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.
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!