COE Summit 2018: A Look Back, in Pictures

The final speaker for the Ohio State University Center for Operational Excellence’s sixth-annual summit opened his keynote with a statement that had emerged as a running theme across the three-day experience: “We’re no longer a knowledge economy; we’re a learning economy,” said Dr. Bradley Staats (pictured, above), an associate professor of operations at the University of North Carolina and author of the forthcoming Never Stop Learning. “It’s not what you know today; it’s how you’re going to adapt, how you’re going to change to deal with the uncertainty you face tomorrow.”

COE’s Leading Through Excellence summit brought together nearly 500 process excellence leaders from across the country to Columbus in April for a dynamic variety of continuous learning opportunities, a record crowd for the event, which launched in 2013. Take a look back at Leading Through Excellence 2018 through this photo essay, featuring photography from Jodi Miller …

More than 200 summit attendees headed offsite on the first day of the event for gemba visits offering an up-close look at problem-solving and innovation strategies at companies around Ohio. One group traveled all the way to center member Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s Akron headquarters to walk the floor of its race-tire manufacturing plant and see how visual management is embedded in the company’s product development process.

Another group headed up Kenny Road to experience the student-industry partnerships under way at Ohio State’s Center for Automotive Research, which has partnered with the summit on two other occasions in the past.

Center member Clopay Building Products hosted a wide-ranging tour of its massive 1 million-square-foot-plus manufacturing operation in Troy, guiding attendees through the site on trolleys that stopped throughout for quick looks at problem-solving strategies embedded in the facility.

Back in Columbus, keynote Karen Martin opened the day with an exclusive workshop on her latest book, Clarity First, which examines how too many companies are leaving value on the table by letting ambiguity flourish – and details how to overcome it. “The words we choose and the actions we take make or break what happens to people’s lives and the financial well-being of organizations and employees,” Martin said in her keynote the following morning. “Clarity is a big deal – and we need to take it seriously.”

Fisher College of Business faculty member David Veech, who works with the Master of Business Operational Excellence degree program, led a half-day morning workshop that taught attendees hands-on team-building strategies to use in their organizations – and rarely had them in their seats.

Brutus Buckeye stopped by COE’s annual reception for speakers and board members at Ohio Stadium. Pictured are, from Columbus-based Leverage HR, breakout hosts Shawn Garrett (left) and Sapna Welsh (right).

Each year, COE features a number of Fisher College of Business researchers sharing the latest insights with their work in industry. Here, Nathan Craig, assistant professor of management sciences, gives his breakout session attendees a crash course in machine learning, a technology that’s transforming how organizations are putting data to work.

The COE summit isn’t possible without the support of more than 40 student volunteers, who assist on tours and workshops and introduce featured speakers, and other Fisher and Ohio State staff members.  Pictured, from left, are students Muhammad Shire, Anthony Lazerri, and Jin Li.

The threat – and opportunity – of disruption emerged as a running theme of the summit and was the featured topic in a number of breakout sessions. Here, Root Inc. Managing Director David Kalman in his breakout session offers insights on building a culture of disruption.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Charles Duhigg served as the first-ever keynote for COE’s inaugural summit in 2013. He returned this year to share insights from his latest book, Smarter Faster Better, telling attendees that “thinking more deeply has always been the killer productivity app. People who are able to think more deeply about their goals and priorities, and what they ought to be spending time on, or about how to innovate faster, about how to see insights better. Those are the people who end up succeeding over time.”

The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, a regular partner at past COE summits, returned again this year to entertain attendees during the second day’s evening networking reception.

At the annual networking reception, COE also features Fisher College of Business students who have successfully completed operational excellence projects with a number of Columbus-area nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

Fresh off his Big Ten Coach of the Year win, Buckeye Men’s Basketball Head Coach Chris Holtmann stopped by the kick off the third and final day of the summit, sharing his insights on leadership and offering a candid look at a blockbuster first season at Ohio State.

Companies willing to “lift the hood” and share how they’re tackling tomorrow’s biggest challenges are at the heart of COE’s summit line-up. Here, Nationwide leaders (from left) Kevin Yania, Tobi Milanovich, Tom Paider, and Erik Bennett take part in a panel discussion on how the Columbus-based insurer is incorporating artificial intelligence into processes.

Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence program is a driving force in creating tomorrow’s lean leaders. One of those graduates, Emily Jackson, hosted a breakout session on the summit’s final day to detail how she’s working to embed a culture of continuous improvement and respect as director of nursing quality at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center.

Leading Through Excellence isn’t a solo sport. Each year, dozens of organizations bring teams – like this one from member BMW Financial Services – to learn new problem-solving strategies and search for the next great idea to implement at the office. Leading Through Excellence 2019 returns to the Fawcett Center in Columbus April 9-11, with registration set to open Dec. 10, 2018.

For a look at more photos from this year’s summit, head to our Flickr page

 

Continuous improvement, grassroots-style: Inside Clopay Building Products

Frustration is a frequent spark for innovation, and that’s right where some product staging employees at garage door manufacturer Clopay Building Products found themselves.

The process for staging and processing Clopay’s sectional door configuration bundles – unwieldy boxes that group door components for eventual installation – entailed comparing a printed list of the day’s shipping requirements with a string of numbers on the boxes themselves. It was time-consuming task, one process technician Brice Johnson saw a way to improve: Why not provide a visual cue for the carts that needed pulled that day?

The solution wasn’t fancy, but it did the trick: Walk the floor of the massive manufacturing operation today and you’ll see youth soccer training cones perched on stacks of the bundles. Problem solved.

Joey Fransway of Clopay Building Products

This front-line problem solving is something that might not have happened as frequently as a few years ago at Clopay Building Products, but it’s happening today thanks to a grassroots continuous improvement movement at the Troy-based company shepherded by Joey Fransway, Director of Quality, Environmental Health & Safety, and others. Fransway and his team will be opening their doors for an inside look at their journey on Tuesday, April 10, as part of The Ohio State Center for Operational Excellence’s sixth-annual Leading Through Excellence summit.

‘On a path’

Fransway credits the company’s COE membership as a driving force in its continuous improvement push.

“We’re still on a path, and that path is through connecting with other people through the COE,” he said. “We want to learn from others.”

Clopay Building Products is one of about 20 manufacturing companies that make up COE’s member roster, but it holds the distinction of being the largest manufacturer of residential garage doors, and one of the largest makers of commercial sectional doors, in the U.S. The company employs about 1,600, more than 1,000 of whom are at the Troy operation. The residential and commercial garage door market, according to Griffon, has been estimated to be about a $2 billion business, making Clopay Building Products a major player – thanks in no small part to its exclusive deals with Home Depot and Menards to supply residential garage doors to their stores throughout North America.

Clopay Building Products’ growth has created challenges and opportunities in operations and design. Volume is up, but so is the diversity of products, which range from standard to hand-crafted high-end.

“People used to look at garage doors as a thing that got them in and out of a garage,” Fransway said. “Now it’s an extension of themselves.”

The core tenet of Clopay Building Products’ continuous improvement push has been to empower employees at all levels to solve problems. That’s entailed a rollout of visual management boards throughout the plant, coupled with regular stand-up meetings, along with added touches such as group get-togethers to view TED Talks. The foundation of it all is a “Blue Belt” lean/Six Sigma training program rolled out a year ago that has enrolled more than 60 employees and graduated more than 20, Fransway said.

An example of Clopay Building Products’ visual management on the floor

“We’re focused on getting everybody down that path to continuous improvement, getting information to people on the floor,” he said. “If this is just top-down, it doesn’t do us any good.”

Buy-in is growing at the Troy operation, but this isn’t just happening inside Clopay Building Products’ four walls. The company is heading upstream, too, connecting suppliers to its Blue Belt resources and tying it to its existing supplier certification program.

The locker room

Back inside the Troy operation, a major focus has been on uniting employees to drive collaboration and innovation. Post-it Notes have helped. Fransway and others have transformed an area of the back office previously used for storage into what’s called the “Quality Locker Room,” a hands-on hub for tracking initiatives using visual boards and Post-its.

“When you’re just making lists on the computer, it never goes anywhere,” Fransway said. “When you’re in this room you’re a part of it.”

With its mix of front-line empowerment and visual management, coupled with a relentless focus on quality, the Clopay Building Products continuous improvement initiative is a benchmark in “starting from scratch” and using existing resources – along with relationships like COE – to drive cultural change.

When the company opens its doors in April for the tour, attendees will have the opportunity to see the Quality Locker Room and take a guided tour of the plant, which will stop at about 15 different stations on the floor to highlight how continuous improvement initiatives are being embedded throughout.

It’s a great deal of progress – but like any journey to excellence, it’s far from done.

“Where we want to be is nothing like where we are today,” Fransway said.

Seats remain available for the Clopay Building Products tour. They can be claimed by registering for the summit by the Monday, April 2, deadline.

 

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.

duhigg, charles
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.

Oscars get op-ex infusion to prevent repeat mistake

dunaway beatty oscars
Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty played a starring role in the biggest snafu in Academy Awards history last year. Photo courtesy ET Online

This morning’s Academy Award nominations – and the long shadow of the shocking mishap at last year’s Oscars ceremony – are as a good a reminder as any that no process, and no industry, is too good for a little operational excellence.

If you don’t remember, the Oscars ended last February with screen icons Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty announcing musical La La Land as Best Picture. As the ebullient acceptance speeches were overtaken by a swell of confused behind-the-scenes commotion, it was revealed that the wrong movie had been announced, a first in the 89-year history of the event. It was a stunning mishap in desperate need of root-cause analysis and some countermeasures, both of which have taken place over the past year.

In the run-up to this morning’s Oscars nomination announcement, the Associated Press and New York Times reported that PwC, the accounting firm that tabulates the votes and hands out the envelopes, has adopted new rules and processes to prevent the snafu from happening again. Countermeasures now in place:

  • A double-check before presenters go onstage that they have the right envelope;
  • A confirmation by a stage manager beforehand;
  • An additional account who has memorized the winners’ list seated in the control room with producers;
  • No phone or social media use by PwC accountants backstage; and
  • Worst-case scenario rehearsals of what to do in case it happens again.

As for the accountants who kicked off a chain reaction of confusion by handing Dunaway the wrong envelope last year? They’re not coming back.

Vanity Fair lamented this week that the vibe backstage is likely to be less spontaneous, but it’s unlikely the terrified trio of PwC accountants will mind a little standard work.

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.

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.

duhigg, charles
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.”

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.

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).

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).