J&J exec, Buckeye football greats fill out summer innovation series

Whether it’s at a $70 billion-a-year consumer products conglomerate or a fledgling business in the heart of the Buckeye State, innovation is the fuel that keeps organizations moving and evolving.

The Center for Operational Excellence is continuing its three-part “Innovation Summer” series in July and August with a look at two very different organizations of vastly different scope and how best practices in product development are helping them grow.

meri stevensOn Wednesday, July 13, COE welcomes Meri Stevens (pictured, left), the vice president of supply chain strategy and deployment at Johnson & Johnson for Innovation Summer, Part 2: Innovation Beyond Your Four Walls. Building on a June 16 keynote from Mark Anderson of 3M Co. on R&D collaboration inside the company, Stevens will share how the maker of Tylenol, Listerine, and countless other products is collaborating upstream and downstream to fuel radical, breakthrough innovation.

For Johnson & Johnson, even the very concepts of “upstream” and “downstream” are changing in an era of unprecedented consumer involvement as products such as 3-D printers extend value creation beyond the company’s borders. Stevens will share how this shift has brought about major cultural change for J&J’s thousands of supply chain employees as they work to “move the needle” for the Fortune 50 business.

Stevens’ presentation will be followed by a trio of TED Talk-like presentations from Fisher College of Business researchers, led by “Innovation Summer” organizer Prof. Aravind Chandrasekaran, on the latest insights into collaborative innovation.

Click here to register for this 8:30 a.m. to noon event at Ohio State’s Fawcett Center, exclusively for employees of COE member companies. This session is recommended for those interested in either innovation or supply chain management.

carpenter schlegel“Innovation Summer” concludes Thursday, Aug. 18, by exploring principles of the “lean startup” with a presentation from Buckeye football greats Bobby Carpenter (pictured, far left) and Anthony Schlegel (pictured, immediate left). Both Carpenter and Schlegel, Fisher College of Business MBA graduates who played for the Buckeyes and went on to be drafted in the NFL, founded The Difference USA LLC, which makes and markets a portable striking machine. Schlegel, who invented The Difference, will share along with Carpenter his journey to bring the product to life and the lasting lessons the team has learned about the process of innovation.

Registration for this event is set to open Wednesday, July 13.

For details on these events and save-the-dates for additional COE opportunities, check out our events page.

Lean IT, innovation, women’s leadership sessions on COE summer slate

Following a record-breaking Leading Through Excellence summit in April, the Center for Operational Excellence is gearing up for a busy slate of summer events.

Spotlight on MassMutual at IT Leadership Network forum

Dalton Li
Dalton Li

After a visit from Menlo Innovations CEO and Joy Inc. author Rich Sheridan May 13, COE’s popular IT Leadership Network forum series returns June 3 with a presentation from Dalton Li, a vice president who leads the continuous improvement practice for $29 billion-a-year MassMutual Financial Group.

In this session, which kicks off with a networking breakfast, Li will provide an inside look at MassMutual’s approach to lean deployment, its coaching strategy, and its support system for sustaining gains. Li began his career as a nuclear submarine officer based in Annapolis and later served as an assistant professor for the U.S. Navy before working at consultancy McKinsey & Co. for six years. He joined MassMutual in his current role in 2012.

Formal invites for this session are set to go out early the week of May 2.

Innovation Summer series

B. Carpenter, A. Schlegel
B. Carpenter, A. Schlegel

Just a few weeks later, COE kicks off a three-part “Innovation Summer” series led by Associate Director Aravind Chandrasekaran. This series, set for June 16, July 14 and Aug. 18, tackles questions including: How can companies leverage lean/Six Sigma practices to build more agility for innovation teams inside their organization? How can they carry those across the supply chain? And how can these best practices cultivate an idea from its earliest stages?

Across this trio of sessions, you’ll hear from innovation icon 3M, Buckeye/NFL greats and business owners Bobby Carpenter and Anthony Schlegel (pictured, left), and more.

Registration for the first of the three sessions will open the week of May 9.

‘Build Your Brand’ workshop

Krista Neher

COE’s semi-annual Women’s Leadership Forum series returns June 24 for a workshop with Krista Neher, CEO of Boot Camp Digital. This “Launch Yourself” session will help attendees define, design and deliver a powerful personal brand online.

Registration for this limited-capacity session will open the week of May 16.

Check out COE’s events page for save-the-dates on additional events into the fall and through 2017.

Upcoming innovation event features leading R&D researcher, Goodyear HQ tour

Since the 2008 recession, organizations are pushing their research and development departments to the brink, seeking the same, or greater, levels of innovation at the same, or lower, amounts of funding. At the same time, an unprecedented level of connection across the global supply chain has brought competition to a frenzied peak, pushing companies to the brink and forcing them to efficiently work with global teams.

In this “new normal” for R&D, how can managers meet the demands of top-rung leadership and the market itself?

A. Chandrasekaran
A. Chandrasekaran

The Center for Operational Excellence is partnering with the Fisher College of Business Department of Managing Sciences to host award-winning Prof. Aravind Chandrasekaran (right) on Wednesday, Oct. 29, for an “Innovation Day” workshop. Prof. Chandrasekaran will share the results of his years of collaboration with top global innovators in a range of industries, presenting original research that answers critical R&D questions, chiefly:

  • How can I best manage R&D teams and align incentives to achieve the type of innovation I’m pursuing?
  • How do I know when to involve suppliers and other non-internal partners innovation, and when can that hurt, rather than help?
  • What are the challenges involved in working with partners based around the globe, and how can I manage them?

This members-only Innovation Day event includes the exclusive workshop with Prof. Chandrasekaran, catered lunch, discussion panel and guided online simulation that sheds light on how to manage disruptive innovation with finite resources. This session is limited to 40 total attendees with a maximum of five registrants per COE member company.

Make it a two-day experience at Goodyear’s HQ

GoodyearMoreDrivenLogo[1]COE is thrilled to offer an optional second-day event to the innovation workshop: An exclusive presentation and tour at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s Akron headquarters on Thursday, Oct. 30. In the morning, Goodyear Senior Master Black Belt Norbert Majerus will share how the company has embedded lean product development principles throughout its R&D operation. Following lunch, attendees will embark on a tour of the company’s Akron campus, Operations Management Center, and Knowledge and Project Management division.

At the Operations Management Center, attendees will get an inside look at how Goodyear has implemented visual management as it works to develop and turn out a staggering 1,500 tire SKUs a year. In the Knowledge and Project Management division, attendees will see how the company has created standard work for projects. The company’s new campus, meanwhile, highlights how a continued drive to be collaborative and focus on the customer have influenced a multimillion-dollar construction project.

This tour, limited to 20 participants, requires attendees to provide their own transportation to and from the Goodyear campus but includes a catered lunch.

To register your company for the Innovation Day session and/or the Goodyear tour, click here.

Agenda (subject to minor changes):

Wednesday, Oct. 29

  • 9:30 a.m.: Registration / Continental breakfast
  • 10 – 11:30 a.m.: Presentation, Prof. Aravind Chandrasekaran
  • 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: Networking lunch
  • 12:30 – 2:30 p.m.: Back Bay Battery Simulation
  • 2:30 – 4 p.m.: Discussion panel
  • 4-5:30 p.m.: Cocktail reception

Thursday, Oct. 30

  • 10:15 a.m.: Check-in in Goodyear lobby
  • 10:30 to noon: “Lean Product Development Principles at Goodyear,” Norbert Majerus
  • Noon to 1 p.m.: Catered lunch
  • 1 to 3 p.m.: Goodyear tour

Study: R&D directors, project leaders need to view innovation through new lens

A new study from a Fisher College of Business professor suggests research and development teams could use some more outside-the-box thinking in how they structure and manage their own innovation projects.

Forthcoming in the Production and Operations Management journal is “The Role of Project and Organization Context in Managing High-Tech R& D Projects.” This study, which employs both qualitative case data and survey data from more than 100 R&D projects at nearly three-dozen high-tech organizations, is authored by Aravind Chandrasekaran, an assistant professor of management sciences at Fisher.

aravind chandrasekaran innovation R&D
Prof. Aravind Chandrasekaran’s (pictured) research surveyed nearly three-dozen high-tech companies.

In his research, Chandrasekaran found that companies are making a very common mistake in managing their R&D projects, and the consequences can range from an internal preference towards cut-and-dry, quick-turnaround innovation projects to loss of market share and competitive edge.

Context is key

At the root of this increasingly troubling trend among R&D teams is a common villain: The tried-and-true approach, backed by decades of research and results. Projects typically are categorized and managed by the extent of change in the product, process, technology and market dimensions. A routine iPhone upgrade from a 3G to a 3GS, for example, falls at one end of a continuum as a so-called incremental innovation project.

“If you’re going from a CD player to an iPhone, though, that’s radical innovation,” Prof. Chandrasekaran said.

This research posits that R&D project management shouldn’t be determined on a sliding scale of eventual change, big or small. Rather, it should be driven by project goals, whether they’re to explore a new technology or to exploit opportunities for efficiencies, cost savings or faster time to market, Prof. Chandrasekaran said.

The research found that incremental and radical innovation projects thrive under two entirely different sets of so-called project and organizational contexts. Incremental projects need diligent, transactional leaders at the helm, low levels of team-member autonomy and well-defined goals that are tied to outcome-driven incentives. Radical innovation projects, meanwhile, need a leader who’s willing to promote risk-taking and experimentation, give team members more latitude and reward them at milestones, not just the finish line.

Crossing these wires, the research found, can be deadly for project success. Put a rigid, transactional leader in front of a radical project team and the creative juices stop flowing. Give incremental project teams more autonomy and a hands-off approach and deadlines are missed.

A one-size-fits-all approach to project tracking, all too common in the companies surveyed, spells trouble, too. Teams juggling a mixed bag of projects, all with the same metrics and reporting structure will develop a Pavlovian affinity for the fast and predictable incremental ones and leave the long-term radical ones on the to-do list.


R&D innovation
(Click to enlarge) The study posits that managing R&D projects by intended goals ensures so-called hybrid projects won’t be missed.

Here’s the nuance that even the savviest high-tech companies miss in their ongoing R&D project management efforts: Some projects in these environments are driven by goals typically associated with radical innovation and incremental innovation, but existing research doesn’t offer much help on how to deal with them, Prof. Chandrasekaran found.

These so-called “hybrid projects” aren’t new to post-recession R&D departments, but they’re making more appearances as companies are asked to do more with less or – at best – the same.

“In this day and age, budget cuts are more and more visible in R&D environments, and companies are being asked to make big leaps in projects, pushing up deadlines without giving additional resources,” he said.

The growing stakes of maintaining competitive edge are outpacing overall R&D spending, too. An annual Battelle report on R&D expenditures found U.S. spending is set to grow about 2.5 percent this year, on par with the growth in the national Gross Domestic Product but slower than the global growth rate of 3.4 percent.

The key to nurturing these hybrid projects, Prof. Chandrasekaran found, is first not to let them get incorrectly classified as radical innovation projects, the most frequent mistake. Key red flags to look out for include the addition of deadline or cost pressure to an otherwise radical innovation project.

“In practice, organizations are pretty good at making changes between radical and incremental projects,” he said. “They often fail to make that change for hybrid projects.”

What these projects need, according to the study, is a so-called “ambidextrous leader” who knows when to shift between hands-off management during bursts of team creativity to taking the reins and steering the project on time and on budget.

“These are leaders who know when to push and when to pull,” Prof. Chandrasekaran said. “Unfortunately, they are in short supply, but this quality can be nurtured with the proper training.”

Not just for tech

Tapping into high-tech companies for this study, Prof. Chandrasekaran said, wasn’t an act of random selection. The tech sector remains the R&D industry’s most fertile ground for growth, but that doesn’t mean this research is valuable only to them.

Any company investing in R&D should take notice of the opportunities they’re missing as they organize and deploy project teams, he said.

“This research shows management has to make key changes,” Prof. Chandrasekaran said, with the following questions: “How do you reward these people? How do you lead these teams? When do you give them decision – making autonomy? When do you take back the same decision-making autonomy?”

In short, effective senior management support in R&D doesn’t stop after signing off on a budget. That’s just the beginning.