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March Madness and the Principles of Operational Excellence at THE University of Dayton

You may have heard about THE University of Dayton’s bracket busting tour through the NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball tournament and perhaps have seen the pictures of their President, Dr. Dan Curran crowd-surfing with the celebrating students in the streets surrounding the university.  Perhaps a little background is necessary in order to understand the link of March Madness and Operational Excellence at UD.

My wife and I are in the small percentage of people who picked the University of Dayton to proceed to the sweet sixteen in the NCAA basketball tournament.  Dayton, once considered a “bubble” team, (one that may not make the final cut of 64 teams) was seeded 11th in the South region and faces one of the toughest paths to the finals.

Their first game was against interstate foe, The Ohio State University Buckeyes.  I can’t  call this a rivalry game because of Ohio State’s policy of not scheduling games against in-state schools.  The state of Ohio has had it’s share of talented basketball schools – Cincinnati, Xavier, Kent State and Dayton who have all participated in recent NCAA tournaments and have had some success.  Even my alma mater, Cleveland State University made a trip to the sweet sixteen back in 1986, while I was earning my MBA, there.  For some reason, Ohio State will not schedule a regular season game with another in-state school.

Ohio State has represented the cream of the crop when it comes to NCAA Division 1 basketball in Ohio.  We’ve always rooted for the Buckeyes, because of their success and our loyalty to the state of Ohio.

So when the brackets were announced last week, my son, Noah, a freshman at UD was a little torn.  After all, we had taught him that you should be loyal to Ohio State and he had grown up always rooting for them.  Ohio State started as his first choice of schools to attend for his Engineering undergraduate degree – until we visited both Ohio State and Dayton.  Dayton was always a close second due to his older sister having graduated from UD in 2009.  After visiting both schools last year, Dayton won his heart and his mind. So when he texted us with the question, “Who am I supposed to root for in the first round?”  He may have been thinking more about the Billion Dollar challenge than he was about school loyalty.  He later texted, “I want Dayton to win, but I’ve always rooted for OSU.  It’s so conflicting, haha”.  We helped him make a quick adjustment in his thinking and he, my wife and I filled out our brackets with Dayton beating Ohio State and they did!

Next up, Syracuse, a team that at one time during this season was ranked number 1, having won their first 25 games of the season.  Logically, Syracuse should end Dayton’s run in the tournament.  It would be silly to pick Dayton, as the experts only gave them a 3.5% chance of making it to the Sweet Sixteen round.  We picked them anyway and Dayton won.

Their victory set off a celebration in the streets around the campus, which brings me to my link between the NCAA tournament known as March Madness and Operational Excellence on display at UD.

The President of the University goes to gemba.  Not only in the classroom, but he takes to the streets.

As retweeted by the University of Dayton twitter account:  Dayton’s president celebrates ‘s big win by crowd surfing (Pic via ). /

That’s right, University of Dayton president, Dr. Daniel Curran, instead of sitting at home and watching news coverage of the celebration, decided it would be best for him to be a part of it.  He was not afraid to interact with the celebrating students.  It looks like his presence was appreciated by the students, as they could be heard cheering, “Dr. Dan, Dr. Dan, Dr. Dan!”

This represents what many organizations are lacking when it comes to implementing a lean culture.  Their leaders don’t want to go the gemba, where the work is done.  They would rather look at reports on their computer screens and rely on their managers to go see what is going on.  This is what keeps front-line caregivers and associates distanced from their leaders.

We’ve been to Dayton and have met and shook hands with Dr. Curran.  He was at the freshman orientation pep rally and opening Mass this fall when my son started his college journey.  My wife and I watched from the stands as Dr. Curran interacted with the students.  When he spoke later about genuinely being interested in the success of the students, we believed him because we had seen the way he interacted with them.

Dayton practices lean management across the University.  Mark Graban posted about their lean initiatives in their back office operations.  http://www.leanblog.org/2014/01/a-lean-machine-university-of-dayton-uses-lean-to-improve-operations/

Mark also hosted a podcast with Paul Piechota, Director for the Center for Competitive Change at the University of Dayton School of Engineering.  You can listen to the podcast at  www.leanblog.org/194 

In the podcast, Paul talks about the support from Dr. Curran and how they have adapted lean as a business strategy.  Dr. Curran’s leadership is a constant message throughout the podcast.

UD’s quest to achieve operational excellence is not a tool-based approach, rather, it is grounded in guiding principles, starting with their roots as a Marianist university.

We had an opportunity to experience another principal of operational excellence (Respect for Every Individual) at UD recently when our son, Noah, called my wife in the morning a few weeks ago complaining of severe abdominal pain.  His roommate had left for the day and there was no one around in his dorm for him to contact.  He was lying on his dorm room floor writhing in pain.  My wife called 911, who contacted University student services.  An ambulance transported Noah to the local hospital where it was discovered that Noah was passing a small kidney stone.   He was given some pain-killing medication and was given a ride back to his dorm where we met him after driving the 3.5 hours to ensure everything was ok.  He is ok now, but it was a scary morning for him and for us.

While we were driving to Dayton, we received a call from Student Services checking to see that everything was ok and offering us housing for the evening if we wanted it.  It is a service that they offer to all parents whose kids require medical attention.  We assured them that Noah was ok and that we would not be staying the night, however, we were extremely pleased and thankful for the personal interest in both Noah’s and our well-being.

We were excited to see Dayton students and Dr. Curran celebrating their success by dancing in the streets last night.  They will be facing Stanford, another bracket busting team, in Memphis on Thursday.  We’re hoping they can continue their dancing in the next two weeks!

We are looking forward to the next few years as we continue to learn and benefit from and celebrate with UD’s President, Faculty, Staff and students.

Goooooo, Dayton Flyers!

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America’s got Talent

There’s a reality show on NBC that showcases a variety of performers who compete for viewers’ votes to keep moving forward.  Weekly winners advance towards the grand prize of landing a headline show in Las Vegas.  I have to admit that mixed in with some really goofy acts, there are some real diamonds in the rough who are really talented and discovered through their appearance on the show.  This post isn’t about them.

Last week, I wrote about the preparations for the Medina County Fair and what a big part 4-H and the fair played in the education of our children.

This past weekend, my wife, Lisa and I did something we haven’t done since we’ve been married; we spent six hours together – just us, no kids, at the fair, enjoying the sights, sounds and food.  It was a fun day, and we re-discovered the real talent developing in our future leaders.

We started our day with a trip to the 4-H booth building that I wrote about last week.  The theme for this year’s fair was “Pride”.  Some clubs exhibited pride in the projects they worked on and included quotes from club members on what they were most proud of.  Other clubs interpreted the Pride theme by referring to their clubs as a Pride of lions.

 

There were so many references to key #lean leadership principles evident throughout the booths.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Next, we went over to the livestock show barn where the annual auction of animals takes place.  Kids who have spent the last year caring for cattle, pigs, sheep, turkeys, and other varieties of livestock, learn one of the toughest lessons in life  and leadership – letting go.  The reward for their hard work is a nice payoff for their investment of time and effort.  My son’s girlfriend and her family have been raising cattle and turkeys for years and this year, her younger sister’s cows won Champion County Born and Raised and Reserve Grand Champion carcass.  Listening to the auctioneer is pure entertainment as he works the crowd to gain that extra nickel per pound for the 4-H’er.  This represents college tuition to many of the kids. They work hard for it and earn a nice reward.

Next up, the open class still exhibits where my daughter, Sara, (who only started knitting a little over a year ago), proudly displayed articles of clothing she has knit for her children.  Sara’s projects earned her a First place and several other  second and third place ribbons.  She can now proudly call herself  an award-winning knitter.  Actually, one of her projects won a ribbon at last year’s fair, so she was already an award winner.  You can see some of her work here and make a purchase if you’re interested.

While we were looking at the still exhibits, the Dock Dog competition started.  You may have seen these competitions on television, where dogs leap 20 feet through the air off of a dock and into a pool of water chasing after their favorite toy.  These dogs are fun to watch.

By this time we had worked up an appetite and there is no better food than fair food.  My doctors at the Cleveland Clinic might think otherwise and I know that I will have some explaining to do at my Weight Watchers meeting this week, but the “Porktato” that we shared was a real treat.  It starts with a large baked potato, topped with butter, sour cream and finally smothered with smoked pulled pork and barbecue sauce. 

A lemonade to wash it down was welcomed on a hot, muggy day in Northeast Ohio.

After getting re-fueled, we visited the memorial site for the victims of the steam engine explosion I wrote about last week.  It was touching to see how nicely the community has pitched in to keep the memory of these neighbors and friends alive.

Next up, the animals.  Every year, there are two mother pigs with their litters of about 10 baby piglets nursing and playing in their pens.  Stayed tuned for a future post on how my favorite bedtime story to read to my kids as they were growing up – Charlotte’s Web, played a big part in my understanding of lean.  Sheep, goats, pigs, horses, dairy cattle, rabbits and poultry were all on display for everyone to see up close and personal.

The agriculture building is where we saw one of our favorite displays, the Medina County Beekeepers booth.  A plexiglass display case houses a demonstration beehive, enabling fair-goers the opportunity to watch the bees work and challenges them to “find the queen”.  Many years ago, I got started in beekeeping while helping my son’s with their 4-H beekeeping project. 

Medina, our hometown, is the birthplace of the modern beekeeping industry. 

 A.I. Root developed many of the hive technologies that are currently used by beekeepers.  While learning about bees, I discovered the secret to their success in keeping their hives vibrant and productive.  They have clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each bee in the hive (standard work) and their communication systems are outstanding. While working at Ford, a swarm of bees found their way to the back of our building.  I assisted a co-worker who was also a beekeeper in capturing the swarm and then wrote an article for our monthly newsletter about the teamwork displayed by bees.  I’ll post that here soon.

Finally, after getting some kettle corn and a milkshake (strawberry) from the 4-H milkshake stand, we settled in to watch and listen to a fiddling competition.  Contestants competed in four categories – Youth, Junior, Senior and Open classes.  Kids and seniors all played well, but it was the open class where some very good fiddle players showed off their talent.  It was a real treat to sit and listen to them under the shelter of a pavilion when the skies opened up with a deluge of rain.  The highlight came at the end of the competition when all of the players got together onstage for a jam session.  

Yes, there are troubles in the world where competing values struggle to find alignment.  This past weekend, however, we experienced a place where values aligned, talent was showcased and we confirmed that America does have talent!

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Excellence in Action

At approximately the same time I was working on Gifford Brown’s presentation on lean discussed in my previous post, I was also responsible for developing our plant’s new peer-to-peer, non-monetary employee recognition program, which came to be called “Excellence in Action”.  It’s focus was on recognizing and rewarding the behaviors that supported Cleveland Engine Plant 2’s Cleveland Production System.

This program provided employees at all levels of the organization an opportunity to recognize fellow workers in the categories of Leadership, Involvement, Innovation & Ingenuity, Effort, Quality and Safety. 

I designed the logo shown here.  It was a nice way of depicting the continuous improvement cycle.  Leaders need to experience a level of excellence before they can start to expect it.  Then, they need to exude the behaviors that they should expect their employees to exhibit.  If leaders experience excellence, exude it and expect it, then they need to recognize and reward it when they see it to reinforce the appropriate behaviors.  When this cycle is completed, a new level of excellence will have been achieved.

Recently, I had an opportunity to share this concept as part of a leadership retreat at another organization and made a slight adjustment to indicate the link to continuous improvement and moving forward.  The revised image is below.

What’s valued in any organization gets measured, recognized and rewarded.  As you align your organization, start with an expectation of excellence.  Define what excellence means to you and then model it, so that others can follow you.  Design and align your systems to support your principles and values and make process improvement tools available to all employees and encourage them to experiment and learn.

As you will see as I continue my posts, I like to model my thoughts and present them visually in order to demonstrate alignment.  If the pieces can’t fit together to tell a story, chances are the concepts won’t work.

I’ve been fortunate to have experienced excellence and it is a great feeling.

I’m interested in hearing other stories on how you’ve set expectations and experienced excellence.

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