As You Were Saying … MGH needs checkup for possible ER bottlenecks — Steven J. Spear

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steven Spear

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Steven Spear

From The Boston Herald

Five years after a $500 million expansion, Massachusetts General Hospital’s emergency department is again overburdened, in the words of hospital President Peter Slavin with “delays, dissatisfaction, and sometimes even concerns about quality and safety.”

Before the public, payers, policymakers and donors get on the hook — again — for more staff and more extraordinarily expensive capital expenditures, let’s ask these questions first.

• What’s the mix and volume of patients presenting at the emergency department?

• What portion of discharges occur on time, and of the rest, how long are they delayed?

• From when a patient first presents in the ED, what’s the lag until that patient is examined and treatment begins, the time from “door to doc?”

As to the first question, there are certainly patients with conditions that truly are life- or limb-threatening and arise unexpectedly. Think stroke, heart attack, or aneurysm.

Read More »

Contemplating a career in data science/business analytics? – Dimitris Bertsimas

MIT Sloan Prof. Dimitris Bertsimas

MIT Sloan Prof. Dimitris Bertsimas

From Accepted

Since we recorded this interview, the Wall Street Journal published a short article discussing the strong demand for tech skills around the world. Apparently the area with the greatest gap between supply and demand is Big data/analytics, where 39% of IT leaders feel there is a shortage of people skilled in this area, the highest of any tech field in the survey.

The shortage makes this podcast interview particularly timely because you’ll hear from Dr. Dimitris Bertsimas, Co-Director of MIT Sloan’s Master in Business Analytics, and we discuss this brand new program in depth.

Read More »

How to incubate innovation – Christian Catalini

MIT Sloan Professor Christian Catalini

MIT Sloan Professor Christian Catalini

From Business Value Exchange

The first thing an organization can do to nurture innovation is to tap into its own human capital. At a high level, all organizations care about ideas, and more often than not, in corporate settings, people already have ideas. Staff have expertise, know the customers, and throughout the organization they can interface with interesting sources of data and information.  It’s just that their day-to-day requirements do not allow them to execute. Slack time can be an important lever for incubating creativity and a meaningful way for executing ideas employees have had in mind for some time.

But if you ask employees to be entrepreneurial, it’s not same – they may end up directing their own unit, but not building and scaling a multi-billion dollar start-up. It’s hard when you have the safety and surroundings of a large organization to act like entrepreneurs who have to attract capital from outside. The challenge is once you identify talent and the ideas inside to incentivize to execute an experiment as though it were a start-up. Perhaps the biggest organizational change is to think like a small start-up.

From an organizational perspective, firms can learn a great deal from university accelerators. At MIT, we have Global Founders’ Skill Accelerator, where we get students with good ideas to scale businesses. The interesting thing is that students who have no experience of entrepreneurship get feedback and advice from a set of seasoned entrepreneurs. Similarly, an enterprise may have skills and expertise on the tech side, but no track record of taking an idea and scaling it to a multi-billion project. The challenge is how to recruit entrepreneurs to train employees with the good ideas to take them to the next level. Read More »

Solving the liquid fuel refining and distribution problems in Nigeria, and across Africa – Chinedu Onyeizu

Chinedu Onyeizu, MIT Sloan Fellow ’17

Producing two-million barrels of crude oil per day, Nigeria has approximately 38 billion barrels of crude oil and 188 trillion standard cubic feet of natural gas in reserve. Despite its abundance of natural and human resources — and its position as the largest crude oil producer in Africa — the country suffers from a persistent fuel shortage, with most Nigerians lacking adequate electricity. Clearly, the current industry model is not working in Nigeria. In the last 7 years, Nigeria has spent N4.7 trillion on petroleum products importation and subsidy payment.

I came to the MIT Sloan Fellows Program to find a solution. I am convinced that Nigeria has the capacity to become a leader in making liquid energy accessible and affordable to Africans. To enable such radical transformation, we need to make major policy, financial and operational changes.

The first step to finding a solution is identifying the cause of the current problems. Three main issues are prevalent in Nigeria: dysfunctional refineries, dependence on imported products and government regulation, and pipeline vandalism and distribution challenges.

Read More »

Whole Foods CEO’s poor excuse for poor performance – Jose Alvarez and Zeynep Ton

Harvard Business School Senior Lecturer Jose Alvarez

At a town hall meeting announcing Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, a Whole Foods employee had this question for CEO John Mackey:

“I have a question about Whole Foods’s commitment to those win-win-win-win partnerships with our suppliers, with our team members— and how that’s going to live on once this merger is complete.”

Mackey’s response was curious, to say the least:

MIT Sloan Adjunct Associate Professor Zeynep Ton

MIT Sloan Adjunct Associate Professor Zeynep Ton

“I think, sometimes, our company’s gone a little bit too much team-member focus at the expense of our customers. And that’s one definite evolution that’s gonna happen. I love the passion these guys [Amazon] have around the customer. They put the customer first in everything they do and think backwards. And— we— we’re gonna be the same way.”

If Mackey thinks that investing in people is part of the reason for Whole Foods’s poor performance, he’s wrong. From what we see, the real problem is a lack of operational excellence. Whole Foods may be paying its employees more than competitors do, but it has not created an operating system that leverages that investment. You can’t put premium gas in a clogged-up engine and expect to win a race.

Whole Foods strikes us as an organization that doesn’t standardize where it needs to and doesn’t empower where it needs to. Five stores within a city may have five different people purchasing from the same local farm in five different ways. Their information systems are mediocre at best.  John Mackey’s own words about Whole Foods technology are useful here: “So I think that we can expect that we’ll go to the front of the class, eventually, in the grocery business, from … the class dunce to… the class valedictorian.”

Poor systems and lack of appropriate standardization mean lower labor productivity and higher costs. At the same time, frontline team members appear to have little empowerment to satisfy customers. One of us recently wanted to return a $3 Whole Foods reusable shopping bag that had broken the first time it was used.  You would expect the cashier to just exchange the bag for a new one.  Instead, she called for her manager to resolve the problem.  It was a waste of time for all, including the other customers waiting in line. Paying team members more than competitors do won’t pay off if you don’t empower them to make a $3 decision! Lack of empowerment reduces not only motivation but also customer service.

Read More »