MBOE recap: What makes a great lean leader?

Fisher Senior Lecturer Mrinalini Gadkari is breaking down a recent week in the life of Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence program. Stay tuned this week for more. 

Peter Ward Master of Business Operational Excellence MBOE
Dr. Ward, at a recent MBOE session.

You’ll hear time and time again that no truly successful lean transformation can take place without leadership that’s on the same page. So what kinds of leaders are successful at sustaining lean operations?

Here’s an eight-attribute list from Dr. Peter Ward, which he highlighted at our recent MBOE session:

  1. Engaged: They learn and teach, they don’t delegate systems thinking, they constantly spread the word and are constant even when things go wrong.
  2. Persuasive: They pose a simple and clear argument and use data and stories to support the change, relevant to the type of audience they are addressing.
  3. Process-obsessed: A good lean leader knows that results are a consequence of good processes.
  4. Good manager: Go to the gemba regularly, establish accountability for maintaining processes and apply visual controls
  5. Ask questions: “What do you think the problem is?” rather than “Why do we have a problem and who is responsible?”
  6. Deliberate: They start with the problem and pursue several potential countermeasures in parallel
  7. Persevere: They have a constancy of purpose, even when things go wrong they stick to the lean way of doing things
  8. Experiment: Problems are the fuel for the improvement engine and countermeasures are hypotheses. The only failed experiment is when we don’t learn.

MBOE recap: Tying it back to principles

Fisher Senior Lecturer Mrinalini Gadkari is breaking down a recent week in the life of Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence program. Stay tuned this week for more. 

Prof. Gary Butler at a recent MBOE session

Prof. Gary Butler emphasized the importance of creating a link with lean tools, systems and principles in creating and sustaining culture change. Most companies, he said, are great at implementing lean tools, but unless they’re tied to strategic company goals and a system exists that nurtures those changes, it’s impossible to sustain lean change – or any change, for that matter.

As an example, a company might implement 5S to organize multiple work areas to improve workflow and create a safe environment for the operators. In a few weeks, however, things tend to go back to how they were. This is often because the 5S process wasn’t tied to a deeper strategic goal. Often there’s a lack of a system where operators and managers can have first- and second-level daily meetings where problems, if any, are signaled to upstream operations. Managers who don’t go to the gemba to see the actual state of the flow are unlikely to have a sustained 5S environment as well.

Here are some key takeaways from Butler’s lecture:

  • Operational Excellence requires a vision of the future state
  • It requires a plan for gap closure between the current and future state
  • No strategy can be executed successfully without communication throughout the organization
  • Day-by-day perseverance is required to take small steps toward the future state vision.

Oct. 10 webinar shows lean answer to ‘What’s the ROI?’

It’s a term I use, sometimes frivolously, in my marketing and communications strategy. It’s a pillar of business-speak. It’s at the heart of the question that could kill the next proposal you put before your boss:

“What’s the ROI?”

Courtesy VMGCinematic

In lean transformations, many of you know this question is tougher to answer. Real, sustainable change doesn’t happen in a day and it pays off in ways both visible on the bottom line and extremely difficult to quantify, such as culture.

So how do you answer the question when your impassioned case for a lean implementation is punctuated with it? Author and frequent Lean Enterprise Institute contributor Michael Ballé says the completely wrong way to do so is to say or even imply that it’s the wrong kind of question. In fact, answers exist – but you have to know where to dig for them and how to look.

Get tips on all of this on Wednesday, Oct. 10, at 2 p.m. EST via a free hour-long webinar run by Ballé. He’ll cover everything from couching lean initiatives in business terms to building teamwork on different levels of management.

LEI says interest in this one is high and we’re looking forward to discussing this topic in the future. So block off an hour on Wednesday. It is free, after all – not too shabby from an ROI perspective.

Click here to learn more and to register.

COE members in the headlines – Sept. 28, 2012

To save you the trouble of skimming the headlines, here are some developments featuring our member companies:

  • Member ABB Inc. has installed its first charger for electric vehicles in the U.S. The new Terra 51 DC fast charger reduces the time needed to get an electric vehicle fully stocked with power to as little as 15 minutes from a whopping eight hours.
  • Capital One secured anOK from zoning officials in its Virginia hometown for a massive expansion of its corporate headquarters. The effort is more than just a make-way for cubicles – it’s described as a live-work blend that’s aimed at transforming the entire town of Tysons Corner.

    Goodyear is developing self-inflating tire technology for the heavy duty truck market.
  • Former Greif Inc. CEO and Executive Chairman Michael Gasser has been appointed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich to the board of Ohio State University. Gasser, with Delaware-based Greif for more than 30 years, joins a group of major business and community leaders that make up the OSU board.
  • Akron-based Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has debuted new  self-inflating tire technology that could aid in fuel savings and greenhouse-gas reductions. This innovation came from the company’s headquarters and could be headed toward a fleet trial next year.
  • Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. has dedicated a new “green” campus in the San Antonio area. The site houses about 1,500 employees and has room to grow by 500.

A seat at the table

The Center for Operational Excellence has been a steadfast sponsor of the Fisher College of Business’ Buckeye Operations Management Society, one of many organizations at the college that we see building great problem-solving leaders of the future. Not that we don’t benefit – student members of BOMS, advised by Dr. Andrea Prud’homme, a COE associate director, are a regular and helpful presence at our events.

career fair Buckeye Operations Management Society Whirlpool
A Whirlpool recruiter chats with BOMS students at the organization’s 2012 career mixer.

We were happy this past week to lend a hand in sponsoring BOMS’ annual career mixer, which gave members of the organization an exclusive few hours with employers at 10 different companies: Whirlpool, Chrysler, Dow Chemical, JPMorgan Chase, Target, Limited Brands, Amazon, Giant Eagle, Cardinal Health and Owens Corning. The last three on that list are COE members and in the last fiscal year recruited a combined 36 supply chain-track students for internships or full-time employment. Check out a slide show of the event here.

This career mixer was a break from the bustling, wall-to-wall frenzy of larger, formal career fairs, giving BOMS students a chance to chat informally about the companies they’re interested in and sell themselves without time ticking away. Prud’homme, also director of Fisher’s Honors Cohort, told me this year’s mixer was a “great success.”

“Our students were thrilled to make the connections with employers that they did and companies enjoyed interacting with students in a more informal setting.”

COE member Aggreko tackles fuel-spill problem

You’ve probably seen one or 50 of those Morgan Freeman-narrated Olympics promos already, but you might not know that one of our Center for Operational Excellence members will have a front-row seat to the action.

generator aggreko
Aggreko's generator fleet at any given site can be massive.

UK-based temporary power supplier Aggreko Plc’s generators will be a behind-the-scenes player for this year’s Olympics, marking the biggest moment in the sun yet for the company. Ever a process-minded organization, Aggreko recently has turned to the Fisher College of Business and COE for training and project work. I wrote about a fascinating and important project one group of Aggreko improvement leads undertook over the past year in this quarter’s COE newsletter.

Read the full article here, but here’s a snapshot: Aggreko in recent years has experienced massive growth and secured deals all around the world in all kinds of climates. With that variability came the occasional fuel spill in its generator fleets, a problem team members were determined could be resolved through process, not a mechanical fix.

They were right, and their journey illustrates the remarkable change that can be brought about by a thorough, reasoned approach to problem-solving instead of the knee-jerk quick fix.

That’s a story that merits some Morgan Freeman narration.

Congratulations to COE-funded scholarship winners

Aside from putting on events and connecting our members, part of the Center for Operational Excellence’s mission is to support the great work our faculty and students are doing here in the Fisher College of Business. A big way we do that each year is in giving out scholarships, and we’re proud to recognize a group of students we selected.

COE this year awarded five students $500 each through the Logistics Scholarship Fund. The first-year MBAs to receive the honor are: Jennifer Bartlette, Arshita Raju, Joe Robinson, Jeremy Mink and Bradley Stuetzer.

Awarded the $2,500 William L. Berry scholarship was Piyush Sinha. This honor, endowed by the emeritus professor, is designated each year to a student expected to have an impact in the operations world. With his strong experience in the field and a reputation as a high achiever, Sinha was a natural choice for the honor this year.

Our winners this year, along with past honorees, posed (left) with COE leadership and associate logistics professor Mike Knemeyer to celebrate the honor. Check out more photos on our Flickr page.

As the icing on the cake, some of our honored students are putting in work as interns at some COE member companies. Bartlette is headed this summer to Delaware industrial packager Greif Inc., while Stuetzer is headed to Greif’s Argentina office. Other members set to welcome our students: Rolls-Royce Energy, where Sinha will be interning; and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., where Robinson is heading. Congratulations as well to Raju, set for an internship at the Ohio auditor’s office, and Mink, who is heading to Petsmart.

Congratulations to all of these students, and best of luck as you continue your journey at Fisher.

‘Adversity is a part of life’

The arc of Gail Marsh’s personal and professional life is part success story and part cautionary tale – and she’d acknowledge that as much as anyone.

Gail was gracious enough to share that story as part of a regular series of women’s leadership breakfasts the Center for Operational Excellence hosts, sparking a discussion with nearly two-dozen women from our member companies and students at the Fisher College of Business (check out more photos here). The strategy chief for the gargantuan operation that is the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University, Gail also is actively involved in community efforts around town. Those garnered her the honor of being named one of six Women of Achievement by the YWCA of Columbus last year.

Gail Marsh Wexner Medical Center
Gail Marsh shared her story and offered insights at a COE women's leadership forum.

If that isn’t enough, she’s a mother to three children she raises with her husband, Dr. Clay Marsh, an OSU professor and vice dean for research in Health Sciences and the College of Medicine.

Listening to Gail speak last week, I was impressed with how her story contains not only great wisdom for women but for anyone who works hard for what he or she earns and takes a step back, wondering how to balance it all. An undergraduate and master’s degree-earner from OSU, Gail was the proud owner of post-graduate student loans as she worked her way up in the male-dominated world of health-care administration, found love and started a family. It was the loss her mother that prompted her to realize she was moving too fast, life was too short and she needed to hit the reset button. With that, she began to create a work-life balance she says she’s still working to perfect, even though it has the flexibility she needs.

Not that her flexible schedule came on a silver platter.

“You have to be stellar at what you do for people to give you flexibility,” she said. “Everybody is balancing things.”

Some other wisdom Gail imparted at our event:

On taking the plunge into community service: “If you wait until all your work is done, your laundry’s done and all your kids have straight As you’ll never do it.”

On the secret to her own life: “Understanding that adversity is a part of life is the secret to my life now. It’s just going to be that way.”

On career mobility: “I like to think my promotions in the medical center have been because I know how to solve problems.”

Check out more from Gail in a video tied to her Women of Achievement honor.

Break out the bubbly

It’s a point of pride at the Center for Operational Excellence that we’re able to maintain a strong link between our industry members and the inner workings of the Fisher College of Business as an educational institution. That’s accomplished in part by staffing our center with Fisher faculty who work closely with our students and add to the value we work to create.

Nancy Lahmers

We’re very unsurprised, but very pleased nonetheless, to let you know that two of our COE team members not only have raked in awards for their dedication to Fisher students but are advancing in their journeys at the college.

Nancy Lahmers, in charge of COE’s women’s initiatives, was given the 2012 Mount Award, an honor handed to “the faculty or staff member who is selected as the most exceptional example of commitment to leadership, scholarship and service and the dedication to students.”

Andrea Prud'homme

Additionally, COE Associate Director Andrea Prud’homme on Monday was given the Undergraduate Programs Teaching Award, a student-nominated honor.

On the heels of those awards, Fisher leadership has announced that Lahmers will be serving as executive director of the college’s Graduate Programs Office starting spring quarter. Lahmers over the past eight years has served as the director of Fisher’s Honors Cohort program. Taking over for Lahmers is – you guessed it – Prud’homme, a favorite professor among students who also advises the Buckeye Operations Management Society.

Very wise choices we couldn’t be happier about. Congratulations, ladies.

MBOE HC recap: A vision isn’t enough

Students in Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence Healthcare cohort spent four days last week at the Thedacare Healthcare System in Appleton, Wis., as part of the year-long program. Senior lecturer Mrinalini Gadkari was on the scene for daily recaps.

Any of our MBOE students wondering how the landmark Toyota Production System could apply in the health-care sector got their answer at the Thedacare Healthcare System in Appleton, Wis. Although John Toussaint, its former CEO, had a clear vision for an efficient system, the transformation wasn’t free of challenges. The key to meeting them, we found: Leadership.

Simply having a vision isn’t enough. It’s important that it translates into something meaningful and actionable. When developing their core strategies, the leaders at Thedacare repeatedly asked the questions: What is most important? How do we measure that? They had to let go of past goals based solely on numeric results and embrace the “True North” goals of customer satisfaction, people development, safety and quality and financial stewardship.

This board is posted at Thedacare to guide its lean leaders

Thedacare used the powerful problem solving technique called A3 thinking, widely adopted within Toyota also referred to as PDSA. The PDSA cycle has four stages: 

  • Plan – Determine the problems with the gap between current and ideal conditions, goals, and the proposed changes.
  • Do – Try out the proposed changes
  • Study – Analyze the results of the trials and reflect on the findings
  • Act – Incorporate the findings (successful/not successful) into the new process and standardize the change.

In addition to changing how they came up with strategy, they did two other things: (1) They created standard work for leaders that involved going to the gemba and assessing the health of the organization by visiting visual board for leaders, and (2) they translated strategy to actionable items for the frontline staff. That group, in turn, was able to chime in on what was possible and describe roadblocks.

In short: The leaders had to change how they did work before they could bring a change to the organization.

There is a lot more where this came from. If you’re interested in learning more, here’s a video  where you can see the highlights of the Strategy Deployment DVD at Thedacare and also a blog by Toussaint.