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Productivity, innovation, quality are focus of School of Global Management and Leadership

June 13, 2007
Recently, the beginning of what leaders at Arizona State University’s School of Global Management and Leadership (SGML) expect will be an ongoing, issues-oriented, research-producing series of industry-directed discussions took place on the university’s West campus.

And if the beginning is any indication, the end will be spectacular – the creation of a forum designed to bring a variety of industries together to produce real solutions to real challenges and focused on productivity, innovation and quality.

“Our new workshops are designed to seek potential ideas for research projects, but also the aim is to secure the commitment of interested participants to become members of a roundtable to be managed and facilitated by the School of Global Management and Leadership,” said Gary Waissi, dean of SGML.

“This emerging roundtable, typically consisting of about 10 companies, becomes a major continuous source of research ideas.”

The inaugural workshop brought together executive management representatives from the healthcare industry, providing attendees an opportunity to interact with other leading industry practitioners and policymakers, as well as university academics conducting research in the field.  The half-day session attracted over 20 healthcare executives who contributed to the development of an agenda that will influence ASU to dedicate its research and talent appropriately to issues that will positively impact the industry.

“The operational challenges of the healthcare sector are enormous,” noted Adegoke Oke, an SGML assistant professor of quantitative business analysis.  “The increased competition between providers, the ongoing advances in technology, and the increased cost of healthcare delivery are all issues of productivity, innovation and quality.

“The healthcare delivery sector has a strong presence in the Valley and provides a real opportunity to impact the community; if you help improve the quality of healthcare delivery, the real beneficiaries would be the community at large.”

Other industries that could receive SGML’s attention are financial services, manufacturing-focused small businesses and retail.

“Our focus areas are operational and tactical issues,” said Oke, who has teamed with fellow-SGML operations management faculty members Mohan Gopalakrishnan, Srimathy Mohan and Antonios Printezis to present the workshop opportunities.

“A project outcome might relate to productivity gains, cost reduction, delivery improvement, the transfer of technology or the adoption of technological innovation, or process innovation.”

Among those attending the inaugural workshop was Todd LaPorte, chief financial officer for Scottsdale Healthcare and an ASU alumnus (2004, SGML MBA).

“The workshop met my expectations in that it got the initial message out to enough critical mass to create a momentum,” said LaPorte, adding, “I have been working with some of the SGML faculty with the vision that the healthcare industry can help the university in developing its research agenda.

“If the content of research can be directed into practical application to affect actual operations, and if the talent pool from the university can be consistently at a caliber as the program suggests, this type of a forum has tremendous potential and value.”

Waissi, who stood behind the recent SGML launch of the Center for Responsible Leadership, believes the idea of industry-specific workshops and the ultimate progression to action-oriented roundtables is central to the School’s vision.

“Since managerial problems are inevitably complex and require a mixture of functional and thematic approaches, this forum has the potential of bringing faculty and practitioners together to work on thematic research areas to address real-life managerial issues.

“Also, a focus on local businesses through problem solving projects is unique and fills a niche in academia that has the potential of raising this school’s profile.”

Waissi noted another benefit of such a workshop and eventual roundtable is its timeliness.

“Most research ideas emerge from literature, which tend to lag actual practice.  The challenge for academia these days is to embark on ‘relevant,’ current and topical research, since the gap between academic research and practice has been traditionally very wide.  The roundtable idea is a way of bridging this gap and sensitizing academics to focus on research that really matters, rather than purely theoretical research.”

Sally Dimond, chief nursing officer at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center, attended the workshop and agrees with Waissi.

“The concept of bringing people together – people in our community – to work on critical issues that impact our industry is very exciting.  There is a great deal of work to be done, and through collaboration the possibility of significant impact seems more likely.

“All leaders want to make our work environments effective and efficient for the people who work there; there clearly appears to be opportunities to provide learning environments in our industry for the students.  And their knowledge in process engineering and improvement will be valuable as healthcare looks toward more efficient methods of providing care to the patients.”

The promise of the recent SGML healthcare workshop – and future forums for other industries – is bright.  After all, the most important part – the beginning – is complete.