IIE Best Practices in Managing Continuous Improvement 2013 




Geert Letens and Jennifer Farris
8:50 a.m. 

Continuous Improvement: A Strategic Perspective

Speaker: Kurt Verweire, strategy professor and partner, Vlerick Business School
Time: 9 a.m. - 10 a.m. EST

Many people see continuous improvement as an essential success factor of a quality and/or process management philosophy. Nevertheless, it seems to be an area that many companies struggle with. A major reason firms fail to improve their management processes is they lack a coherent business strategy. Most firms launch improvement initiatives at the functional level. They launch a multitude of actions in their HR, operations, sales, IT, and marketing departments. But when firms lack a clear business strategy, those actions compete with each other. Then, the enemy is no longer the competitor; it’s the colleague from the other department. Firms need to develop continuous improvement initiatives in line with a particular strategy. In this presentation, Kurt Verweire will show what strategic continuous improvement means and what it takes to create commitment around a clear, winning strategy. The presentation will include case studies on how continuous improvement and strategy commitment go hand-in-hand and lead firms to great performance.

Lean: Powerful Medicine for Healthcare

Speaker: Dr. Patricia A. Gabow, professor of medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine
Time: 10 a.m. - 11 a.m. EST

American healthcare has significant issues with access, cost, quality and disparity. While federal government action will be required to address these problems, solutions will also require transformation at an individual system level. Denver Health, a large urban healthcare system, embarked on such a transformation in 2005 utilizing lean philosophy and tools as a pathway for this transformation. A brief description of the broad issues in American healthcare and of Denver Health will be provided for context. The details of the role of leadership; the steps of and the structure for the lean implementation; the financial, quality and human development outcomes; and the lessons learned from this journey will be presented. This presentation is intended to demonstrate the power of lean in healthcare and provide one roadmap for its use. 

Bridging Industrial Engineering, Continuous Improvement and Operations Research

Speaker: Srikanth Sankaran, United Airlines
Time: 11 a.m. - Noon EST

Traditional industrial engineering involves more of time and motion studies, process analysis and product flow enhancement with less emphasis on analytics, statistics and optimization. Though organizations have separate groups that specialize in analytics and industrial engineering/continuous improvement, they don’t always work together providing less impactful solutions to the business. At United Airlines, we were able to bring industrial engineering, continuous improvement (CI) and operations research (OR) under one umbrella providing opportunity for IEs to collaborate with experts from OR and CI. This session will help you understand United’s unique structure, which marries our enterprise optimization team (the company’s analytical engine) with the continuous improvement/industrial engineering group. The talk will dive into specific examples of how this structure helped the team tackle both strategic and tactical problems from business leaders. 

Designing, Developing, Deploying Integrated LeanSigma (CI) in the Context of Operational Excellence Programs

Speaker: Scott Sink, director, Integrated Leansigma Certification Program, The Ohio State University
Time: 1 p.m. - 2 p.m. EST 

In this presentation, Scott Sink will share a case study from his time with a Global Life Sciences company. The focus of the case is on the design, development and implementation/deployment of an operational excellence program (integrated leansigma/continuous improvement). He will share the design and development principles, lessons learned, what worked, and what didn’t. He also will integrate other benchmarking insights from additional enterprise transformation/improvement projects he has worked on in the past 10 to 15 years in the context of this specific case study. Learn how to ensure creation of enterprise value rapidly and sustainably.  

Developing Improvement Best Practices to Prepare for Enterprise Transformation

Speaker: Lt. Col. Geert Letens, Ph.D., military materials engineer, Department of Economics, Management and Leadership, Royal Military Academy, Belgium
Time: 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. EST

Under the current economic conditions, thoughtful downsizing and enterprise transformation have become prerequisites for survival in many organizations. Adapting organizations to a changing business environment, however, not only implies significant changes to structures, processes and systems; it also requires the development of a learning organization that gradually creates a shared understanding of both its business and transformation processes. This presentation demonstrates how the identification of best practices of various improvement methodologies (e.g., ISO 9000, TQM, BSC, lean, ITIL) have been important to support transformational change within a technical support unit of the Belgian Armed Forces. Insights from this case study suggest that it is important to develop transformation capabilities gradually, especially in low maturity environments. This implies a systematic identification of improvement best practices to mature the competencies of those involved in the transformation as well as a shift in the culture that encourages public testing of assumptions. After two years of organization development, the unit went through a major restructuring effort that actively involved more than 150 people and resulted in a reduction from 1,550 to 1,000 personnel while achieving breakthrough performance in service levels. 

Lean Leadership

Speaker: Michael Ballé, author and executive lean coach
Time: 3 p.m. - 4 p.m. EST

Lean = Kaizen + Respect. The foundation stone of lean thinking is the assumption that striving to improve safety, quality, flexibility and productivity (kaizen) by involving everyone every day in problem solving (respect) is going to enhance the company on its markets, financially and humanly. This is what leaders who have transformed their own companies through lean mean by “lean is the strategy.” The presentation will detail a lean leadership model to help practitioners question and develop their own practice. The goal of the model is to sustain performance improvement by building on both results and relationships and developing mutual trust through shared success. The main practice is to go to the gemba and see for oneself in order to meet people, challenge, listen, teach, support, encourage teamwork and learn.


Geert Letens and Jennifer Farris
4 p.m.