers that be had other things in mind, dispatching him from one challenge to his next: A plant in Fayetteville, N.C., where demand for tires was outstripping the production pace by nearly 20 percent. In Taylor’s first two weeks walking the floor as plant director, he made it his mission to “seek to understand before I sought to change.”

The diagnosis: “I had great people but they didn’t understand what winning was,” Taylor said.

‘Most leaders struggle with letting go’

The story of the successful Fayetteville turnaround was just the next step in a journey that eventually led Taylor to where he is today, overseeing all North America manufacturing for the iconic, $15 billion-a-year brand and Center for Operational Excellence member. Taylor shared insights from his decades driving transformational change during his keynote address at COE’s 25th anniversary celebration in September, where nearly 200 industry leaders gathered to ring in the center’s quarter-century milestone.

Taylor’s insights on leadership are rooted in a passion for engaging people, a core element of transformational change that’s become the centerpiece of his frequent speaking engagements.

“Great leaders respect their people,” he said. “If you make people visible, they will make you valuable.”

Reflecting on the Oklahoma and North Carolina plant turnarounds, Taylor said the crucial next step after defining winning was in giving his front-line employees a sense of ownership in executing on the plant’s broader strategy. Though essential, it’s not always easy for managers, he said.

“Most leaders struggle with letting go,” Taylor said. “People are not your greatest asset. Engaged, empowered people who own your strategy are your greatest asset.”

By putting that into action, Taylor said, he ultimately oversaw a transformation in Fayetteville that resulted in a 14 percent bump in tire production with a 4 percent drop in hours worked – “no investment, no additional equipment, just ownership.”

Sustaining this culture of continuous improvement, Taylor said, means building a regular cadence around recognizing people as they execute on strategy and “celebrating the process” that’s driving gains. And it’s something he says he still does as one of the highest-ranking leaders in the company.

“Now that I run North America, it’s still simple. I still show up to celebrate the process, and I never miss the opportunity to share best practices.”

Billy Taylor was a featured keynote at COE’s fall seminar along with LeanCor Supply Chain Group CEO Robert Martichenko, who stressed the importance of connecting different parts of the business to create a lean culture.

A 15-minute recap and full-length recording for each session are available in the Digital Content Archive on COE’s members-only website (authenticated account required for access).