Award-winning summit keynote Duhigg shares ‘Smarter Faster Better’ insights

Charles Duhigg took the stage at The Ohio State University Center for Operational Excellence’s first Leading Through Excellence summit nearly five years ago.

A lot’s changed since then.

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Summit keynote Charles Duhigg speaking during his keynote at COE’s inaugural summit in 2013.

A mere three days after his featured keynote for the event, he was part of a team of New York Times staffers who won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting for its iEconomy series, what the Pulitzer committee called a “penetrating look into business practices by Apple and other technology companies.” And the book The Power of Habit? Released in February 2012, it became a bona fide hit, spending more than a year on the New York Times bestseller list. He followed up Habit with Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, another Times bestseller he’ll be speaking about as a featured keynote on Wednesday, April 11, at COE’s sixth-annual summit.

In the run-up to his return to the Buckeye State, Duhigg spoke to COE Associate Director Matt Burns about the inspiration for his latest work – and what we can take away from it. Here’s a (lightly edited) recap of their chat …

Matt Burns: What led you from The Power of Habit to Smarter Faster Better?

Charles Duhigg: After The Power of Habit, a question kept coming up. People kept on saying, “We know how to change habits – what are the right habits?” At the same time, I started noticing things happening in my own life: The book did really well, and I was grateful for that. I was getting opportunities to do lots of things but I just felt like I was working all the time. I started asking myself: “What am I doing wrong?” If this is what success feels like, sign me back up for failure.

Then, I started to contact researchers and ask them how people can get so much done and not let it ruin their lives. And what they said is that rather than working hard, the people who are the most productive and successful have figured out how to work smarter. They understand the difference between being busy and being productive – and the difference is that instead of working all the time, you’re working on things that actually matter. They can recognize the right priorities and goals in such a way that priorities are honored and responded to. They can innovate on demand rather than waiting for a muse to strike them. They can take some of the amazing amounts of data that we have and grasp knowledge from them.

MB: You start the book off by writing about motivation. Looking at how you’ve observed people functioning in organizations, where are they going wrong in this regard?

CD: People focus too often on the wrong kind of measurement. We tend to focus on what we measure, so if your measure is getting your inbox to zero, it’s not going to be surprising that you spend all your time e-mailing. The first thing that happens when it comes to motivation and goal setting is you have to take a step back and ask: “What do I really want to achieve here? What’s important to me?” If your answer is just that you want to make it through the day, you’re gonna make it through the day. But if you have the time and space to say, “What is my deeper aspiration? What is my bigger goal?,” then you’re going to be able to align your choices to what actually matters to you.

MB: You spend a lot of the time in the book on team building. What surprised you about your research in this area?

CD: The biggest surprise for me was that who is on a team matters much less than how that team interacts. The conventional wisdom is that we should spend a lot of time thinking about “casting,” getting the right types of people on the team: introverts, extroverts, people who believe in the same type of leadership style. But all the research shows us that how a team interacts with each other matters much more than who is on it. You could have all “A” players on a team – but if you don’t have the right culture, they’re not going to gel together. You could have all “B” players on a team and if the culture is right, they could exceed what the “A” players do.

The other thing that’s really interesting is you can come up with a formula to help people come up with the right team culture by driving a sense of psychological safety: conversational turn-taking, ostentatious listening – those are just a few things that contribute to it.

MB: One of the big themes at our summit this year is disruption, namely how things like automation and data are driving changes in our work – and that’s something you address, too. How are these forces changing how we should be making decisions?

CD: Decisions can be much more informed now. Before, information was a scarce resource and the people who made great decisions were the people who had access to more information. That’s no longer true. But as a result, people have stopped applying critical thinking in some respect and allowed information to guide their choices. We now know there’s a big difference between being exposed to information and turning that into knowledge.

The key there is the concept of disfluency (Editor’s note: Duhigg’s book defines this as making information “harder to process at first, but stickier once it was really understood” [242]). This can seem slower and less productive in the short run – instead of looking at an Excel spreadsheet you have to sit down and mess around with it – but we know that, over time, this makes people more productive. Instead of absorbing information, they’re transmitting it into actual knowledge.

MB: You framed The Power of Habit with a great little anecdote about your “cookie habit” and how you used research from that book to break it. How has Smarter Faster Better changed you on a day-to-day basis?

CD: A great example of this involves my kids. When I wrote The Power of Habit I spent a lot of time with my kids looking at cues and rewards and shaping behavior, but with Smarter Faster Better the conversations I have with my kids are more about asking them: What can you do every day to put yourself in charge of your own life? When we go to school some mornings, I ask them to “tell me the story of today:” What do you think the best part of today and the worst part of today will be? The reason this is a good conversation is that it teaches them to build mental models about their day.

If we build mental models about how we want our day to unfold, we know that helps our brain remain focused – it also teaches us to have an internal locus of control. We are in charge of what happens every day in our lives. If you’re in charge, you have the power to guide yourself.

Most of life is reactive – the point is to become more proactive, and if you can learn that as a habit, it can be really powerful.

Duhigg will be signing copies of his books following his 3:40 p.m. keynote on April 11. The Leading Through Excellence summit is nearly sold out, with only a few seats available.

Fisher MBOE sponsoring May lean benchmarking trip to Japan

Want to see lean where it got its start?

The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business’ Master of Business Operational Excellence program is sponsoring a one-week “Genba in Japan” from May 12-19. The trip will offer an up-close look at how Japanese companies have succeeded in delivering superb quality at the right price, with short lead times, while ensuring high levels of employee and customer satisfaction. Sites include key suppliers of automaker Toyota – a lean manufacturing forerunner – and a range of other industries applying these principles.

“There’s no experience quite like going to the source,” said Rick Guba, an MBOE faculty member and retired lean leader from GE Aviation who’s leading the trip. “The organizations we’ll be visiting have been practicing the kaizen philosophy for decades, and seeing this up close is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The “Genba in Japan” trip has limited space available and costs $7,500 per person, which covers travel within the country, most meals, and single-occupancy four-star hotels. Participants must arrange their own transportation to and from the country and have a valid passport or visa.

Click here to register for the trip or e-mail Guba at guba.10@osu.edu for more details.

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 …

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

Summit kickoff keynote to talk ‘Clarity First’

With registration for the Center for Operational Excellence’s sixth-annual Leading Through Excellence summit just weeks from opening, another of its featured keynote speakers is being revealed.

Karen Martin, president of The Karen Martin Group and author of The Outstanding Organization, will open the second day of the summit on Wednesday, April 11. Martin, a renowned expert on process excellence and sought-after speaker, will be sharing insights from her forthcoming book, Clarity First. The day before her keynote, Martin will be hosting a half-day workshop that takes a deeper dive into the Clarity First concepts.

In Clarity First, Martin contends that a lack of clarity costs companies, educational institutions, government agencies, and nonprofits billions of dollars a year. Beyond the red ink, this lack of clarity also inserts unnecessary risk, drains organizations of energy, and causes customers to question whether the organization can deliver value. Drawing from the book, set to be released in January, Martin will show how organizations can use clarity to unleash potential, innovate at higher levels, and solve problems more effectively.

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Summit keynote Charles Duhigg speaking during his keynote at COE’s inaugural summit in 2013.

On COE’s summit keynote roster, Martin joins Charles Duhigg, the Pulitzer Prize-winning, New York Times bestselling author of The Power of Habit and Smarter Faster Better. Member registration for the April 10-12 event opens Dec. 11, while non-member registration opens Jan. 1, 2018.

Martin has a rich history in quality and process, having started her career as a scientist and, later, director of quality improvement for an organization that managed healthcare for 22 million people. She also served as director of the Institute for Quality and Productivity at San Diego State University, where she oversaw the university’s sell-out Lean Enterprise and Quality Business Practices programs.

As a consultant, Martin is known for her keen diagnostic skills and rapid-results approach. A skilled change agent, she builds energy within work teams by helping them focus an organization’s key performance goals—faster delivery of higher quality products and services at lower cost—while simultaneously building organization-wide problem-solving capabilities and boosting employee engagement.

Martin’s 2012 book, The Outstanding Organization, won the Shingo Research Award and Professional Publication Award. She’s also the co-author of Value Stream Mapping: How to Visualize Work and Align Leadership for Organizational Transformation, The Kaizen Event Planner: Achieving Rapid Improvement in Office, Service and Technical Environments and Metrics-Based Process Mapping: An Excel-Based Solution.

Additional keynote announcements for the 2018 summit will be made on Dec. 8 and into early 2018.

Visit the website now to get a look at our first wave of breakout session host postings and review pricing and group discount information. Workshop and tour information will be posted Monday, Dec. 4.

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.”

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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 …

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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.

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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).