Let’s Get Lean

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On the afternoon of Thursday, February 14th, Tippie Alumna Lauren Olson gave an interactive presentation to the Strategic Innovation Academy. For those not intimately familiar with how “academy time” works, the various Full-time M.B.A. academies get together once a week and are joined by guest speakers, take part in special discussions, and so on and so forth. It is a pretty swell time, especially in the S.I. Academy (we also have the best parties).

Lauren Olson graduated from Iowa with her M.B.A. in 2005 and was employed by the United Technologies Company until a few months ago when she began her tenure with the National Cooperative Grocers Association as Director of Talent Development. While Ms. Olson enjoyed her time with UTC, she is glad to be back in Iowa City.

The first part of the presentation centered on “lean manufacturing in a non-manufacturing environment.” Lean is a management philosophy derived in large part from the Toyota Production System that seeks to ferret out waste from business practices. There are many definitions, but the elimination of waste is generally key to lean thinking. UTC employs a lean philosophy called “ACE” (“Achieving Competitive Excellence”).

The Strategic Innovation Academy had the opportunity to delve deeper into some of the tools from the ACE toolkit by way of a Human Resource case study that Ms. Olson had put together for the group. We divided ourselves into teams and attempted to solve the issue of competing factions with relation to salary planning. There was plenty of opportunity to diagnose where the waste was coming from, get at the root cause of the issue, and formulate a plan for how best to deal with the situation.

Finally, Lauren Olson commented extensively on the cooperative business model. It was great to be exposed to a more non-traditional way of doing business. All in all, the session was extremely enlightening and enjoyable. There were plenty of takeaways to be had both in terms of the application of lean principles and in how co-ops function.

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