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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for a look back at COE summit 2017.

Summit keynote: Simple rules pack surprising punch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COE Summit 2017: In Pictures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COE Summit 2017: 10 weeks out, 10 things to know

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In just 10 weeks, 400 process excellence leaders from around the country are gathering at the Fawcett Center in Columbus, Ohio, for the Center for Operational Excellence’s fifth-annual Leading Through Excellence summit, a wide-ranging deep dive into problem-solving and leadership insights featuring two-dozen speakers.

Here are 10 things you should know as the April 11-13 event approaches:

We’re 70% booked. Registrations are coming in at a record pace that could lead to a full sell-out before April 1. If you’re considering returning to the summit or joining us for the first time, now’s your opportunity to guarantee your spot and have the best access to available Tuesday workshops and tours.

Early bird pricing ends Feb. 13. Right now, all member and non-member registrations to the summit are automatically discounted by 5%, while groups of five or more that register trigger an additional 5% discount. On Feb. 14, one of those price breaks will vanish, leaving only the group discount on the table. Gather your team now and sign up before then to ensure the best pricing.

fedex_servicesMost breakout sessions are up for view. Leading Through Excellence offers five breakout session windows across April 12-13, with four options during each session. Of the 20 total options, 15 full abstracts are now posted on our website, with the remaining five set to debut by Friday, Feb. 10. Take a look now at what’s being offered and some of the organizations featured, including Cleveland Clinic, Bose, LeanOhio, IBM, LeanCor and FedEx.

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Debra Jasper

Another keynote will be announced next Friday. Right now, we’re thrilled to feature Mindset Digital CEO and organizational communication expert Debra Jasper and The Alliance co-author Chris Yeh as keynotes for Leading Through Excellence. If you’re joining us for the Feb. 10 seminar via live-streaming or in person, you’ll be the first to hear our latest keynote announcement, which we’ll be posting on our website and via social media later that day.

Workshops and tours are filling up… Even with a record 15 workshop and tour offerings on Tuesday, April 11, some sessions are beginning to fill up. The all-day “Business Storytelling for Leaders” workshop hosted by ThedaCare has reached capacity along with the morning “Aligning Improvement with What’s Important” strategy workshop hosted by lean expert Beau Keyte. In the afternoon, tours to Anheuser-Busch InBev and Fuse by Cardinal Health – 2016 offerings back by popular demand – have booked up, as has a tour of BMW Financial Services.

cleveland clinic logobut many are still available. The upside? Another 10 tour and workshop offerings – including a newly added afternoon session of Keyte’s “Aligning Improvements” session – are still up for grabs. That includes an all-day lean office-focused tour of the Cleveland Clinic’s massive Revenue Cycle Management area, a morning crash course in data analysis, a zombie-themed afternoon Six Sigma workshop, a trip to Honeywell Aerospace, and more.

We’re going digital. Leading Through Excellence is debuting an official app for this year’s summit that includes all information on sessions and keynotes, speakers, sponsors, exhibitors and more. Attendees also will have the opportunity to connect with others via messaging, rate sessions, and submit Q&A electronically. The summit app will roll out a month before the summit, giving you a chance to explore what it  has to offer and make the most of it across the event’s three days.

Hotel deadlines are approaching. Coming in from out of town? Bringing a group? There’s still time to take advantage of specially reserved hotel blocks at two venues near the Fawcett Center: The Hilton Garden Inn and Staybridge Suites OSU. Hilton Garden Inn’s block pricing is available through March 10, while a newly added block at Staybridge must be booked by March 25. Rooms in the summit block have sold out each year in advance of the deadline, so head to our lodging/travel page to make your reservations.

Our summit schedule has changed – for your convenience. To better accommodate travel schedules on the summit’s final day, Thursday, April 13, Leading Through Excellence will kick off at 8 a.m. and conclude with a 12:30 p.m. lunch following closing keynote Chris Yeh.

Thursday’s early start is worth it. A very special guest will take the stage at 8 a.m. on the summit’s final day – and you won’t want to miss it. Intrigued? We’ll be making the announcement in the March summit preview edition of our Current State e-newsletter and on this blog.

Ready to register? Click here or check out event details on our official site.

First breakout sessions revealed as summit discount deadline approaches

Planning to attend the Center for Operational Excellence’s Leading Through Excellence summit in April? Less than two weeks remain to get the best available pricing on the three-day event.

summit-banner-resized-smallAny registrations before Jan. 1, 2017, automatically will receive 10% off the total price. Group registrations of five or more receive an additional 5% off, a discount in effect the duration of the summit sign-up period. The automatic early bird discount for individuals and groups of up to four drops to 5% at the beginning of the new year.

Leading Through Excellence, COE’s signature event, will take place April 11-13 and feature a wide variety of workshops, tours, breakout sessions and keynotes designed to help attendees sharpen their problem-solving and leadership skills. This year, we’re taking attendees to the Cleveland Clinic, exploring the power of business storytelling, and hosting sessions from leaders at companies including IBM, Bose, FedEx and more. Keynote speakers include communication expert Debra Jasper, CEO of Columbus-based Mindset Digital, and Chris Yeh, co-author of the bestseller The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age.

Details on all 20 breakout sessions will be posted by the end of January, but the first several are already up for review. They include:

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C. Dunston

Emotional Intelligence: Becoming a Leader Who Cares, hosted by American Woodmark CEO Cary Dunston. In this session, Dunston will explores why leaders with the best intentions often make choices that limit their ability to be effective. The root cause, he proposes, is a lack of “emotional intelligence,” which can steer leaders to become emboldened by purpose and aligned with their core values.

The Power of Lean Habits, hosted by Eric Olsen, a professor at California Polytechnic State University. Drawing from Charles Duhigg’s bestseller The Power of Habit, Olsen in this session explores how companies can leverage the key components of the habit loop – cue, routine, reward, craving – to identify the lean and non-lean habits at work in their organizations.

Building the Fit Organization, hosted by Dan Markovitz, Shingo Prize-winning author. Markovitz wrote his book of the same name after realizing too many companies in their pursuit of operational excellence were trying to mimic “the Toyota way” without translating the core concepts of lean into a language that resonates with their employees and in their unique corporate culture. This session offers the keys of the Toyota Production System in jargon-free terms.

The clock’s ticking. Read up on other breakout sessions or head to the summit website to explore the rest of the event and register! Fees start at $695 for employees of COE member companies, $975 for non-members.

Event preview: Keys to collaboration in any industry

As a researcher, Prof. Aravind Chandrasekaran doesn’t hang his hat in one particular industry.

In the 12 years he’s been contributing to our knowledge on issues such as innovation, knowledge creation and health-care delivery, he’s walked the floor in manufacturing plants, chased high-tech electronics as they move through the R&D pipeline, and scrutinized discharge instructions for kidney transplant recipients.

At the heart of his research is the question of handoffs: How can we move information more efficiently? How can we bring products to market more rapidly? How can we discharge patients and ensure they won’t be readmitted days later?

Prof. Chandrasekaran is bringing key insights from his research across this variety of industries to the Center for Operational Excellence’s Dec. 2 seminar, where managers can learn how they can collaborate across departments – even across their supply chains – and avoid common roadblocks such as employee burnout, intellectual property leaks, and scope creep. His 10:30 a.m. presentation is followed by a 1 p.m. keynote from Pete Buca, a top executive at manufacturer Parker Hannifin who’s giving an inside look at the company’s remarkable collaboration with Cleveland Clinic.

COE spoke to Prof. Chandrasekaran about his research and what attendees can expect at his Dec. 2 keynote.

COE: This summer, you led a three-part “Innovation Summer” series for COE. How does your upcoming keynote build on that?

AC: We focused this summer specifically on product and process innovation by looking at companies such as 3M and Johnson & Johnson. This keynote is meant for the R&D folks that attended this summer but a much broader audience, as well. I’ll be sharing keys to the “perfect handoff” by looking at examples in manufacturing, health care and IT services, not just R&D. There’s not a single COE member that wouldn’t benefit from it.

COE: Let’s talk about health care, specifically what non-health care companies can learn from your extensive research in that field.

AC: A lot of discussion in recent years has centered on what health care can learn from other industries, particularly manufacturing. I think the reverse is true, too: In health care, you have specialists – physicians, nurses – who are extremely skilled at what they do. At the same time, you have a complex ecosystem with tons of variation across patients, even caregivers. Those two components are present in just about any industry. As a result, many of the tools and processes I’ve worked with caregivers to apply in health care can be easily transferred to other settings.

COE: Speaking of handoffs, what are some of the biggest mistakes companies make when collaborating across departments or the supply chain?

AC: I think a really common one is that departments or companies take for granted that the other party has a clear understanding of the process. This is at the root of so many problems I’ve seen in R&D and health care. There’s also a misconception that the rules and requirements established at the beginning of a process don’t change. They can, sometimes in a way that can take us by surprise. I’ll be sharing insights in my keynote that can help managers address both of these common missteps.

COE: What’s causing more of these surprises?

AC: The increasingly global nature of business plays a not insignificant role here.  More than ever, companies are dealing with language and cultural barriers, regulations and political risks – and the stakes for success have never been higher.

To register for Prof. Chandrasekaran’s keynote and the entire Dec. 2 seminar, click here.

Parker Hannifin, Cleveland Clinic partnership focus of Dec. 2 keynote

Being a top hospital in the country, Cleveland Clinic is home to countless great ideas poised to transform into life-altering, even life-saving, medical advancements.

Getting those ideas out of the heads of its top-ranked physicians and onto the market has been the focus of a remarkable collaboration between the hospital and one of its neighbors in the Cleveland economic scene: Manufacturer Parker Hannifin Corp.

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Pete Buca

This partnership, which began quietly nearly a decade ago and was formally announced in 2014, is the focus of the afternoon keynote at the Center for Operational Excellence’s Dec. 2 seminar. At the event, Parker Hannifin VP Pete Buca will share details on the Cleveland Clinic collaboration, which has become a bustling pipeline of medical device ideas the company is working to bring to life using its own product development process, dubbed “Winovation.”

Recently ranked the No. 2 hospital in the country, Cleveland Clinic sees more than 5 million patient visits a year and employs more than 3,000 caregivers. That same U.S. News & World Report ranking called it the No. 1 hospital in the country for cardiology and heart surgery and one of the top five for diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology, orthopedics and pulmonology, among others.

Parker Hannifin, meanwhile, is an $11 billion-a-year maker of motion and control technologies that spent about $360 million on research and development in its latest fiscal year. It’s a supplier to more than 400,000 customers that span just about every significant manufacturing, transportation and processing industry in the economy: Food and beverage, life sciences, renewable energy, agriculture and aerospace, just to name a few.

Parker and Cleveland Clinic began collaborating several years ago in an effort to connect the engineering and product development prowess of the former with the critical insights into health-care challenges at the latter. To translate these two capabilities into action, Parker employees sat in on surgeries and communicated with surgeons, leaders told Crain’s Cleveland Business. Interactions like these spawned the 100-plus ideas that initially populated the partnership’s pipeline.

One product seeking to eventually make its way to the market is what’s called the Cleveland Multiport Catheter (CMC), a bold attempt to advance the treatment of brain cancers. Gliomas – a type of tumor in the glue-like supportive tissue of the brain – are resistant to radiation and other common therapies, largely because of the natural barrier in the body that keeps circulating blood out of the brain.

Surgical catheters that pump cancer drugs directly into the brain have been used on a trial basis for the past few decades, according to an October 2015 article by a CMC inventor, but have key limitations. Two in particular, according to the article, must be used in a special operating room, and left in only for several hours. The CMC, which began development in 2009, can be implanted in any neurological OR then be left in place for several days, ultimately delivering more cancer drugs, wrote inventor Dr. Michael Vogelbaum.

Cleveland Clinic partnered with Parker Hannifin to manufacture the CMC and treated its first patient with the device about two years ago. A March update revealed seven patients have undergone treatment with the CMC, which now has an Investigational New Drug application formally on file with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Vogelbaum said in a CMC update video that the device ultimately could help treat other neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and epilepsy.

At COE’s Dec. 2 seminar, Buca will share other exciting developments with Cleveland Clinic and detail how other organizations can learn from their collaborative innovation efforts. The featured keynote at the seminar’s morning session is Fisher College of Business Prof. Aravind Chandrasekaran, an award-winning researcher who will be sharing keys to collaboration.

Head to COE’s website to read more about this members-only session, or register now.

Below the equator, a classic process problem

The next time you think your organization’s process problems are so singular they couldn’t be happening anywhere else, ask Joe Langlitz and his colleagues how they spent the first month of their summer this year.

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From left: Bi, Langlitz, Goetter

Langlitz and fellow Fisher College of Business MBA students James Goetter and Wenzhao Bi closed out their first year in the program with an 8,000-mile trip below the equator to Gaborone, Botswana. They were one of eight groups of students sent overseas through Fisher’s Global Applied Projects (GAP) program to work up-close with a corporation to solve a business challenge. Sponsoring the students’ gap team was the Botswana arm of British banking giant Barclays, where Fisher alumnus Jeff Davis serves as Chief Risk Officer.

Looking back at the work Langlitz and his team completed, Davis says they’ve helped lay the groundwork for some major improvements in Barclays’ business loan approval process. Getting there, however, entailed a frenzied three-week mission to hunt down process waste that put to work what each team member brought from the classroom and enlisted the help of a few Center for Operational Excellence members, too.

‘I wanted a revolution’

Davis cut his teeth in the birthplace of lean manufacturing, working with automakers and suppliers as they applied lean/Six Sigma principles. Today he’s a top officer at Barclays Botswana, which employs 1,200 at its corporate office and 42 branches and ranks as the second-largest bank in the market.

“When I got into financial services later in life, I would see our processes through the lens of the learnings I had in the automotive industry and would get frustrated at our inability to do true lessons and root-cause analysis in our pursuit of simple, repeatable processes.”

A particular target of Davis’ frustration was the corporate loan approval process at Barclays Botswana, which could – and often did – take as few as two days but also could stretch past six months in some instances, putting average turnaround just shy of four months.

“I wanted a revolution,” Davis said. “I wanted 500 percent better.”

Project Firefly

Davis took his first steps toward a solution by connecting with the GAP program at his alma mater, eventually bringing the trio from Fisher to Gaborone and pairing them with two MBA students from the University of Botswana. The project team had zero formal corporate banking experience – and that’s exactly what Davis wanted.

“We wanted an injection of new ideas,” he said.

(From left) Langlitz, Bi and Goetter taking a break from the office at Botswana's Mokolidi Nature Reserve
(From left) Langlitz, Bi and Goetter taking a break from the office at Botswana’s Mokolidi Nature Reserve

Langlitz admits to a dose of culture shock upon arrival. Gaborone is the governmental and economic capital of a country with a fast-growing economy, but one that also still relies heavily upon mining and the cattle trade. It’s the latter – particularly their penchant for wandering onto busy roads in Gaborone – that struck the team in their early days.

“The first week we were there, it really sunk in: ‘We’re on the opposite side of the equator,’” he said.

The more time the team spent in country, however, the more familiar it became – and the more Langlitz and others saw how universal challenges such as those at Barclays are.

“They’re just like any institution,” he said. “They’re trying to figure out better ways to serve the customer.”

The GAP team and their University of Botswana colleagues took on what Barclays dubbed “Project Firefly,” an extensive effort to visualize the loan approval process flow in the form of a value stream map and, importantly, flag non-value-added elements therein. The long-term goal is to slash average loan-processing time a staggering 90 percent to only 10 days.

Mapping the process required interviewing numerous stakeholders across different offices and navigating at-times fraught situations.

“With the overall process so fragmented, teams tend to be myopic when dissecting which processes are adding to uncompetitive turnaround times,” Davis said. “We asked the team to hold a mirror up and tell our people what’s going on without placing blame, and they did a nice job of lowering defenses.”

Enlisting help

In addition to receiving regular coaching from COE Executive Director Peg Pennington, the Project Firefly team also sought insights on the challenge at hand from two member companies: Huntington National Bank and KeyCorp.

“A lot of the pain points they had,” Langlitz said, “were pain points Barclays has been dealing with.”

Jeremy Winstel, a senior manager of enterprise lean/Six Sigma for Key, said reducing customer hassle has been a regular focus for the bank in its process improvement efforts. His insights served as a key early benchmarking opportunity for the project team before and during their stint in Gaborone.

“Providing this knowledge transfer assistance has been a great way to get plugged in to Fisher and try to help out,” Winstel said. “That’s what the COE’s about, holistically.”

Kevin Plaugher, senior vice president and business banking credit manager at Huntington, also spent time walking the team through the credit approval process and imparting a key bit of wisdom:

“It’s like physics,” Plaugher said. “If you want to extend credit to the customer, there are certain things you have to do, and you can’t pretend steps in the process can be skipped or eliminated. Still, even with the most manual processes, there are tools to make it faster, simpler, and clearer.”

Langlitz said benchmarking with Huntington and Key “sent us down the right path” to ultimately making this key discovery: More than half of the time Barclays Botswana spent processing loans was non-value-added. This opened the door to substantial improvements.

Just the beginning

The Project Firefly team capped their nearly three-week stint with Barclays Botswana by reporting out their findings and recommendations to the bank’s executive leadership team and its Managing Director, the region’s top-ranking official. Langlitz said the team took particular pride in the fact that none of its recommendations came strictly from qualitative information.

“All our recommendations were data-driven,” Langlitz said. “These weren’t just because we heard someone say it was a good idea.”

The results and recommendations provided major clarity for Barclays going forward, even if Davis and his colleagues already knew process waste was a problem.

“We knew there was a lot of waste in the system, but we’d never been able to measure it,” he said. “They did a great job of taking a complicated set of data from a lot of locations and distilling it down to a very clear story to tell.”

Through the summer, Barclays Botswana began hiring additional associates and making its first strides in implementing some of the Project Firefly recommendations. Improvement efforts are set to ramp up through the fall, Davis said, for what is expected to be an ongoing process.

As for the students, Langlitz said he and his colleagues gained invaluable process improvement skills, through an unforgettable experience, no less.

“Being able to say I’ve been there, done business in a different culture, I’m a lot more comfortable now.”

For more behind-the-scenes details on Project Firefly, check out the blog the students maintained for the trip. For more details on the GAP Program, click here or play the video below:

Fisher collaboration brings op-ex tools to realm of education

An unconventional effort to reform Ohio’s K-12 education system is sending a new pack of leaders out with more than an MBA from Fisher College of Business and a certification to serve as a principal.

They can wield some foundational operational excellence tools, as well.

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BRIGHT fellow Shaun Mitchell, right, shares the results of his A3 problem-solving project.

Fisher this summer graduated 30 students as part of the BRIGHT New Leaders for Ohio Schools program after they spent nearly a year working as administrators in high-poverty schools around the state and completed an accelerated MBA program at Fisher. The program, launched in 2015 with $3.5 million in state funding and help from Fisher and the Ohio Business Roundtable, takes business professionals from a variety of backgrounds – largely non-education – and deploys them throughout the state as principals. BRIGHT fellows, as they’re called, must serve as a school administrator for at least three years after graduation.

At a presentation prior to graduation, a number of BRIGHT fellows showed the results of their work tackling the A3 problem-solving methodology, one of a few tools Center for Operational Excellence Executive Director and BRIGHT educator Peg Pennington introduced to the curriculum.

“The BRIGHT program itself is an experiment, so I thought to myself, ‘Why not do an experiment of our own here?’” Pennington said. “These problem-solving skills – A3s, root-cause analysis – are powerful tools anywhere, and I think they can really help cut to the heart of some of issues that plague our education system.”

For the BRIGHT fellows, those issues included lagging math and reading scores, a lack of collaboration between upper- and lower-grade students and educators, truancy, and discipline referrals, among others. Pennington in her classes with the BRIGHT fellows showed how the A3 and root-cause analysis can properly define the problem and, medically speaking, move past managing symptoms to truly treat the underlying ailment.

David Maile, a longtime plant farm owner who transitioned out of the business two years ago, signed onto the BRIGHT program and found himself as an administrator at Highview 6th Grade Center in the Cincinnati suburb of Middletown, where the poverty rate has jumped from 9 percent to nearly 14 percent in about 15 years. Maile leveraged root-cause analysis and A3 problem-solving to improve math scores in the school, where he said much of the challenge was in bringing a level of consistency and precision to data collection.

Other process-improvement projects were of a more qualitative nature. Jeff Greenley, a lawyer by training, worked in the Switzerland of Ohio School District in Appalachian Ohio, the highest-poverty region in the Buckeye State. Greenley’s school housed a wide age range of students that rarely interacted, in large part because they didn’t see the value in it. Greenley did.

After defining the problem via an A3 and enacting countermeasures, Greenley finished the school year with more than four in five upper-grade students helping out and interacting with elementary-age students. The A3 process, he said, was eye-opening.

“There are not a lot of tools at our disposal in education to think about operational problems,” he said. “This is a hammer we can use to hit the nail.”

Regardless of the challenge, the BRIGHT fellows discovered very quickly that data was a crucial asset in their problem-solving journey – even if it wasn’t used as such in their schools. Astrid Arca, an economist for the state of Ohio, served in the same Appalachian school district as Greenley and took on the challenge of improving reading and math schools in a student population with a high percentage on so-called individual education plans. The data needed to cut to the heart of the problem, Arca found, existed – but weren’t being analyzed to inform instructional practices.

“There was almost a fear of the data,” she said, “and most of my job was removing those barriers.”

BRIGHT leaders are hoping that spirit has a transformative effect in the schools where its graduates are heading this fall and beyond, even if the difference in background for many fellows hasn’t gone unnoticed. Deborah Copeland, a BRIGHT principal coach with a nearly 30-year background as an elementary school principal, acknowledged a level of skepticism around “outside” people taking a leadership role in education. Often, she said, it just takes spending time alongside the fellows to see that they have the skills and capability to drive change.

“It’s been a joy watching these fellows coming in with a different perspective, full of hope and promise and not weighted down by the barriers that those of us who’ve been in the trenches often get blinded by,” Copeland said.

The BRIGHT fellows themselves are the source of a telling data point: About 90 percent had K-12 principal or assistant principal jobs locked in at the start of the school year.

COE summit highlighted on ‘Manufacturing Tomorrow’ podcast

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Have five minutes to spare?

The Ohio Manufacturing Institute just released the latest edition of its semi-monthly Manufacturing Tomorrow podcast, which they recorded at the Center for Operational Excellence’s Leading Through Excellence summit just last month.

Podcast Executive Producer Kathryn Kelley in this edition interviews a trio of COE members – Agrana Fruit’s John Labrador, Crown Equipment’s Craig Wreede and WillowWood’s John Matera – on what operational excellence means for them. Listen here, and check out the podcast’s website here.

COE regularly partners with OMI to bring speakers to Manufacturing Tomorrow. Past COE collaborations have resulted in podcasts interviewing Goodyear’s Norbert Majerus, COE Executive Director Peg Pennington, Snap-On Inc. CEO Nick Pinchuk and more. They’re all on the podcast archive.

Special thanks to Kathryn Kelley and the OMI team for visiting the summit and featuring our members.