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.

Business = People + Processes + Value

We might be fresh off our Dec. 7 professional development meeting featuring Worthington Industries President Mark Russell and Fisher College of Business Professor Jeff Ford, but we’re already deep into planning our event roster for next year. One of the process improvement experts you’ll have access to in 2013 is Art Byrne, author of the book The Lean Turnaround and a guest Tuesday on a regular slate of webcasts hosted by our friends at the Lean Enterprise Institute.

Byrne (pictured in an image courtesy business901.com) has experience implementing lean transformations in more than 30 companies and has spent time as a CEO, at telecommunications manufacturer Wiremold. While Byrne bills his book as one aimed at CEOs, it’s more because he views the lean turnaround from a business perspective, not simply through its key tools – and that’s a viewpoint anyone can use.

Set to speak at a May 9, 2013, COE event, Byrne touches on how the tools fit into the larger picture and how they can help develop a sustained lean culture. I like best, however, his views on the importance of perspective in lean turnarounds:

“I look at (a lean turnaround) in a very simplistic way, which is that business is a combination of people, processes and trying to deliver value to customers,” Byne told the webcast audience. “If you make it more complicated than that I’m afraid you’re just hurting yourself.”

He also takes aim at the ages-old CEO talking point of a “strategy to create shareholder value.”

“That’s a result, not a strategy,” Byrne said, adding that creating values for customers should be the strategy.

His most pointed piece of advice, though, came when discussing how damaging accepting the status quo can be, in matters as specific as lead time and as overarching as an organization’s perceived success.

“If you’re leading a business and you don’t want to dramatically improve results, from my perspective you’re in the wrong job.”

Keep an eye out on our site early next year for details on Byrne’s visit to the Fisher College of Business.

MBOE recap: Opening the toolbox

The MBOE program trains our students to be leading problem-solvers in their organization by providing the tools they need and, more importantly, teaching the behavior that creates lasting change. This week, we started handing out the tools.

Peg Pennington, a senior lecturer and Executive Director of the Center for Operational Excellence, kicked off MBOE’s second day of week one by walking students through the DMAIC methodology. This gets them ready for their journey toward green and black belts in the program, which uses the online Moresteam University modules. DMAIC (check out the breakdown in the image) helps students define, measure, analyze, improve and control the change they are working on in implementing at their organization. The modules will also help them prepare for the Six Sigma exam.

Another important tool is the A3 problem-solving method, which Executive-in-Residence Gary Butler introduced. Most of us are used to seeing a 100-slide PowerPoint describing a problem and all the steps that were taken to address it. With the A3 method, it’s all on an 11×17 sheet, and not just by writing in fine print but by being very specific about the problem.  It’s not only a good problem-solving tool but a great communication tool. An attention span, after all, does much better with one slide than 100!

We also wasted no time getting students to their first gemba. The assignment: Visit various areas in Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State and Riverside Methodist Hospital, speak with people there and develop a problem statement. The goal was to help students understand that what you hear from people the first time are mostly symptoms. Observing the process and getting data to support the problem really help in the end. On a short visit with no data, a situation you might find yourself in at some point like our students, it’s important to keep these things in mind:

  • Keep an open mind. What you think is a problem may not be the problem.
  • Don’t walk in with a solution. When you have a solution in mind, you tend to listen less and lose out on the information you could potentially receive from people/frontline staff.
  • Listen. Make a note of issues/symptoms. They might not be directly related to the problem, but you might find good ideas to help people understand what’s in it for them when you come back to implement countermeasures and gain their buy-in.

MBOE recap: Simplicity doesn’t have to be complex

Fisher Senior Lecturer Mrinalini Gadkari is breaking down a recent week in the life of Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence program. Stay tuned this week for more. 

Lynn Kelley, VP of continuous improvement at Union Pacific, recently challenged students with two really interesting questions:

  • If complexity is so bad from a lean perspective, why is it prevalent in our organizations?
  • And why is simplicity resisted?
Lynn Kelley Union Pacific
Lynn Kelley, at a recent COE women’s leadership forum.

Lynn’s presentation to our MBOE students focused on the criteria behind the success and failure of lean implementations. From her current position and previous role as process improvement VP for Textron, Kelley offered up suggestions on how to develop, execute and sustain strategy.

But back to those questions. Kelley offered up this explanation: The tools we learn in continuous improvement can help us simplify processes. But continuous improvement is fraught with pitfalls. I’ll close with a few of those she listed:

  • We make continuous improvement overly complicated. In other words, “Just do it” becomes a long project.
  • Our solution might end up adding complexity or bureaucracy.
  • Our measurement of the initiative’s process might add complexity or bureaucracy.

Beyond being a great process improvement coach, Kelley has worked regularly with COE in the past through its women’s forums, helping our members fight the unproductive competition that often arises among women in the workplace. She’s pictured in this post at a recent COE forum.

MBOE recap: Tying it back to principles

Fisher Senior Lecturer Mrinalini Gadkari is breaking down a recent week in the life of Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence program. Stay tuned this week for more. 

Prof. Gary Butler at a recent MBOE session

Prof. Gary Butler emphasized the importance of creating a link with lean tools, systems and principles in creating and sustaining culture change. Most companies, he said, are great at implementing lean tools, but unless they’re tied to strategic company goals and a system exists that nurtures those changes, it’s impossible to sustain lean change – or any change, for that matter.

As an example, a company might implement 5S to organize multiple work areas to improve workflow and create a safe environment for the operators. In a few weeks, however, things tend to go back to how they were. This is often because the 5S process wasn’t tied to a deeper strategic goal. Often there’s a lack of a system where operators and managers can have first- and second-level daily meetings where problems, if any, are signaled to upstream operations. Managers who don’t go to the gemba to see the actual state of the flow are unlikely to have a sustained 5S environment as well.

Here are some key takeaways from Butler’s lecture:

  • Operational Excellence requires a vision of the future state
  • It requires a plan for gap closure between the current and future state
  • No strategy can be executed successfully without communication throughout the organization
  • Day-by-day perseverance is required to take small steps toward the future state vision.

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…

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.

‘Adversity is a part of life’

The arc of Gail Marsh’s personal and professional life is part success story and part cautionary tale – and she’d acknowledge that as much as anyone.

Gail was gracious enough to share that story as part of a regular series of women’s leadership breakfasts the Center for Operational Excellence hosts, sparking a discussion with nearly two-dozen women from our member companies and students at the Fisher College of Business (check out more photos here). The strategy chief for the gargantuan operation that is the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University, Gail also is actively involved in community efforts around town. Those garnered her the honor of being named one of six Women of Achievement by the YWCA of Columbus last year.

Gail Marsh Wexner Medical Center
Gail Marsh shared her story and offered insights at a COE women's leadership forum.

If that isn’t enough, she’s a mother to three children she raises with her husband, Dr. Clay Marsh, an OSU professor and vice dean for research in Health Sciences and the College of Medicine.

Listening to Gail speak last week, I was impressed with how her story contains not only great wisdom for women but for anyone who works hard for what he or she earns and takes a step back, wondering how to balance it all. An undergraduate and master’s degree-earner from OSU, Gail was the proud owner of post-graduate student loans as she worked her way up in the male-dominated world of health-care administration, found love and started a family. It was the loss her mother that prompted her to realize she was moving too fast, life was too short and she needed to hit the reset button. With that, she began to create a work-life balance she says she’s still working to perfect, even though it has the flexibility she needs.

Not that her flexible schedule came on a silver platter.

“You have to be stellar at what you do for people to give you flexibility,” she said. “Everybody is balancing things.”

Some other wisdom Gail imparted at our event:

On taking the plunge into community service: “If you wait until all your work is done, your laundry’s done and all your kids have straight As you’ll never do it.”

On the secret to her own life: “Understanding that adversity is a part of life is the secret to my life now. It’s just going to be that way.”

On career mobility: “I like to think my promotions in the medical center have been because I know how to solve problems.”

Check out more from Gail in a video tied to her Women of Achievement honor.

MBOE recap: The Weakest Link (…goodbye.)

Students in Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence cohort are back on campus for their second week together in the year-long program. Senior lecturer Mrinalini Gadkari is on the scene for daily recaps.

As lean guru Tracey Richardsontaught our MBOE students the problem-solving process at Toyota, the thing that amazed me the most was that she rarely used the word “car” or anything close to it. She spent a major part of her time talking about culture and people instead, asking: “Does your company have values?” More importantly, she said, is whether your people believe in them. That, Richardson said, is the weakest link in a company.  Most organizations boast having values, but do leaders have the discipline to live them and hold people accountable? Have they internalized the values to reflect in their character? That’s where most organizations lag.

Tracey Richardson
Tracey Richardson coaches Fisher’s MBOE cohort

An example of a good leader sticking to values, in this case safety, remains in my mind: This company’s CEO was walking with me down a hallway when he noticed a paper clip on the floor. Without a moment’s hesitation, he bent down to pick it up, threw it away and we kept walking. He didn’t have to say a word. That company’s core value was conveyed through that action. 

Culture begins with leaders. People internalize what they see and hear their leaders doing consistently. The “true north” goal at Toyota can be described in one line: Customer first, the highest quality product, lowest cost, shortest lead time, safest manner, while respecting people. At Toyota, to create the highest quality product, they hire the right people in a systematic manner, train them to continue to have standardized processes, encourage them to highlight and solve problems in a systematic manner and value their inputs. Once a month, Richardson said, the president of Toyota would go to the shop floor and spend two hours working on the line, letting front-line staff help the manager on other processes. What a commitment from the president!

Discuss: How do you see the core values of your organization play out in everyday ways?