LeanCor CEO: Collaborative ‘ecosystem’ perspective critical to business success today

When Robert Martichenko isn’t running his company, LeanCor Supply Chain Group, he’s probably thinking about lean. And when he’s thinking about lean, he’s probably writing about it, too.

While his passion for storytelling might be a source of productivity and relaxation, Martichenko also says it’s a key leadership capability that’s too often overlook or underdeveloped.

“As leaders, we have to work harder to tell stories,” he told a crowd of nearly 200 at the Center for Operational Excellence’s 25th anniversary celebration. “Anybody can put 10 bullet points on a slide and build 50 slides. What’s the story? Why are we doing this? What’s important? We have to become closer to the narrative.”

‘We are a business, we are a system’

Martichenko kicked off COE’s fall seminar and quarter-century celebration with a compelling narrative of his own: Where he sees the future of lean thinking and lean management in a business world changing by the minute – and leaving some destruction in its wake.

“Fundamentally, we’re going to have to do something differently,” Martichenko said. “At this point, what’s happening on the outside is happening faster than what’s happening on the inside.”

Martichenko’s insights for how companies can leverage lean concepts to survive and thrive in a disruption-rich world are rooted in his personal journey as a business leader. He began his career in the transportation and warehouse industries, where he identified a need to integrate lean principles and techniques across the entire value stream. He founded LeanCor 12 years ago to meet that need and has grown the business into a leader in advancing the world’s supply chains. Just two years ago, Martichenko was honored with the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ Distinguished Service Award, the industry’s highest honor.

A supply chain-based “ecosystem” perspective is what Martichenko sees as a foundation for survival and growth today.

“The next frontier … is not about technology, or about apps – this is about core processes and functions and saying, ‘We are a business, we are a system, and as a system we need to manage it together,’” he said. “Do you really want to fail instead of getting three executives together and saying, ‘Can you please start collaborating?’”

What’s preventing leaders from the four core business processes — strategy, product life-cycle management, sales and marketing, supply chain operations — from doing this? Martichenko says it’s often a bias around our area of the business that skews our perspective and limits our ability to make the best decisions for the broader ecosystem.

“If you’re willing to step outside your safety zone, it will be amazing what you see,” he said.

Creating a culture with greater visibility and better alignment, Martichenko said, ultimately will generate the kinds of feedback systems that can enable the agility and flexibility businesses need today.

“All the technology we need for the supply chain to go from the supplier to the end customer is there,” he said. “What we don’t have is an equal amount of momentum from what actually happened back to the people in the business.”

Robert Martichenko was a featured keynote at COE’s fall seminar along with Goodyear executive Billy Taylor, who stressed the importance of people-inclusion processes in transformational change.  

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 member account required).

September keynotes bring passion, leadership lessons to 25th anniversary celebration

(Keynote Billy Taylor delivering a keynote address at an event in Kansas last year. Photo courtesy Topeka Capital-Journal)

As the Center for Operational Excellence rings in its quarter-century milestone next month, the keynotes taking the stage are bringing nearly a half-century of transformational leadership experience.

The center’s fall seminar and official 25th anniversary celebration is coming up on Friday, Sept. 15, with limited seating still available for in-person attendance. Presenting and livestreaming will be two renowned process excellence leaders: Opening up the day at 10:30 a.m. is Robert Martichenko, CEO of LeanCor Supply Chain Group and an award-winning business leader and author. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. executive Billy Taylor takes the stage at 1 p.m. with his insights on “people-driven operational excellence,” which he’s presented to wide acclaim at conferences around the world.

Both keynotes bookend a networking lunch and official 25th anniversary celebration, featuring a tailgate-themed meal and special appearance by Brutus Buckeye, who will be posing for photos with attendees.

While both featured keynote speakers have traveled different paths along their more than 20 years in leadership, they both bring a passion for process excellence that radiates in their dynamic presentations.

LeanCor CEO Robert Martichenko

Martichenko began his career in the transportation and warehouse industries, where he identified a need to integrate lean principles and techniques across the entire value stream. He founded LeanCor in 2005 to meet that need and has grown the business into a leader in in advancing the world’s supply chains. A decade into his run at the helm of LeanCor, Martichenko was honored with the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals’ Distinguished Service Award, the industry’s highest honor.

In his keynote, “Lessons in Lean, Lessons in Leadership,” Martichenko will share insights from his more than 20-year career of building cultures of continuous improvement, blending personal and professional experiences.

Billy Taylor, Goodyear

Taylor, a high-energy conference headliner, calls himself an “evangelist” for people-inclusion processes in organizational transformations. He spent years steering remarkable turnarounds at Goodyear plants before stepping up as director of commercial manufacturing, North America, in 2012. Taylor in 2015 took a senior role overseeing all North America manufacturing for the iconic tire brand.

In his keynote, “People-Driven Operational Excellence,” Taylor traces his journey from a fledgling plant manager to a top executive, outlining the philosophy at the heart of his drive as a leader: Operational excellence starts with empowering people and driving sustainable results through a bottom-up approach.

The pair of keynotes are part of COE’s anniversary celebration for a reason, said Executive Director Peg Pennington.

“The kind of leadership that can make the case for change, make it happen and then sustain it in the long term takes passion, compassion and a drive for continuous learning,” Pennington said. “Robert and Billy are that leader — they’re great storytellers, too — and I’m thrilled they’re joining us as we celebrate a major milestone for our center.”

COE formed in 1992 as the Center for Excellence in Manufacturing Management with four founding members, including current members Abbott Nutrition and Emerson Climate Technologies. One name change and 25 years later, COE is a network of 40 member companies pursuing process excellence by connecting with each other, with top business leaders and with faculty and student resources at Fisher.

All attendees at the Sept. 15 session will receive a commemorative COE anniversary item and a copy of Martichenko’s latest book, Discovering Hidden Profit. The event, open to COE members and invited guests, remains open for registration via live attendance or webcasting.

COE ringing in 25th anniversary at September seminar

The Center for Operational Excellence is ringing in a momentous anniversary with a celebration in September featuring two standout keynotes.

COE’s fall kickoff seminar – a formal celebration of its 25th anniversary – is set for Friday, Sept. 15, where Robert Martichenko, CEO of LeanCor Supply Chain Group, and Billy Taylor, head of North America Manufacturing for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., are set to present. The sessions will bookend a tailgate-themed networking lunch … with some to-be-announced special guests.

LeanCor CEO Robert Martichenko

Both keynote speakers are renowned storytellers who bring a blend of personal and professional experiences to their respective stories of spending decades driving transformational change. Martichenko, set to keynote at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 15, founded LeanCor with a mission to advance the world’s supply chains through training, consulting and third-party logistics. He’s emerged as a globally recognized thought leader in lean thinking and end-to-end supply chain management, as well as an award-winning non-fiction and fiction author.

Martichenko’s keynote, “Lessons in Lean: Lessons in Leadership,” focuses on what he’s learned while building organizational cultures focused on lean thinking and relentless business improvement.

Billy Taylor, Goodyear

Taylor of Goodyear, set to speak after lunch at 1 p.m., is a sought-after speaker and self-described “evangelist” for people-inclusion processes in operational excellence. In his keynote, “People-Driven Operational Excellence,” he charts his journey from fledgling plant manager to top leader at an iconic brand, offering insights on keys to building a high-performance, self-sustaining culture that’s the foundation for company-wide success.

Both sessions also will be offered to employees of COE member companies via live webcast, hosted and run by Mills James. Registration for webcast and in-person attendance – expected to reach capacity – will open the week of Aug. 7. Read more about both speakers on our website.

The event comes a full quarter-century after the founding of COE, which started in 1992 at the Center for Excellence in Manufacturing Management. Once narrowly focused on the application of lean in the manufacturing sector – and touting only four members – the center has grown along with the field of operational excellence to encompass the notion that process improvement principles are intrinsic to competitive edge for any industry.

Today, COE has a roster of nearly 40 member companies and engages with thousands of operations leaders across the country in the shared pursuit of building better processes in a culture of continuous learning.

Hiring, retention a growing employer concern; July event tackling ‘talent war’

For more than 20 years, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business has been polling hundreds of CFOs once a quarter, asking them what their top concerns are. For the latest survey, they saw something top the list that hadn’t done so once in all 84 rounds before it.

According to a June report in the Wall Street Journal, results of the Duke survey found “Attracting and retaining qualified employees” topped CFOs’ list of concerns for the first time in its history. These talent acquisition and management concerns edged ahead of headline-grabbing issues such as government policies, cost of benefits, economic uncertainty and data security.

Hiring and retention challenges might have topped the list of concerns this time, but they’ve been near the top of the ranking for a number of quarters in the past few years, indicating the issue has broken out of the human resources silo and become a major consideration in businesses’ ongoing efforts to stay competitive. And understanding the forces at play – demographic shifts, a skills gap, to name a few – is an imperative for more than the C-suite and the HR department. Keeping a pulse on this challenge is critical for leaders of any rank.

The Center for Operational Excellence at Ohio State is taking a deep dive Tuesday, July 18, into the so-called talent war in an event co-hosted with the university’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Fisher College of Business’ National Center for the Middle Market and Risk Institute. At this half-day, morning session, open to employees of COE members and guests, we’ll be presenting exclusive new data on work-force trends and engaging in a wide-ranging conversation with talent acquisition and management leaders from some of Ohio’s top employers.

At “Winning the Talent War,” you’ll hear insights on:

The Big Picture: Marek Gootman, fellow and director of strategic partnership and global engagements in the Global Policy Program at renowned think tank the Brookings Institution, will be presenting a mix of survey data and research-based insights from the renowned think tank focus on how companies are responding to large-scale shifts in work-force dynamics to hire and retain workers.

The Ground War: The middle section of the morning’s program will be dedicated to a panel discussion led by Fisher senior lecturer and HR expert Marc Ankerman and featuring: Tony Moore, head of talent acquisition, Marathon Petroleum Corp.; Will Shepherd, director of enterprise learning and development, Wendy’s Co.; Kathy Smith, VP talent development, Nationwide; and Kelly Wilson, VP HR-talent management, Cardinal Health.

The Pipeline: The morning concludes with a presentation from Jamie Mathews-Mead, senior director of graduate career management at Fisher, on how the college is preparing students to best meet companies’ rapidly evolving needs and how organizations can leverage Fisher to build and grow their work forces.

With less than a month remaining before the session, limited seating is available for invitees of each center. Employees of COE member companies can register now at no cost using discount code “coesummer” while non-member guests of the center can save half off the $95 admission until July 1 using discount code “coeguest.”

The centers’ collaboration hosts the second of the two-part “Top Business Challenges” sessions Wednesday, Aug. 16, where we’ll be exploring opportunities and risks surrounding data and digitization. Featured speakers include:

  • Jeremy Aston, senior director, Cisco;
  • Bruce Millard, VP digital and customer innovation, Safelite; and
  • Dennis Hirsch, Professor of Law and Director of the Program on Data and Governance, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

Registration for the August session will open the week of July 3.

Head to COE’s events site for more details on these and other upcoming sessions …

July summer session takes deep dive into critical work-force challenges

The U.S. work force is at a turning point, with change swirling everywhere: Millennials are now the largest generation in the workplace. Baby boomers – and their decades of institutional knowledge – are nearing retirement after putting it off during last decade’s recession. Constant technological leaps are rewriting the rules for the skill sets that matter.

What does this mean for organizations trying to attract and hire today’s talent? How does this change the game for their ongoing efforts to build culture and develop their existing employees?

The Center for Operational Excellence is teaming up with three other centers for a pair of summer sessions focused on today’s greatest business challenges. The first, “Human Capital and Talent Management,” tackles these vital work-force development issues and on the morning of Tuesday, July 18, at the Fawcett Center.

At this session, gain insights on this issue from three compelling angles:

  • M. Gootman, Brookings Institution

    The Big Picture: Brookings Institution Fellow Marek Gootman will be unveiling results of a new work-force survey conducted in conjunction with the National Center for the Middle Market. The survey, set to be released in late June, looks at how middle-market companies – the fastest-growing segment of the economy – are responding to large-scale shifts in work-force dynamics to hire and retain workers.

  • The Ground War: Join talent management VPs Maura Stevenson (Wendy’s) and Kelly Wilson (Cardinal Health), and Kathy Smith, AVP Executive Succession and Development at Nationwide Insurance, for a moderated panel and audience Q&A session on how their organizations are responding to these work-force trends.
  • The Pipeline: Jamie Mathews-Mead, senior director of graduate career management at Fisher closes out the session with a look at how the college is preparing students to best meet companies’ rapidly evolving needs.

After the presentations, enjoy a networking lunch with members of other Fisher and Ohio State centers. Registration is set to open in June, with limited seating available for members and partners of each center.

The second summer session, set for Wednesday, Aug. 16, focuses on the explosion of data and digital disruption companies face and features a keynote from Jeremy Aston, senior director at communication tech giant Cisco. More details will be announced next month.

Check out all of COE’s upcoming events on our website …

Retail CEO headlining June women’s event

When apparel retailer J.Jill went public on the New York Stock Exchange in March, it was worth noting for a few reasons.

Paula Bennett

First, the Quincy, Mass.-based company’s IPO was the first such debut of 2017. Second, the company is led by CEO Paula Bennett. Female CEOs are rare atop the corporate ladder – and as for IPOs? They’re virtually nonexistent. Less than 3% of all IPOs in the past decade have been led by a female CEO.

Bennett is joining the Center for Operational Excellence at its next Women’s Leadership Forum on Friday, June 23, where employees of member companies are invited to network over breakfast and then hear her insights on how she’s enabled her team to deliver consistent profitable growth within a shifting retail landscape. Bennett also will share how the J. Jill team has turned obstacles into opportunities to create a strong and growing business with a loyal and growing customer base.

If you’re not familiar with J.Jill, the company has 275 stores in 43 states targeting affluent customers in the 40-65 age segment. The company has an omni-channel platform that spans its retail stores, website and catalogs.

J.Jill reported sales for its most recent fiscal year of $639 million, making it part of the fast-growing middle-market retail segment. The company was founded in 1959 – its name is a nod to the co-founders’ daughters – with its only sales channel through catalogs. The company jumped into e-commerce and opened its first retail stores in 1999. In recent years, J.Jill has seen robust top- and bottom-line growth as it has expanded, culminating in its spring IPO.

If you’re an employee of a COE member and are interested in attending the event, click here to read more or register now.

Urban Meyer at summit: ‘Empower your people, give them ownership’

The speaker kicking off the final day of the Center for Operational Excellence’s Leading Through Excellence summit needed no introduction.

Just days out from the spring game, Buckeyes Head Football Coach Urban Meyer joined the sold-out crowd of more than 400 attendees at the summit to share his insights on leadership and team-building at Ohio State, his 2012 return he called coming back to “a school I love, a state I love, really a dream.”

Here are highlights of his keynote:

On his mentors, Earle Bruce and Lou Holtz: “I’m humbled to say those two are my mentors, and I wouldn’t be here today without them. That’s how much I love those guys and appreciate what they taught me.”

On his philosophy of any team, inside or outside sports: “Every group has a breakdown of 10-80-10. That first 10 percent are the elite, the core of any organization. The 80 percent are average, and then you have the bottom 10 percent: the defiant, the disinterested. We want to harness the power of the elite, grow the 80, and eliminate the bottom 10.”

On transforming the average into the elite: “You have to empower your people, give them ownership somehow.”

On motivation: “If your people deep down think you can make them great, you can coach harder and demand more. That person has to believe they can be great and you have to sell that.”

On the importance of alignment: “When you’re dealing with masses of people, you have to be very clear on the purpose of your organization and the alignment has to be very good. You have to make sure your mission statement, alignment and culture are so clear that if people don’t operate in that culture, it’s insubordination. In so many organizations, it’s a gray area.”

On benchmarking: “Always learn. There’s always someone out there doing a great job with something.”

Looking for more on the 2017 summit? Check out a recap of keynote Don Sull and a look back at the entire event in pictures.

‘Power of Habit’ author Duhigg set for 2018 summit keynote

When New York Times investigative reporter Charles Duhigg took the stage at the Center for Operational Excellence’s first-ever Leading Through Excellence summit to share insights from his book The Power of Habit, he probably didn’t realize he was on the cusp of a breakthrough.

A mere three days after his summit keynote, he was part of a team at the Times awarded the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for the newspaper’s series on Apple’s business practices and the changing global economy. At the same time, The Power of Habit was ramping up for a blockbuster run as a pop-science phenomenon that kept it on the bestseller list for more than a year.

In 2018, Duhigg’s journey brings him back to Ohio State.

Duhigg will serve as the featured keynote at COE’s sixth-annual Leading Through Excellence summit, set for April 10-12 at the Fawcett Center. Opening the second day of the summit on Wednesday, April 11, Duhigg will be presenting insights from Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity, his Power of Habit follow-up.

In Smarter Faster Better, Duhigg explores why some people and companies – from CEOs and four-star generals to FBI agents and Broadway songwriters – get so much done. Duhigg in the book posits that it’s not how the most productive among us act – it’s how they view the world and their choices. In the introduction, he calls Smarter Faster Better “a book about how to recognize the choices that fuel true productivity.”

Duhigg will be one of four featured keynotes at the summit. Additional speakers are set to be announced at COE’s Sept. 15 seminar. Registration for the 2018 summit is scheduled to open Dec. 8.

Click here for a look back at COE summit 2017.

Summit keynote: Simple rules pack surprising punch

It’s a reflex for leaders in many businesses, and it drives Don Sull absolutely crazy. When a complex problem arises, leaders spring for a solution just as maddeningly complex, full of contingencies and if-thens.

The problem, he offered in his keynote at the Center for Operational Excellence’s Leading Through Excellence summit: “Just because a solution is complex does not mean it’s better (than a simple one).”

Sull, a researcher and lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-author of Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World, kicked off the second day of COE’s fifth-annual summit with a crowd of more than 400. Detailing the surprising findings of Simple Rules, he offered a path forward on a critical challenge to business leaders in a wide variety of industries: How can critical processes be structured but still have “breathing room” for creativity and innovation?

The answer, culled from years of research, mostly at tech companies in Silicon Valley, is the concept of “simple rules,” a small, concise and appropriately specific set of guiding principles that can transform a hazy path forward into a sure thing. These rules, Sull said, can be helpful in situations ranging from resource allocation and knowing when to call it quits on a project to turning analysis into action (think Moneyball) and reigning in innovation.

Sull is careful to point out the many processes, by contrast, where less structure and simple rules aren’t the way to go: Surgery, high-volume manufacturing, and airplane-flying, to name just a few.

“There are a ton of processes activities where a high-structure approach is the right thing to do,” he said.

The problem, Sull said, is that so many companies apply the same structure and rigor to processes and decisions that would only benefit from a pivot to simplicity. And it’s up to us as leaders, he said, to make it happen.

“People default to complex solutions for a variety of reasons that I find intriguing and maddening,” Sull said. “As leaders, you have a choice.”

For a full look back at the summit, head to our photo retrospective.

COE Summit 2017: In Pictures

The Center for Operational Excellence launched its first-ever Leading Through Excellence summit in 2013 with a crowd of 200 process excellence leaders – and a vision for bringing together teams from a variety of companies to dive into the latest insights on leadership development and problem solving.

Just this month, COE concluded its fifth-annual summit, smashing records with a sold-out event that brought more than 400 change agents from more than 50 companies to Columbus. Here’s a look back at the event in pictures from photographer Jodi Miller:

Nearly three-dozen breakout sessions, workshops and keynotes take place at the Fawcett Center over Leading Through Excellence‘s three-day span, but hundreds of attendees also head off-site as well. COE member Engineered Profiles, led by President Mike Davis, hosted one of several tours during the summit, offering attendees an inside look at how the manufacturer sustains leader standard work in the plant and office sides of the business.

COE featured a leadership icon in sports – Buckeyes Football Coach Urban Meyer – as one of its keynote speakers. Meyer encouraged the crowd to “empower your people, give them ownership,” outlining how his trademark 10-80-10 philosophy allows him to leverage the talents of his elite players to build excellence throughout the team.

How can the A3 problem-solving structure be leveraged to involve all members of your team and generate discussion? Cal Poly Prof. Eric Olsen took 50 Leading Through Excellence attendees through an interactive workshop exploring lean facilitation methods that can be adopted at any organization.

Keynote speaker Donald Sull, a senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, brought key insights from his book Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World. Sull and co-author Kathleen Eisenhardt set out to see how the best companies balance the need for standardization and efficiency with creativity and innovation. Sull offered that “simple solutions aren’t always better than complex ones, but just because it’s complex doesn’t mean it’s better.”

Fisher College of Business students are a vital element of Leading Through Excellence, where they volunteer on tours and introduce speakers and showcase some of their own work. Here, students share takeaways from Six Sigma projects they completed at non-profit and for-profit organizations in the Columbus area.

Dozens of teams from companies across the country – including this group from COE member and summit sponsor Huntington Bank, pictured here with Executive Director Peg Pennington (far left) – use the summit to hit “pause” on their schedules at the office and search for new insights they can use upon their return.

Summit breakout sessions are a mix of insights from Ohio State researchers and presentations from leaders at a wide variety of companies. Here, American Woodmark Corp. CEO Cary Dunston opens up on his journey as a leader and the crucial role of emotional intelligence.

 How can the art of storytelling be used in business to make a case for change? Aditi Patil (pictured, top right image) and Tony West of ThedaCare in their full-day workshop guided attendees on how to blend “hand,” “head” and “heart” to tell impactful stories as leaders.

Fisher Prof. and Associate Dean Elliot Bendoly, one of several faculty researchers featured at the summit, shared results from recent research he’s conducted on how cutting cycle time in different stages of research and development can help – or harm – market performance.

Businesses can’t ignore the digital revolution and have to decide “if you’re going to be the taxi cab or Uber,” keynote and Mindset Digital CEO Debra Jasper says in her presentation. 

Summit closing keynote Chris Yeh, (Buckeye fan and) co-author of The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age, argued that companies today need to view their employees less as a family and more as a team, empowered to reach outside to their extended networks to help solve tough challenges. “People are your differentiator,” Yeh said.

For a look at all summit photos, head to our Flickr page.

Want to join us in 2018? We’re back April 10-12 with featured keynote and The Power of Habit author Charles Duhigg.