Show me what you got

I got my first real taste of old-fashioned, machismo-fueled negotiation when I wrecked my car earlier this year. Thankfully, I wasn’t the driver to blame, wasn’t hurt and was driving a 15-year-old parental hand-me-down I secretly wished would suffer that fate. Nonetheless, one totaled vehicle meant finding another with a settlement check from an insurance company in tow – and both of those would put me face-to-face with people who assured me they were giving me the best deal they could but were clearly lying through their teeth.

In both scenarios, I (naturally) feel I came out on top in retrospect. Talking an insurance adjuster into a few hundred extra dollars is no small feat and my performance in the car salesman’s office would make Ryan Gosling jealous.

I thought about both of those negotiations last week, when the Center for Operational Excellence hosted a forum for our member companies’ administrative assistants. The brave souls that trekked through an unusually blustery and snowy Columbus day got a hands-on crash course in negotiation from Maggie Lewis, a lecturer in the Fisher College of Business. Unfortunately, that thinking led me to realize the kind of negotiating I did wasn’t that tricky. I cared nothing for the results or the feelings on the other end of the table, a classic “win-lose scenario.”

Maggie Lewis
Maggie Lewis, presenting at COE’s administrative assistants forum

The kind of negotiating we do in our lives as lean thinkers is much tougher than balking at a sticker price. In a realm where responsibility is shared, blame is avoided at all cost and flow requires buy-in and cooperation from everyone involved, negotiation is a tightrope walk. On one end is the current state, riddled with problems and inefficiencies, and on the other is the future state your pursuit of operational excellence will take you. The last thing you need is a disgruntled colleague with a good pair of garden shears.

Lewis during her presentation made a few comments that struck me for their deep relationship to lean principles, chief among them: “Negotiation is just problem solving.” Any manager could tell you that sentence works in both directions.

MBOE recap: Who is Tim Wood?

Students in Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence cohort kicked off their first day with an introduction to value-stream mapping by Gary Butler, an executive in residence in the Management Sciences department. After a good discussion about what value is and who the customer is, Gary gave students a handy acronym, TIM WOOD, to remember the “seven deadly wastes” in any process: Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Wait, Overproduction, Over-processing and Defect.

In the afternoon, we had the honor of listening to Steven Spear, author of The High-Velocity Edgeand a well-recognized expert on leadership, innovation and operational excellence. Steve articulated the inside mechanism of the Toyota Production System in his exceptionally simple and persuasive style in two hours – using only two PowerPoint slides that centered around this question: “What’s Toyota’s real innovation? Is it their car or the management system?”

Steven Spear is the author of The High-Velocity Edge
Steven Spear is the author of The High-Velocity Edge, which examines the behaviors behind successful lean enterprises

Steve pointed out four major characteristics of the Toyota Production System, which he wrote about in a landmark 1999 article in the Harvard Business Review:

  1. System design using the best approach making the problems visible
  2. Problem solving by escalating and asking for help; containing the problem, and solving it when it is still a micro problem
  3. Knowledge sharing and applying the discoveries systematically
  4. Engaged leadership that focuses on managing systems and developing people

The day ended with students practicing current-state value-stream mapping for a simple business case of the pencil pushers and were introduced to a number of concepts. Some students struggled but it’s expected. They’re eager to learn more and had many great questions. At one point we had to remind them that they cannot learn everything in one day. There’s one whole year to go!

Here are some end-of-day reflections:

–          If Toyota has found success in nesting to address problems, why does modern business encourage a flat organization?

–          It is important to design the work such that one can see the problems

–          Mistakes are okay as long as I learn from it and make changes based on what I learned

A long day but a great day!

New operational excellence program at Fisher makes big debut

Excitement is high this week at the Fisher College of Business as we launch the first cohort of our MBOE Healthcare Program. MBOE, by the way, stands for Master of Business Operational Excellence, a program we introduced three years ago with a group of students mostly from the manufacturing and service industries. In the last cohort, however, we noticed nearly half of the students were from the health-care sector – and what we did about it is this very program.

Dean Poon
Dean Poon speaking to the MBOE class

MBOE Healthcare is a one-year program focused on achieving operational excellence using lean and Six Sigma, combined with effective leadership skills and team engagement techniques. The program aims to develop each student – a manager, leader or other professional with a passion for operational excellence and change –  while improving the systems and processes in his or her organization. 

This MBOE program isn’t just in a classroom. Students will head to hospitals to visit the gembaand observe successful changes. They’ll also take part in online learning and a combination of on-site and distance coaching by industry experts. The students apply this knowledge to a strategic capstone project carefully selected with the active involvement of the student’s supervisor or sponsor. They also work closely with the original industry cohort in the four weeks they’re together on campus to learn from each other.

MBOE Students

Each of the eight weeks on campus involves four full days of intense learning from Wednesday to Saturday. Past students have called these weeks “exhausting and exhilarating” as experienced faculty members and guests teach using their own experiences working in organizations all over the country.

A student of class 2011, Susan Moffatt-Bruce, Assistant Professor of Surgery and Chief Quality and Patient Safety Officer at the Ohio State University Medical Center, told me the program “has provided me the tools to implement change through shared understanding and team engagement.”

Stay tuned for a daily update on the first week of the MBOE program.