Friday, June 7, 2013

SDM Alum Designs and Promotes Ford Liftgate - SDM Pulse, Summer 2013

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company
A self-described “car guy,” Vince Mahé, SDM ’06, is a lead design engineer at Ford Motor Co. He refers to himself a “crossover” who has traversed many disparate terrains: growing up as a child in France and relocating to the United States at age 10 where he went “from 0 to 60 mph” to learn a new language and culture; transitioning from volunteering as a firefighter in his late teens to working as an engineer in his late 20s; leading the design of innovative features for the 2013 Ford Escape crossover SUV; and starring in a series of ads in Ford’s “Go Further” campaign in recognition of his contributions designing its innovative liftgate technology.
Hands-free liftgate technology
automatically opens after detecting kicking
motion under the bumper.
The challenge: Lead a design team that would help reinvent the Escape by identifying and incorporating new features that would “wow” customers.

Applying SDM learnings:

•    Leadership: “In SDM’s monthlong January session, we worked in teams specially chosen to represent diversity of thought, expertise, and culture. Members of my SDM group included high-achieving professionals from NASA, Boeing, Ford, and others. We learned that in order to build a strong team, it’s important for all members to slow down and take time to express their feelings openly so that we could all understand each other and work together more effectively. We also learned how to share leadership, follow others, and follow in order to lead.” Mahé applied these techniques when leading his global design team.

•    Innovation: The liftgate’s innovative design consists of two sensors and a control module. The sensors detect the presence of a foot and a shin—as well as the presence of the key—and as soon as the user comes within a meter of the car, it sends a signal to the power liftgate, which opens automatically.

•    Systems thinking: “Coursework in system architecture, systems engineering, and systems design gave me a set of methodologies for dealing with the technical and managerial complexities of requirements analysis, prioritization, design specs, concurrent engineering, testing, safety, and other important elements needed to produce the ‘wow.’ This, in turn, enabled us to troubleshoot any potential problems.”

The results: The Ford Escape was named No. 1 in the affordable compact and affordable crossover SUV categories by US News on its Best Cars website and received numerous other accolades. As lead design engineer, Mahé starred in several commercials for the Ford Escape.  
Video frame courtesy of Ford Motor Company

See Vince at:

Learn more about Vince Mahé and the Ford foot-activated liftgate:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Big Data, Sports Analytics, and an SDM Fellow - SDM Pulse, Summer 2013

SDM ’12 Ben Levitt, a senior systems engineer at Raytheon Corporation, was a key player in the 2013 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference held in March. Now in its seventh year and called the “Super Bowl of Sports Analytics” by Forbes magazine, the student-run conference attracted more than 2,700 attendees.

Levitt’s contributions:
With the support of MIT M.B.A. and now Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, Levitt created two panels—an in-game coaching session titled "Monday Morning Quarterback: Coaching and In-Game Decisions" and another called "Big Data: Lessons for Sports." He developed the content framework for each and lined up participants from the sports, business, media, and technology sectors.

“Monday Morning Quarterback”:
The in-game coaching panel used video and audience interactivity to encourage the panelists and the audience to explore the use of analytics in all aspects of play calling. The panelists, a collection of the NFL's best coaches and managers, included:

•    Jack De Rio, defensive coordinator, Denver Broncos
•    Herm Edwards, NFL analyst, ESPN, and former NFL Head Coach
•    Thomas Dimitroff, general manager, Atlanta Falcons
•    Brian Burke, founder, Advanced NFL Stats website

Tony Reali, host of “Around the Horn” and “stat boy” on “Pardon the Interruption,” ESPN, moderated the panel.

“Big Data-Lessos for Sports”: Composed of the world's best data experts, this panel discussed how “nexgen” data scientists can supersede today's “stats geeks.” Panelists also explored best practices from industries outside of sports and the insights they offer into how to turn petabytes of “motion capture” and multispectral data into competitive advantage. Panelists included:

•    Chris Selland, vice president of marketing, HP Vertica
•    Jeff Hammerbacher, cofounder of Cloudera and former leader of Facebook’s data team
•    Claudia Perlich, chief scientist, m6d
•    Joe Doyle, Erwin H. Schell professor of management and associate professor of applied economics, MIT Sloan School of Management

Michael Schrage, research fellow, MIT Sloan School of Management Center for Digital Business and the Imperial College (London) Business School, served as moderator.

The Monday Morning Quarterback: In-Game Coaching panel
included (left to right) Jack Del Rio, Denver Broncos; Tony Reali,
ESPN’s ‘Around the Horn’; Thomas Dimitroff, Atlanta Falcons;
Brian Burke, Advanced NFL Stats; Ben Levitt, panel
producer/developer and SDM '12; and Herm Edwards, ESPN.
Photo by SLY Photography

Watch the video:

Learn more about Ben Levitt at

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Transformation Framework for a Healthcare Enterprise - SDM Pulse, Summer 2013

Elizabeth Cilley Southerlan
The challenge: How to transform the Department of Defense (DoD) Military Psychological Health Enterprise (MPHE) at multiple levels of the organization into an enterprise that is capable of supporting the military’s quadruple aim of increasing readiness, reducing per capita cost, improving experience of care, and improving the health of the population. The enterprise architecting framework was chosen as the overall approach, but the specific target to which it would be applied was not determined.

The approach: Enterprise architecting offers eight “views” to use to assess the enterprise, develop an overall perspective, and foster a greater understanding of how the enterprise functions. These views are: strategy, organization, policy and external factors, information, infrastructure, knowledge, processes, and services/products (see Figure 1). This approach makes it possible to reduce the complexity of the enterprise as a whole.
Figure 1. Camp Lejeune MPHE X-Matrix.

The process: Working under the guidance and mentorship of Deborah Nightingale, Professor of the Practice at MIT’s Sociotechnical Systems Research Center, Elizabeth Cilley Southerlan, SDM ’12, decided to investigate the current state of a low-level MPHE component at Camp Lejeune, a US Marine Corps base camp in Jacksonville, NC. She then:

•    Applied holistic thinking to design, valuate, and select an optimal future state structure for an enterprise to realize its value proposition and desired behaviors;

•    Combined the results of the enterprise architecting analysis with multilevel analysis techniques to create a framework for transforming the larger, complex, multilevel MPHE;

•    Identified the dominant views of the Camp Lejeune component (organization, process, and information); the structure of the levels of the enterprise; and the interactions between the levels that could be used to understand the impact of decisions made at higher levels.

The SDM tools:
Southerlan used matrix-based techniques learned in her SDM classes (see Figures 2 and 3) to transform the information she gathered into objective data. She then combined this data with information on how levels of the DoD MPHE interact to suggest a framework for modeling potential future states of the enterprise.

The findings: The descriptive application of Southerlan’s suggested framework supported both the design and selection of a transformation plan for the overall enterprise. Nightingale and Southerlan believe that the insight gained from combining enterprise architecting tools with multilevel analysis techniques could be used to support the transformation of a complex, multilevel enterprise.

Southerlan then worked closely with research colleague Jaya Plmanabhan, SDM ‘11, to explore potential approaches that could be derived from her work to support an extension to the current enterprise architecting assessment technique.

The results:
In her thesis, Southerlan outlined the way in which the subjective information received during the as-is analysis was transformed into objective data. In her thesis investigation, the interactions between resources of the Camp Lejeune MPHE were quantified and analyzed to provide visibility to how changes made at higher levels of the complex, multilevel enterprise (the DoD MPHE) would impact the Camp Lejeune MPHE. While Southerlan used behavioral health (BH) resources and subsequent BH tasks as the quantifiable data in this application, she stated that there is potential to use different types of information as quantifiable data. For example, the metrics used by enterprises to measure performance could be considered objective data and could potentially be used to model impacts of changes made at different levels of a complex, multilevel enterprise. Southerlan recommended that when applying the framework outlined in her thesis, the dominant views of the enterprise—as determined during the enterprise architecting as-is analysis—should be used as reference to abstract objective data from the analysis. This will ensure that the data being used to model the as-is and potential future states of the enterprise have a strong presence throughout the enterprise.
Figure 2. Matrix of resources and tasks, organized by strategic group.

For a copy of Elizabeth Southerlan’s thesis, please contact SDM Industry Codirector Joan S. Rubin at

Saturday, June 1, 2013

2013 SDM Tech Trek Report - SDM Pulse, Summer 2013

The annual MIT SDM Tech Trek provides an opportunity for SDM fellows to engage with leading companies to discuss strategic, operational, and tactical challenges from both business and technical perspectives. The 2013 visit to Silicon Valley exposed fellows (who have an average of 8-10 years of experience in a single field) to a wide variety of industries in a short amount of time. Fellows met with senior managers at best-in-class companies to learn about their complex technical and business challenges and how they address them. Designed to build upon the students’ coursework at MIT, the trek enabled students to tour facilities, view product demonstrations, and engage in lively and informative question and answer sessions with industry leaders. This year’s trek was led by cochairs Alvaro Madero and Michael Seelhoff, both SDM ’13s, and organized by several SDM fellows.

•    Expand students’ knowledge of complex challenges across several industries
•    Strengthen relationships between the companies and SDM

Companies visited:

•    Cisco (network and communications devices)
•    Google (Internet information provider)
•    Amazon Lab126 (consumer products)
•    E.&J. Gallo Winery (food and beverages)
•    Intuitive Surgical (medical devices)
•    Twitter (Internet communications)
•    Mission Motors (automotive)

Trip highlights:

•    At Intuitive Surgical, Catherine Mohr, M.D., the director of medical research, discussed the DaVinci robotic surgical system, including the specific product’s history and the history of laparoscopic surgery in general. Mohr demonstrated how the device worked, explained many of the decisions that went into its final design, and offered each tech trek visitor a chance to try the multimillion-dollar device. Fellows also toured the manufacturing facilities to see how the device’s surgical arms and body were constructed. Students found it extremely informative to investigate the end-to-end processes used to create such a precise technological device, including the challenges the company encountered and the techniques used to overcome them. Mohr, who holds a S.B. and an S.M. from MIT, also discussed her decision to pursue an M.D. at Stanford, as well as her career path. Many SDMs came away inspired by the versatility of their MIT education, which can be applied to many industries.

•    SDM alumnus Juan Spiniak hosted the visit to Google. He presented an overview of the company and its products, plus a close-up of Google Fiber, the Internet service provider that he manages. Jim Miller, Google’s vice president of worldwide operations, discussed the company’s infrastructure and global operations. He emphasized that the company is interested in professionals who want to engage in “intrapraneurship” (behaving like an entrepreneur within a large company) and making a difference. Miller said he wants to use Google’s computing power to help analyze the human genome.

•    At Cisco, SDM fellows met with several SDM alumni, including Carol Ann McDevitt and Rafael Maranon. They were treated to a hands-on demonstration of Cisco’s current telepresence technology, then heard a presentation by Susie Wee, vice president and CTO of networked experiences, who provided some insight into the product’s future path. She also shared lessons she has learned along the way, from earning her degree at MIT to becoming a VP at Cisco.

•    At Mission Motors, Vice President for Finance and Administration Mike Rosenzweig gave a tour of the company’s operations, which included the workshop where electric motorcycle models are built, the battery charging and component design/fabrication facilities, and the software development area. CEO Jit Bhattacharya described the history of the electric vehicle industry, challenges experienced in this still-maturing market, and areas in which a system thinker could provide value. The visit demonstrated that creative ideas and emerging markets are not enough to build a company. External market development—in this case, evolution of battery technology and infrastructure—plays a critical role in supporting innovation. Mission Motors demonstrated that flexibility in the business plan was essential to keeping the company moving forward while the critical elements of the external market developed.

Key takeaways:
•    Face-to-face meetings with senior executives gave companies an opportunity to learn more about SDM and understand the competitive advantage that developing or enhancing a systems capability in their organizations can bring.
•    Meeting and engaging with SDM fellows offered opportunities for companies to experience first-hand the unique perspective and skills SDMs acquire at MIT and to identify future graduates to recruit.
•    SDM fellows returned to MIT with an expanded understanding of how versatile and applicable their SDM education is.

SDM Tech Trek 2014:
Planning for the next SDM Tech Trek is already under way. If your company would like to learn about participating, please contact Joan Rubin, SDM industry codirector at or 617.253.2081.