November  2017   Newsletter
President's Message | New Leaders & Conferences

Hello SEMS friends,
I hope you are enjoying the Fall season; and soon, it will be time to get ready for the holidays. As we wind down our hectic schedules, it is an appropriate time to do a retrospective on the things that went well and things that could have gone better this year.  It is also an appropriate time to give and receive feedback from your colleagues and teams. As managers, receiving feedback is a gift; even though, at times, the feedback may sound as criticism. For receiving feedback, you need to be an effective listener. First and foremost, establish rapport with the person providing feedback and do not rush to judgement (avoid "I know the answer" attitude). Also, demonstrate that you are interested to hear this feedback by using open-ended questions and avoiding constant interruptions. Lastly, paraphrase and summarize what you have heard and avoid misinterpretations. Here is a relevant video on how to receive feedback. 
Our board and volunteers are busy working on numerous activities, including preparation for the 2018 IISE Annual Conference and Expo. The abstract submission for the conference was due on November 7, 2017. We are expecting yet another stellar program from the Engineering Management track. The chairs are designing a panel discussion, featured speakers, and also the student paper competition. We are also making progress on collaborating with the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM) to provide a better member experience for both ASEM and SEMS. Additionally, two webinars were completed in early 2017 and we will share the details in December.  

As always, we welcome suggestions (and volunteers!) to ensure SEMS remains your preferred
society for engineering and management systems. Contact any of your Officers to offer input or get involved.  We hope you have a good year-end. 

Sreekanth Ramakrishnan , SEMS President
Brian Smith, SEMS President-Elect
Charlene Yauch, SEMS Past- President
SEMS Board of Directors | Call for Nominations

We have a call for nominations for the President-elect and Directors  for the 2018 - 2021 period. 
President-elect serves a three-year term - transitioning from 
the President-elect to the President, and finally as the Past President. We also have two vacant Director positions, who serve three-year terms, and will lead one of the Board's portfolios (Newsletters and Industrial Management). We want a rich slate of candidates for all positions and are happy to discuss with any of you that might want more information. Contact the Chair of the Nomination Committee: Charlene Yauch (SEMS Past-President) for more information and to express your interest. She can be contacted at
SEMS Says | How your expert thinks can determine methodology

The advent of inexpensive storage and accessible computing power has  helped fuel the popularity of big data to support decision-making. Collecting, storing and mining data are now  routine, and analysts at all levels of expertise can build data-driven models. 

However, experience shows the perils of allowing purely data-driven models and artificial intelligence to totally drive the decision-making process. For example, Google's Flu Tracker  missed the peak of flu season by 140 percent. Qualitative components of models cannot be ignored, and subject matter expertise continues to be needed to build models that support holistic decision-making. 

The literature and practice support two major methods or approaches to subjective decision-making: utility-based approaches, such as multiple objective decision-making (MODA), and the analytic hierarchy process (AHP). Both approaches require subject matter experts (SMEs). In a utility-based approach, SMEs identify a value function for every attribute, or characteristic to be evaluated, of the model. These value functions can be risk averse (concave), risk seeking (convex), risk neutral or S-shaped. The SME then identifies 0-100 values for every point on the  function. The alternatives are then scored against the attributes.  Read More.

Natalie Scala is an assistant professor in the Department of e-Business and Technology Management in the College of Business and Economics at Towson University.

SEMS Says | Design thinking can bring great results to your improvement projects

Traditional problem-solving methods (lean, Six Sigma and PDCA) focus on improving processes by focusing on eliminating wastes and bottlenecks.  

For example, kaizens are structured problem-solving events that focus on a problem and often involve a cross-functional team that brainstorms to identify solutions to improve the process. During the life cycle of a process, improvement ideas sometimes become redundant and lack a "wow" factor - in other words, the business leaders are underwhelmed by the results. This is where design thinking concepts can help practitioners to revive their change efforts. 

Design thinking is a technique that has been around since the 1960s when industrial and product designers used it to differentiate themselves from engineers. However, it has evolved significantly since then and took its current shape when the global design company IDEO popularized design thinking by focusing on human-centric design for products. In recent years, design thinking has gained a foothold in industry primarily because of its focus on co-creation  and participatory design with multidisciplinary teams. Numerous organizations, including Apple, Coca-Cola, IBM, Nike and Procter & Gamble, use design thinking to solve their client's complex problems.  

Why is design thinking different from traditional problem-solving  methods? A key difference is that the design mindset, at least compared to the lean Six Sigma approach, is not problem-focused. Instead, it is solution-focused and geared toward creating a future state that will satisfy the end user. Additionally, the future state is defined by empathizing with the end user (qualitative aspects) rather than just looking at data and inferring needs (quantitative). A quote from Don Norman, the author of The Design of Everyday Things, summarizes this very eloquently: "Designers don't try to search for a solution until they have determined the real problem, and even then, instead of solving that problem, they stop to consider a wide range of potential solutions.

Lean Six Sigma practitioners can adapt many design thinking practices into their process improvement efforts. Click here for a few thought starters and more.
Sreekanth Ramakrishnan

Sreekanth Ramakrishnan is a senior data scientist and net promoter score  implementation  lead with IBM Corp. He is a certified lean master, design thinking coach and lean Six Sigma black belt. He is also an adjunct faculty at the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business at San Jose State University. He is the current president of SEMS.

Member Spotlight | Fernando González Aleu 
(Universidad de  Monterrey)

In this newsletter, we highlight the winner of the SEMS Best Paper Competition in the Engineering Management track at this year's IISE Annual Conference & Expo. Fernando González Aleu won the prestigious award. He works an Associate Professor at the Universidad de Monterrey (UDEM) (University of Monterrey). His winning paper,  'Determinants of Goal Achievement for Continuous Improvement Projects in Hospitals' was influenced by his last manuscript in his PhD dissertation. The topics area was inspired by the problems that hospitals were having with patient safety. He proposed that patient safety could be improved using continuous improvement activities, such as Kaizen event, Lean Six Sigma, or quality improvement projects. 

Fernando first got introduced to Industrial Engineering when he studied Mechanical and Management Engineering at Universidad de Monterrey in Mexico for his Bachelor's degree about 24 years ago. Six years later, he completed a Master's degree specialising in manufacturing systems at the Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM). About two years ago, he completed another Master's degree in Engineering Management at Virginia Tech University (VT) in the United States; followed by a PhD in 2016 from the same university. He was pursuing his Master's and PhD degree while working as an Associate Professor in the Industrial Engineering department at UDEM. 

He has focused on researching on continuous improvement projects in health care environments like hospitals; as well as, focusing on research on operations excellence models such as the Malcolm Bridge National Quality Award and Shingo Model. This interest was sparked by a desire to improve processes using statistical tools. 

The writing process was an exercise in international collaboration and virtual communications. Using Webex, he met with his dissertation committee to discuss his research. At the last meeting, the committee asked him to include a last manuscript (the winning paper). His advisor, Dr Eileen Van Aken (Virginia Tech), and the two members of his dissertation committee (Dr. Jennifer Cross -Texas Tech University and Dr. Wiljeana Glover - Babson College), thought that it would be a good idea. They were right!   Learn more about Fernando.
II SE Annual Conference & Expo 2017 |
SEMS Best Paper Competition  sponsored by Missouri Science & Technology University and Old  Dominion University

1s P l a c e D eter m i na nts  of  G oa A c h i e v em ent  f or  C o nti nuo us  I m p r ov em ent  P r o j ec t i H os p i t a l s
by Fernando González Aleu (Universidad de Monterrey,  Mexico), Eileen M. Van Aken (Virginia
Tech, United States), Jennifer Cross (Texas Tech University,  United States), and Wiljeana Glover (Babson College, United States). 

Continuous improvement projects (CIPs) such as Kaizen events, Six Sigma projects, Lean  projects, and quality improvement projects have been used by hospitals to improve their  processes and corresponding results. However, evidence in the literature suggests that hospitals  experience difficulty achieving successful outcomes with in CIPs. CIP success may be measured by perceptual measures, such as those used in survey investigations, and/or with more objective measures, such as in this study. The purpose of this study is to identify the most significant determinants of success for CIPs in
hospitals based on objectively measured goal achievement. In order to address this aim,35 CIPs in hospital settings were studied and data were analyzed using logistic regression. Results indicate that Team Operation is the most significant determinant of the extent to which CIPs achieve their goals. This finding differs from previous research on CIPs that uses perceptual measures of CIP success and can be used to develop a more holistic understanding of the determinants that influence multiple successful outcomes.

Lend a Helping Hand | Call for Volunteers

If you are interested in volunteering for SEMS and its initiatives, contact Sreekanth Ramakrishnan , SEMS president; or  Daren Maynard , n ewsletter editor .