Summit update: Breakout session info available; event 75% booked

The keynote speakers at COE’s Leading Through Excellence summit might be the headlining acts, but they’re only a fraction of what we’re offering during the event’s two biggest days.

Full abstracts for the five rounds of breakout sessions offered April 13-14 are now available on the official summit site. During each of these rounds, summit attendees will have the chance to select from one of four offered presentations. Across the two days, these sessions – delivered by a mix of researchers and industry leaders – tackle questions including:

  • How can I be a more effective leader by asking the right questions?
  • How can I work better with “resisters” inside my organization to gain buy-in and build consensus?
  • How can I make meetings more valuable – and kill the ones that aren’t?
  • How should I react when a project suddenly changes scope?
  • How can my organization leverage visual tools and storytelling to execute on strategy?

Along the way, leaders at organizations including Nationwide, Honda, GE Aviation, American Electric Power Company and Progressive Insurance will be giving inside looks at their process improvement journeys. And chief summit sponsor will be offering a limited-capacity, competitive workshop outlining the key principles of Agile Process Design.

Whether you’re already registering or still making plans to attend, check out the full list of abstracts and begin planning the path most valuable to you and your team.

As the summit approaches, here are some other key things to know:

We’re approaching sell-out: Leading Through Excellence 2016 is already 75 percent booked, and three offered tours have already reached full capacity. Check out the list of remaining opportunities on Tuesday, April 12, and act fast as a number of sessions are nearing capacity, including our featured workshop: The Pit Crew Experience.

Hotel rooms are filling up, too: The official summit block at the Hilton Garden Inn has reached full capacity. A secondary block at a similar price point has some rooms available – our lodging page has more details.

Early bird pricing is over, but you can still save: Automatic discounts for the summit have expired, but group sign-ups of five or more attendees can still save 5% on the final total. Contact Matt at with questions.

Ready to register? Click here, or check out the summit website for more information.

Do we really understand lean deployment in health care?

by guest author Aravind Chandrasekaran, associate professor of management sciences, Fisher College of Business

Anyone who has taught lean principles grounded in the famous Toyota Production System (TPS) to organizations outside the manufacturing industry has – at least once – heard this common refrain: “(Insert industry here) isn’t cars on an assembly line. This doesn’t apply to my work.”

A. Chandrasekaran
A. Chandrasekaran

Leading lean thinkers, of course, have learned how to work with individuals and teams to move past this roadblock and garner buy-in – that’s why the practices and tools intrinsic to TPS have made their way into countless industries. Lean still can be a target for criticism, though, and one need look no further for proof than an article published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine – and the debate it ignited.

The January issue of NEJM featured an article called “Medical Taylorism” where authors and physicians Pamela Hartzband and Jerome Groopman assert that lean principles “cannot be applied to many vital aspects of medicine. If patients were cars, we would all be used cars of different years and models …” This tipped off a flurry of rebuttals, including one from Lean Enterprise Institute CEO John Shook boldly titled “Malpractice in the New England Journal of Medicine.” In his piece, which itself attracted widespread attention, Shook writes that the foundational lean principles of continuous improvement and respect for people are critically important in the health-care system.

Shook is right, but I’d like to approach this discussion from a different angle, namely that this line of criticism has emerged elsewhere – and it’s rooted in a lack of understanding of lean deployment.

One of my initial research areas sought to understand how standardization and “smart application” of Six Sigma principles can aid R&D and innovation efforts. I pursued this as a number of business press publications and industry practitioner blogs lamented the damage Six Sigma does to creativity and praised the need for variation for innovation. Several years of research with my colleagues in Fortune 500 companies made us realize such sentiments don’t hold much water. We found, in fact, that principles of Six Sigma – when applied to the innovation process correctly (hence the “smart” in “smart application’) – can help reduce unnecessary variation and stop worthless innovation activities that consume R&D funding.


I’ve more recently collaborated with researchers and physicians to tackle similar questions in health care. Once again, the findings – published in several academic and practitioner outlets – are very similar: The smart application of lean and continuous improvement principles can help develop a safe and patient-centered health-care system.

In arguing that patients aren’t cars, the NEJM’s authors are absolutely right – but they’re dead-wrong in concluding there’s no place for lean in “many vital aspects of medicine.” As with our R&D research, we’ve found that lean deployment in hospital settings minimizes unnecessary variation that comes from care providers, not patients. In fact, it frees up time and effort to cater to the necessary variability in a population diverse in its illnesses, economic backgrounds, languages and more.

As an example, I spent years with other researchers – including some physicians – looking at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, specifically a lean deployment effort in its kidney transplant discharge process. Medical research has found that transplant recipients after discharge must drink at least three liters of fluid a day – failure to do so can spike creatine levels, elevating blood pressure and increasing the likelihood of readmission. In our study, we found variations in how nurses delivered these instructions to patients: One nurse, for example, recommended drinking “a lot of fluids” while another suggested 100 ounces. Interestingly, nurses varied their wording across patients, while one patient would receive different instructions from more than one nurse. This wasn’t a matter of intentional deception, but the inconsistencies confused patients as they took in a tremendous overload of instructions.

Overhauled through the lean deployment via standard work design, nurses in our medical center now clearly explain the specific volume of fluid, use a jug to visually illustrate, and discuss the consequences of not following the instructions. Preliminary findings show this approach soothes patients’ anxiety levels and has reduced the chances of readmissions in the first month after transplant.

This isn’t just a lean approach to a problem – it’s a smart lean approach. And in an environment that, yes, isn’t cars on an assembly line, that matters more than ever.

Going, going … : The latest on COE Summit 2016 registration

The good news? COE’s fourth-annual Leading Through Excellence summit is less than three months away, and you still have more than two weeks to save up to 15% on registration.

The bad news? Seats are selling fast – we’re already half-booked – and some tours and workshops are either full or approaching sell-out.

On the fence? Now’s the time to act to ensure you have access to the most options. Here’s a look at where our popular, limited-capacity options on the first day of the summit stand:

Too Late: The Tuesday, April 12, morning tour of global brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev is completely sold out. Luckily …

Nearly Sold Out: Limited seating remains for the Tuesday afternoon Anheuser-Busch InBev tour. Another tour offered Tuesday afternoon, to Cardinal Health’s Fuse software development operation, has a scant few slots remaining.

Gaining Steam: Planning on taking part in our marquee workshop for this year’s summit, The Pit Crew Experience? A number of seats already are pre-booked, while additional tickets are selling quickly. We expect this option to sell out by late February. Another tour gaining popularity among registrations is the trip to longtime COE member Abbott Nutrition, whose massive Columbus operation employs thousands in the region.

These are only a handful of the day-one options at Leading Through Excellence; capacity remains for a number of morning workshops and afternoon tours.

Be sure to check out the full summit site for details on our featured keynote speakers, our still-growing roster of breakout session hosts, and discount pricing.

Ready to register? Click here.

A toast: Feb. keynote Diageo touts storied history, vast distribution network

You might not have ever heard the name “Diageo,” but perhaps these ring a bell?

Guinness, founded in 1759 at the St. James Gate Brewery, is one of Diageo's many brands.
Guinness, founded in 1759 at the St. James Gate Brewery, is one of Diageo’s many brands.

Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal, Smirnoff, Ketel One, Captain Morgan, Bailey’s, Tanqueray, Guinness – the list goes on.

Not a household name itself, the brands Diageo owns are; today, the company claims the title as the world’s largest producer of spirits, and it’s a major producer of beer and wine.

In a nod to COE’s upcoming seminar, which features Diageo’s North American supply chain leader, Paul Gallagher, here are some interesting facts about the company whose supply chain excellence journey will be shared in just a few weeks:

  1. The North American region, whose supply chain Paul Gallagher leads, is the company’s most robust contributor to the top and bottom lines. That region accounted for about one-third of its €10.8 billion ($11.7 billion) total sales and nearly half of its €3 billion ($3.3 billion) operating profit in the most recently closed fiscal year.
  2. Diageo’s North American distribution network is huge, with more than 100 spirits distributors and brokers, and more than 400 beer distributors. That’s on top of 11 bottling, distilling and blending sites on the continent, the closest of which is in Louisville, Ky.
  3. Diageo is part of the reason you know more about what you’re drinking. The company was a major voice in a responsible-drinking push that worked with consumer and public health advocates to eventually include alcohol content and nutritional information on packaging. This is an initiative Diageo is rolling out worldwide.
  4. Diageo’s 2015 revenue leader? Scotch, followed by beer and vodka.
  5. Diageo’s roots stretch back nearly 300 years: The company’s current iteration didn’t come around until 1997, but the namesake of one of its flagship brands, Guinness, signed a 9,000-year lease in Dublin in the late 18th century.
  6. Burger King and booze? Diageo at one point owned the Burger King and Pillsbury brands. It sold those in 2000, three years after taking on its current corporate structure, and began picking up more spirits and wine businesses in 2001.
  7. Diageo employs more than 33,000 around the globe. About 10 percent of those employees are in North America, while nearly two-thirds are in Europe and Asia.

COE’s upcoming seminar is a can’t-miss for continuous improvement leaders, supply chain and procurement professionals, and anyone else who works with an extended network of suppliers and vendors. Diageo is a leader in mastering its complicated delivery network, and its strategies contain actionable insights for any industry.

Click here to learn about the full programming slate for the seminar or register now.

Fisher projects connect undergraduates with nonprofits

A partnership between Fisher College of Business and organizations inside and outside The Ohio State University is ensuring the undergraduates hit the job market the with real-world problem-solving experience managers need.

Fisher students recently presented the results of 15 projects undertaken through the semester at a range of nonprofit entities in Ohio State and around the community. External projects touched a range of sectors but focused on service-minded nonprofits such as organ donation coordinator Lifeline of Ohio.

ross, jordanJordan Ross (pictured), a junior at Fisher, participated in the Lifeline project, which sought to bring much-needed efficiency to the organization’s phone-call system, a time-sensitive and critical element of the donation process. According to Lifeline, only about one in 100 people in the U.S. will die after given the brain-death classification that paves the way for organ donation – this condition isn’t necessary for tissue donation – and getting to the right donation candidates quickly can literally be a matter of life and death.

The current state, Ross said, was unnecessarily siloed with scheduling issues. Using the five-step DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) problem-solving process outlined in the Six Sigma methodology, Fisher students outlined a phone tree and shared calendar that established a formal communication system at Lifeline.

The students’ recommendations were simple, Ross said, but they could make a difference for the organization – and certainly made an impression on him.

“I learned a lot of problems have simple solutions,” Ross said, “but because of hierarchies and communication issues, they’re not simply resolved.”

Another undergraduate project became an fortuitous collaboration with Fisher students and a graduate of the college’s Master of Business Operational Excellence program, Dublin City Schools Superientendent Todd Hoadley. The longtime education administrator asked Fisher students to examine the district’s contracting process for athletics administrators, which had little visibility as it progressed and was missing targeted completion windows.

The Dublin City Schools hiring process project team
The Dublin City Schools hiring process project team

Students scrutinized the process and eventually create a future state map aimed at increasing visibility. Hoadley said he and the district were extremely impressed by the results of the students’ project.

“It’s evident these students have been exposed to a rich curriculum and been held to high standards of learning,” he said.

The nuts and bolts of problem solving, however, are only part of the education students get out of the project work. Allison Johnson, a senior who worked on the project, said working with high-level employees was initially daunting – especially as students were in a position to identify shortcomings in the process – but ultimately valuable.

“It’s challenging coming in so young,” Johnson said,” but I really learned a lot of communication skills I’ll be able to build on in the future.”

Those “soft” skills are an added – but very important – bonus to the projects as they blend in-class and real-world experience, said Cheryl Dickerson, a senior lecturer at Fisher and coach for the program.

“Students start out thinking they know solutions, but this causes them to be more thoughtful,” Dickerson said. “They’re developing critical thinking and people skills, all at the same time.”

Clopay leader joins Ohio State podcast to talk manufacturing challenges, opportunities

Looking for the latest pulse on the manufacturing industry from leaders who live it every day?

clopay plastic productsThe Ohio State University’s Ohio Manufacturing Institute this week released the latest edition of its Manufacturing Tomorrow podcast, a twice-monthly sit-down with leaders in the trade. The featured guest this week is Vance Greene, senior director of global quality and operational excellence at COE member Clopay Plastic Products.

Mason-based specialty plastics maker Clopay joined the COE last year. The company makes specialty plastic films used in everything from infant diapers and feminine hygiene products to equipment covers and product packaging. Its fascinating history began in 1930 and picked up steam during World War II when the company made waterproof laminated paper and board for overseas packaging. The company later entered the burgeoning plastics market (if that conjures a movie reference, it’s one not lost on podcast host Marty Kress, either) – and the rest is history.

A graduate of the Fisher College of Business’ trailblazing Master of Business Operational Excellence program, Greene chats about everything from the company’s global growth prospects to the value of applying op-ex principles throughout the organization.

Clopay is the latest COE-affiliated company to be featured on the podcast, which you can listen to here. Past speakers also include Abbott Nutrition’s Matthew Roberts and Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Becky Bach, both recent keynotes at center events.

Check out the full back catalogue of Manufacturing Tomorrow here.

Author, Menlo Innovations leader Rich Sheridan joins summit line-up

Of all the words that might come to mind when describing a great workplace, Rich Sheridan has built a national reputation on one that likely wouldn’t top the list: Joy.

rich sheridan menlo joy incNearly 15 years into his tenure as the leader of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Menlo Innovations, Sheridan is now a sought-after speaker on the national scene while his software development firm is a must-see tour site that draws more than 2,000 visitors a year. This is thanks, in no small part, to the publication of Sheridan’s Joy Inc., an inside look at the tight-knit, bureaucracy-free world he’s built at Menlo that has challenged conventional notions about organizational culture and inspired countless leaders.

The Center for Operational Excellence is thrilled to announce Sheridan will be providing the opening, April 9 keynote address for the April 8-10 Leading Through Excellence summit, which is open for registration now. Sheridan also will be co-hosting a half-day workshop on Wednesday, April 8, on the “Menlo Way.”

According to his bio, Sheridan started out as a programmer in 1973 and worked his way through a number of technology companies in the Ann Arbor region. He was deep into revamping his management approach when the dot-com bubble burst and he found himself jobless. Menlo Innovations was created in June 2001 and Sheridan was a Forbes cover story in just two years.

Sheridan’s vision for a “joyful culture” is one of many great stories we’re featuring at the 2015 summit. Check out our full roster of featured keynote speakers and our line-up of workshops and tours. Registration is discounted up to 20% through Dec. 31!

COE member Crane Group growing with acquisition of PVC sheet pile business

A subsidiary of Center for Operational Excellence member Crane Group Companies is bolstering its parent’s portfolio with the acquisition of a PVC sheet pile business.

crane groupJacksonville-based Shoreline Plastics in August said Crane Group subsidiary Crane Materials International acquired its vinyl sheet pile business, including all related assets and intellectual property. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

Crane Materials is headquartered in Atlanta, where Shoreline also has operations, and makes products for the marine industry, including seawalls, docks, piers and gangways. Holdings of parent Crane Group, which joined COE in 1998, include Crane Materials and several other brands, including Able Roofing, Engineered Profiles and Screen Machine Industries.

Shoreline Vinyl said it’s selling the business to allow it to focus on other core products. Crane Materials said the acquisition will allow it to invest in the growing demand for vinyl products.

Duane Bryant, president and CEO of Crane Materials, called the deal “a good business decision for our company.”

Ohio State president shares vision, insights on industry partnerships

Only a few months into his presidency at The Ohio State University, Dr. Michael Drake took the time at a public forum to share his insights on the importance of university-business partnerships and what’s in store for one COE member on the brink of major change.

ohio state president drake
President Drake, left, speaking at the Columbus Metropolitan Club forum

President Drake, who stepped into the post June 30, took the stage at an August forum hosted by the Columbus Metropolitan Club and co-sponsored by COE member Mills James.

Asked about Ohio State’s vision for public-private collaboration, President Drake said the school already has great partnerships with private industry.

“We want to do even better with that,” he said, later adding that “one of the things that attracted me to the city is its potential for partnerships.”

If President Drake’s very first day on campus serves as an indication of his future priorities, the Columbus community is poised to benefit. Drake on the afternoon of his inaugural day joined city and federal leaders to announce $30 million in federal funding for Columbus’ struggling Near East Side that will go toward job training and education assistance, among other uses.

One key item on Drake’s agenda looking forward is Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, only months away from opening a $1 billion-plus expansion years in the works for years. It’s a challenge, Drake said, to be able to continually improve, but “we want to be able to increase quality, access and affordability.”

And while all eyes are on President Drake in the nascent days of his term, he insists it’s how he leverages the resources of faculty, staff, students and the business community that will make all the difference going forward.

“The job of the president is to do what he or she can do to facilitate the work of the great people that are a part of this great institution,” he said. “You don’t make or break an institution. It’s all about all the people here doing this great work and the students who are the beneficiaries of our focus.”

Watch Drake’s full address here.

Retailer Nordstrom joins COE

Adding to the continued growth and diversity of the Center for Operational Excellence, specialty fashion retailer Nordstrom Inc. has become its newest member.

nordstrom logoSeattle-based Nordstrom was founded as a shoe business in 1901 and has grown into one of the leading specialty fashion retailers in the nation with more than 250 stores and a vibrant e-commerce business. The company employs about 62,500 full- and part-time workers and recorded nearly $12.2 billion in revenue in its last fiscal year.

Nordstrom joins COE as it begins its operational excellence journey in its back-office operations. As a retailer entering this process improvement space, the company is ahead of the curve for its industry, said COE Executive Director Peg Pennington.

“It’s tremendously encouraging to see a retailer such as Nordstrom making a firm commitment to operational excellence,” she said. “The industry provides many opportunities for transformational change, and we look forward to partnering with Nordstrom.”

Nordstrom is COE’s second new member this year, following the addition of Clopay Plastic Products this spring.