Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Transforming Stress: The Secret of Success in the Business World

SDM Leadership Series Lecture

Ramesh Hariharan, PhD (Sloan MBA ‘04)
Global Director and Geographic Expansion Leader
Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics

April 1, 2010
6:30pm – 7:30pm
MIT Tang Center (E511-361)
Free and open to all.
Refreshments provided after the event

Through this experiential seminar, Dr. Hariharan will address applying techniques for success in the corporate world that bring the mind to a state of "relaxed-alertness". Taught in the programs of the Art of Living Foundation in more than 45 corporations across four continents, these techniques provide tools to improve productivity, motivate teams and help in relating to a wide range of individuals with varying expertise and experience.

Dr. Hariharan first learned of the Art of Living program in 2004, as a student at Sloan. He believes he learned more leadership lessons from it than from all of his formal educational training. In this evening's seminar, he will share his experiences with fellow Sloanies and offer a glimpse of the benefits through guided breathing exercises and meditation.

Speaker: Ramesh Hariharan is a Global Director and Geographic Expansion Leader at Novartis Vaccines & Diagnostics. Prior to Novartis, he was a Senior Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Company, which he joined after his MBA. At McKinsey, he served Pharmaceutical, Biotech and Private Equity clients in U.S., Germany and U.K., spanning a range of Commercial, R&D and Business Development issues for 4+ years. Ramesh’s educational degrees include a B.Tech. in Chemical Engineering from IIT Bombay, Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University and MBA from MIT Sloan ’04.

The Art of Living Foundation is one of largest volunteer based not-for-profit humanitarian organization in the world. Active in more than 145 countries, the organization is the fastest growing NGO affiliated with the UN and has impacted more than 30 million people from all backgrounds, religions, and cultural traditions. With its unique and powerful yoga, breathing and meditation techniques for relaxation and heightened awareness, it has empowered people at the individual level. Its mission is to promote a violence-free, stress-free society through its numerous worldwide social projects spanning all sections of society.

Sponsored by the System Design and Management Program (SDM), a joint program of the MIT Sloan School of Management and MIT School of Engineering. SDM resides within the MIT Engineering Systems Division.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Evolving from Software Engineer to Consultant

By Trinidad Grange-Kyner, SDM ‘08 Senior Consultant, Deloitte Consulting LLP

As a kid growing up in Nigeria, I always liked building things. When my parents needed help putting together something like a stereo, I was the one who helped. I liked learning about technology and became pretty savvy at an early age.

When it came time for me to enter college at the University of Lagos I actually wanted to study astronomy, but because no degree programs in it were offered, I pursued electrical engineering. After I received my B.Sc., I worked as a software engineer for several companies in Canada and the U.S. However, I realized that in order to advance, I needed to learn about management and how business decisions are made.

Like many of my technical colleagues I considered pursuing an M.B.A., but that didn’t feel right for several reasons. First, I didn’t want to leave my technical experience behind. I wanted to update and enhance it, while complementing it with management education. Second, because I’d been employed for many years, I wanted to learn from my peers as well as from my professors. It was my experience that MBA students generally had limited professional experience from which I could learn.

Trinidad Grange-Kyner, SDM ‘08
Photo courtesy of Deloitte Consulting LLP

SDM addressed both of my concerns. Its master’s degree in engineering and management helped me add managerial skills while enhancing – not replacing – my technical expertise. What better place to do this than MIT, which has one of the finest engineering schools in the world?

In addition, SDM admits only professionals who have several years of work experience. Therefore, my cohort consisted of successful mid-to-senior level managers who came from bricks and mortar industries, dotcoms, consulting firms, and more. They had worked in a wide range of functions, including software architecture, manufacturing, and supply chain management. Many had managed large, complex projects. This diversity made the SDM learning environment very rich. I felt that I could learn from -- and with -- my fellow students and I was right.

All of this expanded not only how I thought about business, but also how I could evolve. For example, one case study we discussed in class focused on how Dell assembles and ships computers so inexpensively. This opened my eyes to areas that I’d formerly found intimidating, like supply chain management and finance.

After graduating from SDM, I joined Deloitte as a senior consultant. My SDM degree gives me a unique advantage because, thanks to my SDM cohort and the program’s team-based projects, I’ve had exposure to many industries and the collaborative work environment. Moreover, my SDM learnings in IT governance, technology strategy, and financial accounting are very much related to the services that Deloitte provides to its clients.

For example, I’ve been working with a small team of consultants over several months on a series of client assessments related to regulatory changes in how information is transmitted to and from health plans. Ultimately this will mean a technological transformation for health plan companies whose IT systems have been around for a while. We’re assessing what they need to do to make this transformation and what it’s going to cost.

To accomplish this, I have to understand the processes and technologies they’re using. I must assess how this impending change will impact them and the potential risks. I need to summarize findings, provide clients with roadmaps, and prepare the communication of these plans to upper management in these large client organizations. To succeed, it’s essential for me to understand beforehand how the company is structured, with whom it is necessary to communicate, and what questions to ask. The courses I took at SDM gave me an understanding of how the market drives business structures and what language to employ to communicate this effectively.

As importantly, SDM helped me develop a comfort level with ambiguity – which is ever-present in today’s economy. Because so many of our class projects were based on teamwork, I realized that one person – that would be me – doesn’t have to have all of the answers all of the time. The collective power of the team, especially if its members bring diverse experiences to the table, can surface solutions to ambiguity that no one person could create.

It would have been difficult for Deloitte to hire me before I earned my SDM degree, because my experience was so narrow. SDM enhanced my knowledge and skills and opened the door to consulting at Deloitte for me.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

New SLaM Lab helps SDM put systems thinking into action - SDM Pulse Spring 2010

By Michael Davies and Dan Sturtevant, SDM ’07

Editor’s note: This is the first of a series of articles about the new Systems, Leadership, and Management Lab. Michael Davies, a senior lecturer in MIT’s Engineering Systems Division (ESD), and Dan Sturtevant, an SDM alumnus and ESD PhD student, are the instructors for the course.

Michael Davies
Senior Lecturer, SDM
In fall 2009, the SDM program launched a new course: the Systems, Leadership, and Management Lab (SLaM Lab). As the name suggests, the course objective is to enable participants to integrate "hard" systems and engineering skills with "soft" management and leadership skills through a lab program, working on real-world problems.

Participants in MIT’s System Design and Management Program (SDM) come from a variety of engineering backgrounds and are a rarity among postgraduates in the sense that they bring a maturity to the classroom that can only come from real experience in the field. These professionals, averaging 7-10 years of experience, return to education in pursuit of the additional tools they believe they need to become leaders in technical organizations.

As a result, SDM’s curriculum encompasses both "hard" technical disciplines and "soft" management skills. Some courses aim to enhance students’ ability to conceive of, and design, complex systems. These courses include product design and development, systems engineering, and system architecture. A second set of courses provides skills and theory about the human side of technology. Classes cover marketing, innovation, and strategy. A motivating concept behind SDM is the idea that the individual who possesses strengths in both areas, and who can integrate them, will have the ability to lead the technical enterprise much more effectively than someone with management or engineering skills alone.
Dan Sturtevant
SDM ’07

In 2008, SDM students and faculty discussed concerns that the curriculum was not integrating these two threads as effectively as possible. In particular, although many students brought with them the practical engineering experience that provided a strong context in which topics such as system architecture could be grounded, fewer had practical experience in management and strategy. In addition, although the program addressed leadership topics in many of its offerings, leadership skills were not taught explicitly. As a result, some SDM fellows chose to pursue other lab classes at MIT. In sum, there was growing impetus for a leadership course focused specifically on the needs of SDM fellows.

SLaM Lab was envisioned as an experiential course that would tie together the lessons of system architecture and technology strategy while giving students practical experience working with real clients on problems of significant strategic importance. The format was adapted from other excellent MIT lab courses, such as E-Lab (which focuses on entrepreneurship), G-Lab (global and emerging markets), iTeams (technology commercialization), and S-Lab (sustainability).

Students would work together in small teams for outside companies on projects that involved real-world ambiguity and noise and that required them to discriminate between the problems as presented and underlying reality, rather than on neatly packaged problem sets or case studies. Perhaps most importantly, projects would be selected based on their potential to make a real impact for the client organization.

As strong believers in a collaborative and participative approach, we approached this fall’s first class with respect for the diverse experience and perspective of the SDM fellows. The 12 students who chose to be in the first class knew that their role was not only to work on the projects, but also to actively act as sophisticated lead users helping to shape content and providing direction and feedback on this prototype program. Because this was a new course, and the first of its kind within the SDM curriculum, the participants’ input and impact resulted in major changes to the syllabus between September and December. We iteratively decided what the class focus should be based on personal knowledge gaps and the evolving needs of the clients we were working with through the fall.

Course learnings focused on the practical means for applying knowledge gained in SDM to the real-world issues presented by current (and future) projects. At the outset, the class focused on issues of leadership and teamwork. In the first week, students completed a Belbin Team Role assessment to learn about the different styles each naturally brought to projects. Students learned about the theory behind these psychological tests and discussed how results could be used to guide team formation and productive interaction. Some reading and discussion focused on leadership within different contexts. Of special interest were topics related to leading teams composed of creative knowledge workers. Over the course of the semester, each student formulated and refined his or her personal philosophy of leadership.

As the course evolved, the development of some key practical skills gained prominence. The first included techniques used by strategy consulting firms to organize and reason logically about ambiguous information. For example, we used Barbara Minto’s "Pyramid Principle," a process for creating clear documents.

The second major area included the art and science of presenting graphical information clearly. In November, the class chose to attend a day-long seminar offered by Edward Tufte, an expert on the subject. The knowledge students chose to pursue had a significant influence on both the content of the final recommendations that they offered, and the form or structure of their final client presentations. All of them eschewed conventional slide presentations for more sophisticated representations, such as large-scale one-page displays or interactive presentations. In every case this had a major positive impact on the companies that we were working with, and some of the key graphics have been very widely circulated.

There were four key criteria for the projects that formed the core of the course: there should be a systems challenge; there should be a related leadership or management challenge; the project should have real world impact, working on issues that mattered to the host companies; and the projects should have meaning for the participants, be something that they were enthusiastic about it because they could make a difference.

Seven candidate projects were proposed by students, faculty, or third parties; three were chosen for engagement. One team worked with leading global cell phone manufacturer Nokia to devise a strategy to increase software developer "mindshare" within the United States. A second team worked with local wireless power company Witricity, an MIT spinoff, to devise a standardization and intellectual property strategy. A third team worked with founders of the Venture Café (a venue for entrepreneurs to meet in Kendall Square) to explore how to make their proposed social hub sustainable.

In the next issue of the Pulse, we will expand on each of these real-world projects, and explore the impact of the lab’s work on the organizations.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sending employees to SDM program pays off for John Deere - SDM Pulse Spring 2010

Editor’s note: Niels Dybro compiled this report from a number of sources at John Deere. Dybro is a staff engineer at John Deere’s Moline Technology Innovation Center. The one-year SDM program discussed below, which leads to the Graduate Certificate in Systems and Product Development, features three courses from the SDM curriculum system architecture, systems engineering, and product design and development—as well as a capstone project.

John Deere is the world’s leading provider of equipment for agriculture and forestry and a major provider for construction, lawn and turf care, landscaping, and irrigation. John Deere also provides financial services worldwide and manufactures and markets engines used in heavy equipment. Since it was founded in 1837, the company has extended its heritage of integrity, quality, commitment, and innovation around the globe.

John Deere has been involved with the MIT System Design and Management Program (SDM) for over four years. John Deere recognizes that systems engineering is a critical competency for managing the complexity of current and future products and services. Its goal is to move from a component-centric organization to a systems-centric organization, one that seamlessly integrates mechanical, electronic, hydraulic, power, information, and communications technologies.

To find SDM certificate program candidates in our diverse, decentralized company, we have organized a Nominating Team consisting of engineering managers and senior engineers who advocate the systems engineer approach. The Nominating Team members span each business unit and most of the design engineering centers in John Deere. Each team member identifies potential SDM certificate candidates in their business unit, often working within the business unit’s human resources process. Then the team member works with the individual’s supervisor to ensure the candidate’s qualifications using a matrix, similar to a trade-study, with must-have "needs" and scored "wants" criteria. These include a range of qualities, from basic engineering skills to leadership and systems thinking abilities.

Finally, the team meets to review all candidates and their evaluations to make sure each is qualified, and we can reach consensus on the pool of candidates as a whole. At that point, we inform the candidates so they can decide whether they have the interest and can make the commitment to the program.

Over the four years John Deere has sponsored students for the SDM program, 40 engineers from around the enterprise have participated in the certificate program, and four are currently pursuing master’s degrees.

Here are three examples of what certificate candidates do at John Deere and what they have learned from the program:

Genevieve Flanagan is the test laboratory automation lead for the John Deere Power Systems’ Engine Engineering Test facility located in Waterloo, IA. In this role, she is responsible for developing and coordinating all of the software, databases, and applications in the automated engine test cell system.

Flanagan completed the SDM certificate program in 2009, and is now a member of the 2010 SDM master’s program. She has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.

During the certificate program, Flanagan’s cross-unit team developed an architecture for a sensor network optimized for the worksites that John Deere serves. Creating a network that provides a means for worksite data to be collected is a critical enabler for an integrated decision support system for customers.

Robert Haun is a senior engineer in Advanced Research and Development. He has been with John Deere for 12 years and has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He is currently working on a robotic military vehicle program in the roles of lead systems engineer and lead mechanical engineer. He is involved in the development and integration of drive-by-wire solutions onto base production utility vehicles and the integration of high-level robotics technologies. He interfaces with technology partners to incorporate customer-specific payloads and with military customers for requirements gathering, demonstrations, training, and deliveries.

Haun was in the first SDM certificate program group to be sponsored by John Deere. His team’s capstone project utilized tools from the program to select EPA Tier Four engine emissions solutions for the 25 to 40 Hp tractors. Through Pugh concept selection, they found that they needed to change their focus from assigning values to criteria as in a typical decision analysis to developing new concepts.

Tyler Schleicher is senior systems engineer in JD Intelligent Vehicle Systems. He has been with John Deere for nine years and has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in agricultural engineering. He received his SDM certificate in September 2008.

The coursework was a great supplement to what he does in his day-to-day work, which involves ensuring the precision farming products that John Deere develops will meet customer’s needs and expectations in the field. To do that, he is responsible for identifying the stakeholders and documenting their needs along with how they expect their products to meet those needs.

Schleicher also leads or participates in concept selection, product architecture, make/buy and re-use decisions. His three-member capstone team’s project was a crossdivisional effort to merge GreenStar precision control with a Compact Utility Tractor, thereby providing customers with hands-free final grading capability. The resulting prototype was called GradeStar, which utilized many of the SDM tools in a real-world application.

We anticipate that by sending people through the SDM program we will create future engineering leaders for the company. We also believe we now are near critical mass for making a lasting impact on John Deere’s business through deployment of common vocabulary, common tools and methods, and people who can spread this knowledge among the workforce for even greater benefits.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

SDM Best Thesis Prize awarded for grid-scale energy storage research - SDM Pulse Spring 2010

By John Kluza, SDM ’08

Editor’s note: John Kluza was awarded the SDM Best Thesis Prize in October 2009 for his thesis, "Status of Grid-Scale Energy Storage and Strategies for Accelerating Cost-Effective Deployment."

The electric grid is so ubiquitous in the modern world that its presence and functionality are taken for granted. However, there are increasing challenges to the continued success of the electric power system, including the growing need for dependable electricity, the desire for improved system efficiency, the influx of intermittent renewable generation, and the limitations of aging, expensive grid infrastructure.
As a student in MIT’s System Design and Management Program, I became keenly aware of these issues during my summer 2008 internship at A123 Systems, a lithium ion battery manufacturing startup that was founded on MIT technology. While there I learned that work was under way to build and pilot grid-scale energy storage systems using A123’s batteries. Large-scale energy storage promises to solve many of the grid’s current problems, so this project—based on one of a variety of emerging storage technologies—fascinated me and got me curious about how such systems might be deployed cost-effectively.

This started me down the path of my thesis topic. First, I identified all the unique benefits that could be produced by grid storage, based on a variety of secondary sources and discussions with forward-thinking utility representatives. I also gathered information on what financial benefits could be produced. These benefits could be found throughout the electric grid value chain— from generation to transmission and distribution (T&D) to customer loads (see Figure 1).
Most of the energy storage applications fell into two categories: 1)"energy-oriented" applications that could be accomplished using long-discharge batteries (for example, storing low-cost energy produced off-peak and delivering it back to the grid during peak periods) or 2)"power-oriented" applications that require fastresponding, brief-discharge batteries (for example, frequency regulation, which resolves momentary imbalances between electric generation and load).

Each of these categories has its own system requirements, and each individual application also has further unique requirements of the grid storage hardware. Through my secondary research, I developed a list of 14 energy-storage applications with estimated financial benefits ranging from $72/kW installed over 10 years to $1,649/kW installed over 10 years.

I then identified which types of energy storage technology could be used for these applications and, for the purposes of my thesis, constrained my work to distributed systems with more than five minutes of discharge time (denoted by the red circle in Figure 2). The major types of technologies investigated were sodium sulfur batteries, flow batteries of the zinc-bromine and vanadium redox type, lithium ion batteries, advanced lead acid batteries, and high-speed flywheels.

Through discussions with storage manufacturers as well as secondary research, I identified the unique advantages and estimated cost of each technology. The capital costs for these systems varied widely, from $370/kW to $4,000/kW measured by power, or from $347/kWh to $8,000/kWh measured by energy. Systems were generally more appropriate either for power or energy applications as reflected by the capital expenditure (capex) per unit of energy stored or power capacity. Systems were also evaluated using another metric that is more meaningful for comparing energy applications to natural gas peaker plants and natural gas combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants. It is called cost per kWh cycled, and it measures both efficiency and cycle life as well as capex per unit of energy stored (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Capital expense per kWh cycled

Finally, I distilled the majority of actual or proposed distributed grid-scale energy storage options into six classes, estimating the maximum benefit produced for each based on the combination of applications that could be supplied simultaneously. I then reviewed each class from a technical feasibility and regulatory perspective and estimated the cost of a grid storage system based on each type of technology. The expected maximum benefit was compared to the expected cost to identify which combinations of applications and technologies could potentially produce a cost-effective installation. Due to the approximate nature of the available data points, the estimation was restricted to: likely to lose money (-), likely to roughly break even (0), or likely to offer a positive net present value (+), as shown in Figure 4 for the installation classes and technologies investigated.
Figure 4: Profitability expectations

This research led me to draw a number of useful conclusions, including identifying many markets for grid storage of varying maturity, size, and value. Frequently the best approach to deploying a cost-effective installation in these markets will include combining applications that have easy-to accrue benefits. Additionally, while not necessarily grid scale, displacing oil- or diesel-fired generation is often cost-effective and can be an entry point for suppliers.

More specifically, I found that there are classes of installations that may make economic sense given the proper conditions. For example, the power-oriented market is attractive now with existing technology. The most accessible application in this market is ancillary services, such as frequency regulation, because energy storage is exceptionally well suited to provide it and there is an open, cash market for these services in some regions of the United States. Lithium ion systems can currently be used cost-effectively for ancillary services and in the future can potentially provide community energy storage. High-speed flywheels are expected to become attractive for ancillary services in a few years. (See Figure 4.)

I found that the energy-oriented market opportunity is currently limited both for cost and regulatory reasons. Distributed energy storage systems still need to reduce their cost per kWh cycled to be competitive. Also, for many applications there is no clear mechanism for paying the owner of the grid storage system.

Nevertheless, sodium-sulfur batteries, currently the most common technology, are attractive in the near term for industrial energy management in many regions, including the United States. Other applications are also attractive in foreign countries, such as Japan, that have different electric system constraints and regulations, including renewable power management, wholesale load shifting and T&D capacity deferral. Additionally, zinc-bromine flow batteries are expected to be attractive in the near- to midterm for T&D capacity deferral, industrial energy management, and renewables management.

Across the board, it is complicated for the owner, such as a utility, to accrue all the financial benefits generated by the grid storage system due to the interdependent nature of the electric grid. Some benefits are produced as avoided costs instead of cash, and the regulations governing the electric grid are not always conducive to creating and collecting the benefits. The importance of regulation and government policy in making these systems economical cannot be overstated.

Though there are many challenges for storage on the grid, I am optimistic that energy storage will ultimately strengthen the grid and enable cleaner, less expensive electricity. I hope that this research will help to clarify the topic for readers so that more work can be done on the topic, accelerating the deployment of grid-scale energy storage.