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Podcast: Russell Ollie shares his top operational excellence tips

seth adler
Posted: 11/13/2017

Russell Ollie currently works at General Motors as the executive owner of business transformation and operational excellence global deployment. He has worked for companies such as eBay, Microsoft, among others, and shares lessons learned along the way. 

Ollie says that there's no true difference between the terms operational excellence, and business transformation, in the context of the programs, which Russell has managed or rebuilt.

"The goal has been continuous improvement with an innovation component, which used to be designed for Six Sigma, but now is seen as design thinking," Ollie said.

 "Add that all up, and add strategy execution, which involves deployment of strategy in a way that is meaningful for all levels of the enterprise, and right there you've got a good idea of what he's been up to for the last couple of decades," Ollie says.

Recorded at the OPEX Summit in San Diego, tune in as Ollie shares his top tips for improving operational excellence and business transformaiton.

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Transcription

Interviewer: Seth Adler

Guest: Russell Ollie

Seth Adler:

Russell Ollie joins us. First some supporters to thank and thank you for listening.

 

 

 

 

Russell Ollie joins us with global career experience working for eBay, Microsoft, and GM, among others, and shares lessons learned along the way. He contends that there's no true difference between the terms operational excellence, and business transformation, in terms of context in the programs, which Russell's managed or rebuilt. The goal has been continuous improvement with an innovation component, which used to be designed for Six Sigma, but now is seen as design thinking.

 

 

Add that all up, and add strategy execution, which involves deployment of strategy in a way that is meaningful for all levels of the enterprise, and right there you've got a good idea of what he's been up to for the last couple of decades.

 

 

Welcome to PEX network on B2B IQ. I'm your host Seth Adler. Download episodes on pexnetwork.com, or through our app in iTunes, within the iTunes podcast app, in Google Play, or wherever you currently get your podcasts.

 

 

Russell Ollie.

 

Russell Ollie:

Senior, yes, I have a son. We call him Junior, for Russell Junior, which is probably the bane of his existence at this point. Earlier in his life he asked for a new name. He's okay with it now. He's 21. He's in college.

 

Seth Adler:

He's in college?

 

Russell Ollie:

Absolutely.

 

Seth Adler:

Alright, so he's learning.

 

Russell Ollie:

He's learning, and I'm paying at this point. He's in his pre-med, so even though he's a senior, I've got many more years of paying.

 

Seth Adler:

Sure, pre-med, but we need doctors. I'm pretty sure of that, right?

 

Russell Ollie:

No doubt.

 

Seth Adler:

Detroit, are you from Detroit?

 

Russell Ollie:

No, actually, in fact, that's why I'm formerly of General Motors. For the last 13 years or so, I've been west coast. I take it back, since around 2000 I've been west coast based, and I moved to Seattle at the end of 2004. I worked for Microsoft for a few years. In the last nine years or so, I've been working on the road, so with General Motors, even though my job was in Detroit, I still had a house and a family on the west coast in Seattle, and the jobs have been global. I was working for Ebay/PayPal, or GM. I just traveled a lot.

 

Seth Adler:

So you do big companies Russell. That's what you seem to-

 

Russell Ollie:

Yeah, for the last 12, 13 years in particular, large companies. Earlier on in my career, I did a couple of start-ups. I just kinda one for one, in terms of success ratio if you will, but I've done the gambit, so start-ups, consulting, and then, the last decade or more, large enterprises.

 

Seth Adler:

Alright, so operational excellence, that's the kinda guy you are, right?

 

Russell Ollie:

Yeah, operational excellence, or business excellence, business transformation, it changes from time to time.

 

Seth Adler:

What are the differences in those terms? Is that just the ZyteGyst? Is that the parlance of our times? Why do we use these different terms to mean, what I think, to be the same thing?

 

Russell Ollie:

Yeah, actually, honestly, in my opinion, they are indeed the same. That said, there is no consistent, operational, definition, so I will say, in terms of context, the programs I've been associated with, the ones I've managed, or rebuilt in some cases, the programs have really been around continuous improvement. I think that's common to all these variations.

 

 

Beyond that, there's also been an innovation component, so earlier on that was designed for Six Sigma, and now it's more design thinking if you will, and then the component that I've layered on over the years as well, is strategy execution, so not so much the creational strategy, but how do you deploy strategy in a way that is meaningful at all levels, and is part of everybody's job.

 

 

For me, I still call it OpEx. Honestly, if it was up to me, I'd call it business excellence instead of operational excellence, but most companies think of it as OpEx.

 

Seth Adler:

How bout necessary to not die? What are your thoughts on that phrase?

 

Russell Ollie:

Necessary to not die?

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah.

 

Russell Ollie:

In terms of the OpEx definition?

 

Seth Adler:

Absolutely, in other words, we are at a point where we've got to be operationally excellent, or else.

 

Russell Ollie:

I think the challenge is all companies, whether they call it OpEx or not, you have to be able to move at market speed, and increase your capabilities, and still hae the right resolution to hear what the market is saying, and where it's going. Very few companies are adepts at continually remaking, and redoing, how they execute.

 

Seth Adler:

How bout one that you haven't, necessarily, worked for, that you have noticed certainly is?

 

Russell Ollie:

Probably the obvious example is a company like Amazon. As a consumer, they're aces. Ironically, that's something that their customer excellent system is called Aces, but nonetheless, certainly they are an organization that encourages their people to do new things, and to find constraints, and challenges that others can't do, and figure out how to break those constraints.

 

 

That said, I haven't worked there. Ironically, I'm talking to them on Friday, but I heard it can be a challenge environment.

 

Seth Adler:

How come?

 

Russell Ollie:

My guess, again, is if you are moving that fast, you probably have to continually reassess, reevaluate, and restructure how you operate, and that probably makes some people uncomfortable, not having a level of, call it static, or fixed operation, if you will.

 

Seth Adler:

Feels like you would be okay with it not being static, right? By definition.

 

Russell Ollie:

Myself, me personally, part of the reason why I spend three to five years at most companies, is after I get something stable and mature, I'm going to be bored. In fact, one of the great things attracting me to General Motors, frankly, it's an organization, this is kinda the new GM, where they encourage leaders to do something else over time.

 

 

As an example, I worked with executives in the company. One, for example, has been there 38 years, and she's on her 19th job, and because they encourage you to do different things in the company.

 

Seth Adler:

Let's do something different here.

 

Russell Ollie:

Exactly.

 

Seth Adler:

You're almost, you've got an entrepreneurial spirit to you, even though you're working for these big corporations.

 

Russell Ollie:

I think that's accurate. Even at GM, the program that the leadership put together there, we described it as essentially a start-up, inside of a mature, legacy company, and it really was a start-up, because Mary Barra endorsed this. She pulled a leader of manufacturing out to start it, started from ground zero.

 

Seth Adler:

What was the name of the kinda group.

 

Russell Ollie:

Actually they called it OpEx.

 

Seth Adler:

Okay, so it was OpEx.

 

Russell Ollie:

Operational excellence, yes, exactly. Again, given my druthers, I would call it business excellence, because there are people here who were in operations, or operation, and they think operations, but the programs I've been involved with are really cross-functional, cross-company, and now cultural.

 

Seth Adler:

Let's dive in on this Mary Barra endorsed OpEx group. When did she pull that out, and how were you involved in that?

 

Russell Ollie:

Some of this pre dates me, so I can give you the story many times. I can tell you the history a little bit. In 2014, she took the realms at GM, and she's a lifer. She'd been there for 35 plus years at that point in time, or about 35 years. Within about two months of starting at GM in that role, as the new president, she inherited that ignition switch fiasco, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Yes, that was right at the beginning, I remember it.

 

Russell Ollie:

Early on, major challenge for a new leader, and give her credit. She really does like to tackle cultural problems, challenges head-on, so she really saw that as a challenge to "Hey, how does the new GM need to operate?", and leaving some of the traditional, siloed, behaviors behind, and working cross-functionally, and creating an environment where recognizing, and identifying problems is a good thing. Surfacing them early, so you have a chance to work on them, is a good thing.

 

Seth Adler:

We actually want you to tell us.

 

Russell Ollie:

Exactly, and so if you grew up in an environment where you got slapped on the hands, so not GM specifically. You got slapped on the hand, because you were red on your scorecard, then you're probably not used to that behavior. You haven't had a leader who's actually modeled those behaviors before. Again, to her credit, she did support this new model, but at the same time, she reOlliezed it's a multi-year journey.

 

 

She herself, not just talks the talk, but also walks it, so she said "Hey, early on I'm going to be rolling out this OpEx stuff. I'm going to do my own projects.", for example, and so she could have easily taken the role of an executive sponsor, and be happy with the executive training, but to model the behaviors, she wanted to be trained as a practitioner. She's an engineer, so it's not a surprise. It's not a big deal for her, so she can start having other people see that this important. This is not going away. It's indelible.

 

 

Again, she kind of wants to model behaviors, and set expectations by having people see, not only what she does, but also what she reinforces amongst her own leadership team.

 

Seth Adler:

How she behaves almost.

 

Russell Ollie:

Exactly, that's exactly it. You have to walk the walk, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah.

 

Russell Ollie:

To be your own authentic self, and I give her credit. She's kind of, slowly over time, her leadership team is getting it, and starting to endorse it, embrace the principles.

 

Seth Adler:

You said the OpEx team kinda predated you, but you did come in. When did you come in?

 

Russell Ollie:

I came in at the beginning of 2015, so early on what she did is, she took the existing leader of manufacturing, pulled him out. He's leading a large organization, and said "Hey, why don't you start over at the company with an organization of one.", which is himself, and so early on, what he did is, he started to work with consultants to understand how does this OpEx journey work. He took some people, there's a couple of executives from GM who were in other roles, like quOlliety, and I was the executive they hired from outside the company who's done deployments before, and then beyond that we put in place a structure. We started rolling this out across all 34 core functions of the company.

 

 

Embedding the executive champion, who's already part of the leadership team for each function. We hired about 90, what we called masters, which are, essentially, master black belts with at least 10 years of experience, post certification.

 

Seth Adler:

From outside.

 

Russell Ollie:

From outside the company.

 

Seth Adler:

Interesting.

 

Russell Ollie:

Most of them are from a manufacturing, or even automotive background, but my team's, for example, make sure I try to hire transactional speciOlliests.

 

Seth Adler:

Got it, while keeping an internal leader, identifying that internal leader that was from inside the organization, from inside that department to be that champion.

 

Russell Ollie:

To be the champion for, exactly, for identifying opportunities to improve, to award and recognize the right behaviors, so you needed somebody who's already immersed in the culture, and has the respect of the business to start championing these things. At the same time, you built up a cadre, internally, who can be the mentors and coaches for what are the new capabilities, and new behaviors, for the future.

 

Seth Adler:

Just setting this team, how long did this take, understanding your going across a fairly sizeable organization, many, many different units? How long did this take?

 

Russell Ollie:

Great question, so again, the conversations started in 2014. I think the first in consulting engagements around December 2014. The first training programs kicked off around February of '15. First projects were chartered around March/April '15, if that makes sense.

 

Seth Adler:

That's still pretty quick.

 

Russell Ollie:

Honestly, I've been a part of several deployments. I've studied some of the biggest deployments, like GE, and I think it's the broadest, deepest, deployment I've seen so far, and they're just getting started, so I can share a little bit of information without sharing anything that's material, if that makes sense.

 

Seth Adler:

Well, they're just getting started, what can you share? In other words, what have been, already, the wins in the first couple years here, barely?

 

Russell Ollie:

Now we're talking about output metrics, so again, as somebody who is speciOlliezed in building OpEx programs, one of the things you don't want to focus on early on, are just the output metrics around things like numbers of projects, and dollars, but I will share some of that on the list.

 

Seth Adler:

Fair enough. You don't want to focus on that just before we get to those, because why?

 

Russell Ollie:

Because, then you're really focused on the wrong things. The things that don't drive, or change your behaviors, and change your culture.

 

Seth Adler:

What should you be focused on instead?

 

Russell Ollie:

Just that. You want the things that are going to transform the way people think, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Russell Ollie:

The way you do that is really by delivering in their environment, so if you're a stakeholder in whatever function, yeah, you'll do some things because a leader tells you to do something, but you're not changing their hearts and minds through a compliance activity, so what you really want to focus on is working with the stakeholders across the different functions, identifying a problem, and then solving that problem. Then, more importantly, putting some evangelization, and sociOlliezation, behind the results to build a poll, so that's one of the things I focus on in general, is how do I build a poll'.

 

 

Yes, I need some air cover from above to have time to get to that poll' model, but, really, the way you transform the culture is by building that poll, and the way you do that, again, is by delivering, and across these different spaces, moving the needle on a metric of consequence, and then you can actually have proof points. People say "Okay, it does work here."

 

Seth Adler:

So you're saying the ends justify the means, essentially.

 

Russell Ollie:

Should.

 

Seth Adler:

Should, essentially we're not actually focused on the metric that we changed, and how much we changed it by, it's just that it did change. Why did it change?

 

Russell Ollie:

Yeah, it's really more about the journey, and reOlliezing that every company, every function, and every stakeholder is at a different level of maturity. They're starting at a different part in the journey, and they have a different capacity for change, so that's kinda where I made my bread and butter over the years, is being able to kinda customize the approach for each of those entities.

 

Seth Adler:

Now, that has to, unless you've been through Six Sigma training, that's a difference in the way that your brain works, I believe, as humans, right?

 

Russell Ollie:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

How do you take the focus off of the brite shiny object of "Hey, we moved it up 10%.", to this is how and why we moved it up 10%? How do you change that focus?

 

Russell Ollie:

Just like I mentioned before, you want to have these success stories, or these proof points. Ofttimes you use the negative things as the way to actually get that focus. Talk about the things you've done before that didn't work, or "Hey, we're solving this problem again.", right?

 

Seth Adler:

Right.

 

Russell Ollie:

Which happens, so I worked in a company, well I'll protect the innocent, but one of the companies I worked for had a unique term called a hardy perennial, which really meant a problem that comes back over, and over, and over again.

 

Seth Adler:

No matter what we do.

 

Russell Ollie:

I like to hone in on those things to, have people who don't understand why this is important, to show them what you're leaving on the table. Look at the resources that we've thrown at this before, and didn't make a difference, so now let's think about what's different. Maybe this time, let's spend more time on defining what the problem, or opportunity, is, and maybe we'll get to the root cause before we think of the solution, and then maybe we should have a plan for actually controlling the solution long-term, making sure we get hat benefit after we close the project. That's really how you start to get people to start thinking a little bit differently, because most people by definition go from "I think I know the problem.", to "Here's the solution.", right?

 

Seth Adler:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Russell Ollie:

You get in this break/fix cycle, it goes over and over again.

 

Seth Adler:

Yes, I'm extremely guilty of that in my personal life.

 

Russell Ollie:

It's human nature, and again, I'm not a psychiatrist, or a psychology, but it I think, even frankly, there's a gender difference. Men in particular, we are hard wired. We hear a problem, here's the solution, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Yes.

 

Russell Ollie:

I get in this problem at home all the time with my wife, right.

 

Seth Adler:

With my girlfriend, exactly.

 

Russell Ollie:

I've been married for 23 years. It's taken me a long time to reOllieze-

 

Seth Adler:

I don't need a solution.

 

Russell Ollie:

-my wife doesn't want to solution. She wants me to hear her, and it's the same thing at work.

 

Seth Adler:

It's the listening part that matters.

 

Russell Ollie:

It's the listening part that's critical. It just takes a long time to build that at home, and into a corporation, in your DNA.

 

Seth Adler:

There you go. Now, if we take GM, and then look at Amazon, because we were looking at Amazon earlier. What I've noticed in my lifetime is that more, and more, and more we've been sticking to our knitting at General Motors. What can we take out? What can we remove? What brands can we dissolve?

 

Russell Ollie:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

How do we get to the bottom of it? Whereas, Amazon, obviously, has been going the complete opposite direction. We sell books. Now we actually, we build websites, now we actually, we sell media, now we actually own Wholefoods, now we actually, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

 

Russell Ollie:

Right.

 

Seth Adler:

Now, for instance, we sell books online, and so Barnes and Noble has to come chase Amazon online, right?

 

Russell Ollie:

Right.

 

Seth Adler:

And then, I just walk by, I live in New York City, Amazon bookstore coming in the fall. What the heck's going on Russell?

 

Russell Ollie:

It feels like it's going full circle doesn't it?

 

Seth Adler:

It's amazing.

 

Russell Ollie:

It is, and so in some cases, I'm not inside Amazon. I don't know how much of this is purposeful. They sought out to disrupt industries, but certainly what they really thought out to do was create different customer experiences, and to remove the friction points, and create better experiences across the board for companies. I can't rationOllieze how they went back to a brick and mortar model when, in theory, we know that their online delivery service and system is more profitable, higher NPS for customers, et cetera, but I'm sure they've got rational.

 

Seth Adler:

Of course.

 

Russell Ollie:

No question about it. Going to GM then, it's the same story. Traditionally, they were a manufacturer of automobiles for the end consumer, and a little bit to commercial organizations as well, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Right.

 

Russell Ollie:

Again, to the credit of the leadership at GM, they reOllieze, and they've been promoting the idea, and nobody disputes it, there's more disruption in their industry in the last five years than there have been in the prior 50. It's coming, of course, from some non traditional players, like the Googles and Apples of the world, and it's coming from new technologies, like the Tesla for example, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Right, I love how you called-

 

Russell Ollie:

I should back up. I shouldn't call it new technology, because that's not-

 

Seth Adler:

I was going to say.

 

Russell Ollie:

It's not new technology. From my perspective, what Tesla did, which was brilliant, is they actually created a market, or created a demand, and they've created the ability to make non-ice vehicles attractive, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Russell Ollie:

Because the technology, electric vehicles have been around for over 100 years, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Sure.

 

Russell Ollie:

There's a long history of battery powered vehicles. Even GM had, in theory, one of the first mass market EVs some years back, right?

 

Seth Adler:

I remember, and I've also seen the documentary, right?

 

Russell Ollie:

Yes, right, exactly, but again, I wasn't there in those days, but I've seen the document news as well. They had the technology and proving grounds. The market wasn't there, and I don't know that, that's GMs fault, or anybody else's. Maybe they didn't have the ability to create new markets, and create new mind share, create a poll for something that's not there yet, and that's what Tesla's done a great job at, so I think the leaders at GM, and other companies, are pointing to those examples now, and talking about what else can we do? What else do we do that is beyond the traditional?

 

 

GM itself is now starting to think very entrepreneurially about other things, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah.

 

Russell Ollie:

One of the big things autonomy is driving is this whole connected vehicle experience, and all the data. What GM has reOlliezed, that they're the largest provider of autonomous, I'm sorry, connected vehicles in the world, so people talking about the future when Tesla's and others are going to have all these cars. GM already has over 10 million cars on the road that are connected through their OnStar network, if you will, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah.

 

Russell Ollie:

Now they've got a big tie up with IBM Watson on the backend, to actually figure out how to use that data to do prescriptive analytics. To do things like point of presence advertisements, for example. Give you a promotion, or a coupon, as you're driving by your favorite vendor.

 

Seth Adler:

I was going to say, that's good data for anybody.

 

Russell Ollie:

Exactly, so now they're starting to think more entrepreneurially about other markets, and how do they actually leverage the things that they're really great at. That's a company of about 10 thousand plus scientists and engineers, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah.

 

Russell Ollie:

Well, what other things are they doing? They have a lot of IP, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah.

 

Russell Ollie:

A lot of patents up there just now starting to think about differently.

 

Seth Adler:

If we're talking about GM, talking about Tesla, talking about Amazon, and essentially admitting that it doesn't matter what the product is. It's how we go about the business that we have here.

 

Russell Ollie:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

So, we built OnStar, because that was part of the journey. That wasn't a big data play by General Motors.

 

Russell Ollie:

Yeah, sometimes perceived a need around, so throughout the core, that product is a safety system, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah, to begin with.

 

Russell Ollie:

Automated crash response, for example, and then they layered on all sorts of great services. At the same time, that's now being disrupted by what's happening in the mobile platform, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah.

 

Russell Ollie:

So, so much of what was on that OnStar service, aside from that core safety component, is now on your mobile phone, and now GM themselves, and other manufacturers, are putting gateways to that mobile technology, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Right.

 

Russell Ollie:

Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, are in all the GM cars.

 

Seth Adler:

Let's make sure that we talk about your Microsoft years, and your Ebay years. Your choice, which one first?

 

Russell Ollie:

We'll go with Ebay. I'm just kind of rolling backwards, reverse chronological.

 

Seth Adler:

Alright, and so this is after. You were after Meg, right?

 

Russell Ollie:

Yes, that's exactly right. Meg was there. She had left, I think, about six months before I got there, if I'm not mistaken.

 

Seth Adler:

Okay, just.

 

Russell Ollie:

Just left at that point in time.

 

Seth Adler:

What did you come into? Give us a sense of what Ebay was at the time.

 

Russell Ollie:

Ebay at that point in time, and to a lesser extent now, was a collection of companies. There's, internally, what's known as marketplaces, which is really what the consumer considers Ebay. PayPal, at the time they owned Skype. They had a business called StubHub, RedLaser. They acquired Bill Me Later. Their biggest acquisition while I was there is a company that was called GSI Commerce, which got relabeled as Ebay Enterprises, the B2B end of Ebay.

 

Seth Adler:

GSI, huge play at the time.

 

Russell Ollie:

Huge play at the time. I think that was about six and a half billion dollar acquisition, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Russell Ollie:

I don't know, they have a lot of brands they bought from overseas, so really, when I came there, it was a collection of companies. They hired me because I had the experience, at that point in time, of the top down model, which is what I managed at Toshiba, where I started, and then, not by design, we'll talk about this, bottoms-up at Microsoft, so I've kinda done both spectrums, if you will.

 

 

They wanted somebody who could customize. Either come in and create, or help work with existing OpEx programs for each of those companies, and so that was what I was hired for. I was hired by-

 

Seth Adler:

And they wanted top-down.

 

Russell Ollie:

That's a great question. Some people may have.

 

Seth Adler:

That's what you went with, it sounds like.

 

Russell Ollie:

Yes, that is correct.

 

Seth Adler:

Why did we go with that?

 

Russell Ollie:

What happened was, the leader who hired me, hired me to come in and help refocus, or restructure, their OpEx program, so they had tried it about two to three years earlier, and unfortunately it had launched in conjunction, or on the tail end of a major reduction in force, and so what happened is, of course, they became perceived as a cost cutting tool, and, of course, it fizzled out.

 

Seth Adler:

That was the enemy.

 

Russell Ollie:

Exactly, so I came in to help them kind of restructure, and thinking about what does OpEx really look like. How do we actually make sure we're driving for behaviors and results, and not just about those output metrics again, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Sure, yeah.

 

Russell Ollie:

Early days for them, and other companies as well, was really "Well, how many belts do we have?", and "How many people went to training?" That's all output measures. That's not actually business impact, so that was really why I was brought in, to help with those. How do we change how the business executes?

 

 

We put in a layer around capability bldg, or training if you will. Measurements, and one of the things I was given responsibility for was the executive scorecard, so how do we make sure that we are driving, when it comes to things like innovation, revenue. We had kind of four [nortar 00:23:49] metrics if you will. That was really the program. In some cases, I was coming in to create something from scratch, didn't exist, an OpEx program. In other cases they may have had practitioners, but they were decentrOlliezed. What do they need for support? Then, in one case, they actually had a centrOlliezed team, so we, again, we're just doing mostly reporting, and measurement, and tracking of them.

 

Seth Adler:

That, and it turned into Top Down.

 

Russell Ollie:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

You had just come from Microsoft, which was bottom up.

 

Russell Ollie:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

Not by design.

 

Russell Ollie:

Not by design, yes.

 

Seth Adler:

Give us the real line. What's the reason for both of those things?

 

Russell Ollie:

What happened was, the executive hired me at Microsoft. By the time I actually started, go there onsite, he had tendered his resignation.

 

Seth Adler:

Okay, so that'll change things.

 

Russell Ollie:

Surprise, exactly, and, of course, this was a new thing from Microsoft. Nobody really knew what the heck this stuff was, so I kinda bounced around a bit trying to find the right leader who could actually provide a little air cover for this, so not by design, I had to learn an entirely different model, which was Bottom's Up, which is what I was kind of eluding to before, how do I work with skeptical people, and provide something of value in their space, and then put the evangelization in a sociOlliezation behind those results to build a poll', so that's where I really learned the poll' model.

 

Seth Adler:

Because you had to, because you had no one up top protecting you.

 

Russell Ollie:

That's exactly right.

 

Seth Adler:

So, you're like "Well, I guess I'm working with you guys."

 

Russell Ollie:

You got it. My initial focus was in their customer service and tech support function, if you will, and then last year and a half, or so, I was there, I moved over to support, sales and marketing. What happened was, they brought aboard a new CIO who, himself, was a former GE black belt. He, in turn, reported to the COO, who also owned sales and marketing, so I went over to help with a program for the sales force, or for the field force.

 

Seth Adler:

Got it, now before that was Toshiba, and I had a Toshiba machine, probably at around the time you were there, and we were all very happy with our Toshiba machines at the time, right? Those were good days.

 

Russell Ollie:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

What was it about that moment in time where the brand, and the product, and everything kinda was adding up, and lining up?

 

Russell Ollie:

Good question, so I worked in a division, which was, essentially, their semiconductor division, but what you're referring to is what they called their Tabs division, or T-A-I-S, TAIS, where they made computers, and their consumer devices.

 

Seth Adler:

Right.

 

Russell Ollie:

You know, it's interesting, right. When I worked at Toshiba, it was kind of an inflection point. They were just reOlliezing, at that point, they were going to make more money on design than they were making on manufacturing goods. They were just making that, kind of, more mental transition to being a design house. They had been a design house for many years, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Russell Ollie:

This long predates me. You may recall, aging myself, there was a period back in the, I think it was the '80s, where Toshiba got in trouble, publicly, in the US, because the Soviets had hired them to create, essentially, a stealth sub, or a stealth screw, if you will, for a sub, because they're a design house, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Russell Ollie:

Sony, when Sony decided they wanted to have a device for entertainment that also could be a set top gateway, if you will, they hired Toshiba to do the design. Basically it was called the cell processor for the PlayStation, right?

 

 

They, at that point in time, were just starting to reOllieze that they're going to be making more on the design side, and they decided to focus more on designs, concepts, tools, and methods, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Right.

 

Russell Ollie:

So, I came in right at the time when they were just wrapping up a lot of expenditure with, primarily, Stanford and MIT to develop some design thinking mentOlliety and tool sets.

 

Seth Adler:

All the way back then?

 

Russell Ollie:

All the way back then, so that became the basis for higher design for Six Sigma program, so they had their own, proprietary DFSS that looked nothing like DMADV, DMADOV, ICOB, so it's totally different. Completely based on starting from "Hey, what are the unmet needs in the marketplace?" How do I quantify those, et cetera. That's kind of their-

 

Seth Adler:

Let me solve what's not here, as opposed to let me solve what's here.

 

Russell Ollie:

Exactly, you can improve something, or optimize something that exists, only so much, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Russell Ollie:

They understood, early on, that they're going to make more, do better, if they can understand unmet needs, and then go from unmet needs to quantified needs, to mapping that into your elements of a solution. I think it was just a good, heady time for them, at that point in time.

 

 

Now, I know, just from following the news, they went into trouble the last couple of years, some sort of accounting scandal, or something in Japan, and I think it's had a big impact on their culture unfortunately, but certainly in those early days it was-

 

Seth Adler:

Well, these are the ebbs and flows of corporate, right?

 

Russell Ollie:

Corporate world indeed, yeah, it's tough.

 

Seth Adler:

This is just what happens.

 

Russell Ollie:

It's tough, yes. That's the nature of business.

 

Seth Adler:

Now, having said that, we've brought, now, design thinking, all the way from back then to up here, and it is in the here and now. We've been talking about continuous improvement, and Six Sigma you've brought up a couple times. I wonder, just quickly, there's the OpEx group that was, basically, just started, but they must have had a Six Sigma program in place prior to that.

 

Russell Ollie:

Great question. Yeah, actually, GM had made significant investments in various continuous improvement methodologies over the years. Even to this day, they still have a RedEx program in the plants, and manufacturing. Engineering made a major investment in design for Six Sigma. Again, it predates me, when they started that program, but unfortunately, it was focused on output measures. "Hey, how many black belts do we get?" Every engineer, every manager has to become a black belt. If you haven't become a black belt, we're going to take the keys away for your company car, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Right.

 

Russell Ollie:

So, you gotta a lot of checkbox mentOlliety, instead of the mindset change as a result.

 

Seth Adler:

Right, and it also sounds like that was on the manufacturing side, and this was, basically, enterprise wide, executive type intellect.

 

Russell Ollie:

That's correct, and the other thing, major investments, of course, were lean, for example in accounting, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Russell Ollie:

So, this really was the first time that GM has thought about a common foundation of capability, expectation, and behaviors for the entire company.

 

Seth Adler:

Across everything, across everybody, everywhere.

 

Russell Ollie:

Exactly, and there's much more than just continuous improvement, so it's really kind of a Shingo transformation that's really about what are the right behaviors, how do you link those behaviors to your systems, from your systems to your processes, from your processes to your people, and if you get all those things right, you can be consistently executing, and meeting and beating market expectations, and they've done phenomenally well.

 

 

They've had, I think, 12 out of the last 14, or 15 quarters have been record quarters of profitability at GM, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Certainly, yeah.

 

Russell Ollie:

It's just because of, you know, OpEx is also GBS, which is one of their functions, Global Business Services. There's been a plethora of things that they're doing right, making big contributions for them. Now, the industry itself right now is challenged, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Sure.

 

Russell Ollie:

They talk a lot about peek auto, and numbers are going to be coming down, but again, the mentOlliety has changed at GM, so-

 

Seth Adler:

Maven.

 

Russell Ollie:

Maven is another ex- ... So, I started touching in entrepreneurial things, and mention OnStar. GM has made major investments in its own wide sharing technology, in platform. That's maven. In existing technologies as well, they're a major investor in Lyft. A couple years ago, made a venture investment. Now they got a big tie up with Uber as well, because they're reOlliezing that, while whether people, like you and me, are buying our own car or using a service, somebody still needs a car.

 

Seth Adler:

That's right, and GM should be in charge of that.

 

Russell Ollie:

And GM should be somewhere in that space, exactly, ideally. So they'd probably look at it, so they're trying to make sure that they're relevant in every space.

 

Seth Adler:

Alright, so now we're just proving out the fact hat it really doesn't even matter, if I'm going to buy a Suburban or not.

 

Russell Ollie:

That's correct.

 

Seth Adler:

And so, when I'm listening to you, Russell, in my headphones, and we're going through this whole thing, and I'm reOlliezing that your point of view is "Well, it really doesn't matter what the product is, it's all about how the organization thinks and behaves."

 

Russell Ollie:

Behaves, executes, listens to the customer. Honing those skills to hear, not only the existing the customer, but where the market's going, and those who are not subscribing to your products and services.

 

Seth Adler:

What should I be doing now, to make sure I'm doing those things, and to make sure that I'm selling the concept of those things, both up and down, in my organization?

 

Russell Ollie:

It's a lot of little things you gotta get right, so a lot of that is about behavior, and what you incent in your organization. I, for example, am a big proponent of minimal, viable concept, or lean introduction, rapid prototyping, so creating an environment where it's acceptable to fail, as long as you fail quick, and learn from it quickly. That's a major change.

 

 

In organizations where you can actually push that into the culture, and start changing your rewards and recognition system to recognize that it's not just about the results, it's also about the learning and how you got the results. That's a huge thing.

 

Seth Adler:

Why might I think I'm already doing that, and it's absolutely not true that I am?

 

Russell Ollie:

You know, it's interesting, the more I've been exposed, I guess I am an executive now, but the more I get exposed to senior leadership teams over the years, it was a revelation to see. You go into an executive leadership team review, and you see all the individuals come in. They did their little presentations, and talk about the great stuff they did, and want a pat on the back. Executives don't have time, really, to look at how things are done. They tend to be focused on just the outcomes, and so if all you're hearing is "We are red.", or "We're green.", you don't really get a visibility to how we're executing, and what we're leaving on the table for capabilities, or even outcomes for the business.

 

Seth Adler:

What kind of dashboard can I send up to help them focus on how?

 

Russell Ollie:

Great question. One of the things I would do, and I'm a big advocate of customer first, is think about, most companies, not just GM, but all that I know of, they're all talking about customer centricity, right.

 

Seth Adler:

Yes.

 

Russell Ollie:

Some of them can even elaborate what does that mean, in terms of responsiveness, quOlliety of service, et cetera, but if you look at the scorecards for the leadership team, there's nothing on them.

 

Seth Adler:

Right.

 

Russell Ollie:

Right, so they're not going after any of those things, so you really gotta put your money where your mouth is, and if those are the things you want to have happen consistently, you gotta figure out how to start measuring the right leading indicators of those components, and input those into place, so it's not so much about "Hey, how accurate was your budget?", or "How much was your variance to budget at the end of the year?" Don't get me wrong, you gotta manage your finances, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah.

 

Russell Ollie:

It's really about speed to market, quOlliety of the experience, how rapidly you can innovate vitOlliety. What percentage of your offering is new? Those sort of things, that's what you have to start focusing on, as an organization.

 

Seth Adler:

So it's less about putting your money where your mouth is, and more about putting your measurement where your mouth is.

 

Russell Ollie:

Measurement, behaviors, incentives, rewards, recognition, it's a new structure, and so you really have to hire for cultural fit as opposed to "Hey, you can do this one job.", because that job should change, so if you get the right people who can be flexible, adopt to change, who know how to have the soft skills to influence people without authority, then you can start thinking about how do I build and disaggregate things quickly in this sort of culture.

 

Seth Adler:

Lifelong change, you walked in, before we turned on the microphones, you said "I'm a lifelong learner."

 

Russell Ollie:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

I said "It's all about that." How did you conceive of the fact that, that was the case?

 

Russell Ollie:

That I'm a lifelong learner?

 

Seth Adler:

Indeed.

 

Russell Ollie:

Honestly, I like learning new things, and so I try to ... Early on my career, it's easier to indulge myself, with corporate support I mean, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Sure.

 

Russell Ollie:

It was easier to find things. Early on in my career, I would never have held a microphone, and spoke in front of you, or anybody else, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Okay.

 

Russell Ollie:

Because I was the very traditional, Myers-Briggs, INTJ. I was a scientist, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Bottom left corner, right?

 

Russell Ollie:

Exactly, and then through a combination of environment, and maybe need, I changed, and I actually went out and got training on things like how to speak. I reached a point where I started thinking about "Well, what's next.", and actually, what we didn't talk about, really, was the very beginning of my career, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Right.

 

Russell Ollie:

I came out in '90, '91, which is the recession.

 

Seth Adler:

Okay, now where are you from?

 

Russell Ollie:

I went to college at MIT.

 

Seth Adler:

MIT, so you're a dumb guy.

 

Russell Ollie:

Exactly.

 

Seth Adler:

You just can't pick up anything, but where are you from, originally?

 

Russell Ollie:

Originally, I'm from an old Air Force base, old SAC base, in upstate New York, called Plattsburgh AFB. My parents were in the Air Force for 30 years.

 

Seth Adler:

Please thank them both for their service.

 

Russell Ollie:

I shall, thank you, and moved everywhere, New York, South Carolina, Philippines, Japan. Had a great appreciation of this country when I came back from living in a third world country, and so that's helped me a lot in my life, if you will, but-

 

Seth Adler:

So, you get this great degree from MIT, and come right out into a recession.

 

Russell Ollie:

Came out into a recession. At that point in time, there were jobs in my space. I'm a management scientist by education, but most of the few things you could find were in New York, and I didn't want to live in New York with 10 roommates, basically, so I actually took a job-

 

Seth Adler:

Cost of living somewhat high.

 

Russell Ollie:

Boston's not cheap, but New York is just exorbitant, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Right, so it wasn't a Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees thing for you?

 

Russell Ollie:

No.

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah, you didn't care about that.

 

Russell Ollie:

Although, oddly enough, being from New York originally, upstate New York.

 

Seth Adler:

Right, sure.

 

Russell Ollie:

I've been more of a Boston fan for sports. I've been a, you're going to hate this, lifetime Patriots fan.

 

Seth Adler:

That's fine, you remember the 1985 Superbowl, which was not fun.

 

Russell Ollie:

It was not, they got shelax, and so, in fact, for most of my time as a fan, they've been a terrible team, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Sure, up until the last whatever.

 

Russell Ollie:

After Belichick and Brady leave, it'll probably go back to being in the bottom of the cellar, but we don't know.

 

Seth Adler:

Bob Kraft seems to know what he's doing.

 

Russell Ollie:

That's a good point. That's a really good point.

 

Seth Adler:

Anyway, so you didn't want to move to New York.

 

Russell Ollie:

Didn't want to move to New York. I took a job as a software engineer, because everybody at MIT has the same kinda core science engineering education, including some computer science, so it was kind of a will code for food situation. Stayed in Boston, took a job with a company that did software in the healthcare industry, so I was doing electronic medical records, for example, and knew, and this reinforced the idea, that I didn't want to sit in front of a computer all day for a living. God bless those that can do it, just wasn't what I really wanted to do.

 

Seth Adler:

Even though your brain was perfect for it.

 

Russell Ollie:

In fact, yes. In fact, that's why I got hired, and so the hiring manager, I beat his score on the IBM coding test, so he hired me, and I wasn't a software engineer by education. While I was there, I got exposed to methodologies for doing large scale projects, so that can be a waterfall daze, and that was interesting to me, so there I went to consulting. Doing, essentially, systems integration and process improvement projects, I was an early principle with a firm called Sapient, and then, eventually, went over to the big four with KPMG, but around 2000 we had the whole dot bomb thing that happened, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Sure.

 

Russell Ollie:

I, basically, found myself back out on the street, and back in the industry, ended up at Toshiba, and then I started thinking about "Well, how do I make sure it doesn't happen again?" I need to remake myself every so often, and so one of the things I try to do is keep an eye on what's coming, and what of those things is interesting to me.

 

 

I will, periodically, take classes. For example, last year I took a class from my alma mater in the machine learning space, so I learned to do some coding with R, and some other tools as well, so no, I'm not going to be a developer, but I need to understand these things hands-on, if I'm going to be a leader in that space.

 

Seth Adler:

There you go.

 

Russell Ollie:

Then, I like reading, so the more you read, the more your exposed, and you just want to learn more. I can't quite indulge myself the way I used to, because I'm married, wife, home, kid, that sort of stuff.

 

Seth Adler:

Time.

 

Russell Ollie:

Nonetheless, there's so much to learn. There's so many neat things that are happening. You start thinking about stuff you learn from other industries, and how you can apply things to new spaces, and there's just so much synergy.

 

Seth Adler:

As far as your son is concerned, he's studying to be a doctor, fantastic. We need that. We need a smart brain being a doctor.

 

Russell Ollie:

And he's a smart kid, so it works out well.

 

Seth Adler:

You bring up machine learning. You bring up continuing education. What would your advice be to him, if he had not decided to go into medicine? If he was like "You know what Dad, I jut don't know." What would your advice be to him?

 

Russell Ollie:

Oddly enough, I've actually encouraged him to start looking at some of this very technology. Not because I'm encouraging him to become a developer, I think he needs to understand how it does and doesn't work, because I think, frank, over time, every space is going to be somewhat disrupted by this technology.

 

Seth Adler:

Doesn't matter if you're a surgeon.

 

Russell Ollie:

Exactly.

 

Seth Adler:

It's coming.

 

Russell Ollie:

It's coming, so being out ahead of it gives you more opportunities, and gives you more flexibility to know where you should go, and what you can and can't do to leverage your own strengths, and your own desires, so I've actually encouraged him. In fact, I almost bribed him this summer, because he's home from college, to take a class in that space. I don't think it's worked quite yet, so I might have to actually offer some money at some point.

 

Seth Adler:

Where's he going to school?

 

Russell Ollie:

He's at Seattle University, which is a small Jesuit college in downtown Seattle.

 

Seth Adler:

Jesuits, speaking of education, always known as good educators, right?

 

Russell Ollie:

That's exactly the case, so they are multi-disciplinarians. It's not at all what I thought it would be. I don't have a catholic background, so I thought it would be more a parochial thing, but it's not at all.

 

Seth Adler:

Why is it? What is that, because that's all that I've heard? I mean, Tim [Russert 00:40:26] used to say it all the time. The old host of Meet the Press. He grew up Jesuit. He said "Jesuits are great educators." Why is that the case? Do you know now?

 

Russell Ollie:

I actually don't. I should probably ask. My father-in-law was a university president. He's on the board of accreditation for colleges, and he highly recommended this system, and he himself is not Catholic either, so it's not a Catholic teaching. It's a tradition of scholarly and Socratic learning that seems to work, and so I'm surprised to see the student body. Yes, it's mostly Judaeo-Christian, but it's also a little bit of Muslim, and a little bit of agnostic, and atheists, and a little of everything, so I'm kinda happy about that, but it's not one mindset, or mentOlliety.

 

Seth Adler:

There you go, further evidence of what needs to be moving forward, right?

 

Russell Ollie:

Exactly, that's, and again I'm getting a little off topic, that's one of the great things about this generation, this millennial generation, they're more connected. They're more respectful of the differences, a little bit, right? Not all, in fact, I think we, as a society, have a challenge there right now, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Absolutely.

 

Russell Ollie:

It's an issue, but certainly I think this generation is going to be interesting. They're going to have a big impact, and so there's been a lot of people my age range who's talked derisively, or talked bad about, this generation. I think they're wrong.

 

 

What I'm seeing of this generation is pretty encouraging, so a lot of the things-

 

Seth Adler:

Because they're brains are different, is that what you're?

 

Russell Ollie:

The brains are different, but the motivation is different, so the major differences with this generation, and this is what we talked about with [Hawbecks 00:41:52] actually, is purpose. Ofttimes, with this generation, they want to know first, before you can get them moving on something, is why, purpose, and if you do a great job with purpose, which a few companies have done a great job with, these folks are very impactful. They're very effective.

 

Seth Adler:

That's also process excellence thinking, if I'm paying attention to what you're saying.

 

Russell Ollie:

That's exactly right, so everything you should be doing has tie back to a purpose. From there, you can have some rationOlliezed approach for prioritization, as tied to that purpose, and so this generation, they're very facile technology. They're very facile relationships. If you can get them Olliegned behind the right purpose, in terms of why they want to be there, and how they want to exceed and excel, I think you're going to have great things coming out of this generation.

 

Seth Adler:

If you can turn them on, look out, that type of thing.

 

Russell Ollie:

Yes, if you can. But yeah, it takes conscious effort. I mean, a lot of folks are curmudgeons, and they're stuck in their own ways around "Well, why do I need to coddle to this generation, and all they want is a pat on the back."

 

Seth Adler:

Because it's what's next, and there's no question about it.

 

Russell Ollie:

It is next. That's exactly it.

 

Seth Adler:

There's no question about that.

 

Russell Ollie:

I'm actually optimistic about that generation.

 

Seth Adler:

There you go, and you've got evidence right in your house.

 

Russell Ollie:

I do. I've only got one data point, but it's a great data point.

 

Seth Adler:

I have three final questions for you. I'll tell you what they are. I'll ask you them in order. What's most surprised you at work? What's most surprised you in life? And then, on the soundtrack of your life, Russell, one track, one song, that's gotta be on there, but first things first.

 

 

Along the way, we kinda did get a sense of the places you've been. What's most surprised you at work?

 

Russell Ollie:

Interesting, most surprising at work? Honestly, it's probably, this doesn't sound great, but the relatively low level of sophistication when it comes to using things like data analytics. Companies make major investments in pools of analysts, and insight teams. I mean, look at middle management on up. The skill sets are very poor, and so we're talking about all these great things with the AI, machine learning, but the average leader, even the better leaders that I've worked with, they can barely work with anything beyond averages for numbers. Forget about variation, and distribution, they are stuck on averages, and now you're talking about predictive, and prescriptive analytics, and we got folks that are still thinking that month-over-month, year-to-year comparisons, are appropriate ways to look at their business, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah.

 

Russell Ollie:

The level of sophistication with analytics, data-

 

Seth Adler:

What math class were you taking? What math class would you suggest?

 

Russell Ollie:

That's a great question. That's a great point. Honestly, most of them have had, well maybe not. Most of them, probably, have had basic data statistics, data analytics, maybe most of them haven't. Maybe that's the issue.

 

Seth Adler:

Maybe that's it.

 

Russell Ollie:

Maybe that's the issue. Some have, and some haven't. In fact, now I'm thinking about it, without picking out names, one of my recent employers. I sat across from one of the executives, on the executive leadership team, and the first meeting with him, he told me "I don't like numbers." Not, "I'm bad with numbers, and I have somebody else who does it for me.", "I don't like numbers."

 

Seth Adler:

It's one thing for me to say that. I'm hosting a podcast.

 

Russell Ollie:

A leader of a large, Fortune 200 company.

 

Seth Adler:

That's a different person.

 

Russell Ollie:

Your function spends billion plus, and blah, blah, blah, and I don't like numbers. You know what, I looked around the room when he said it. I'm like "Isn't somebody's head going to explode?", no, so that's just kinda the norm. We assume-

 

Seth Adler:

We gotta get by that. We gotta get through that.

 

Russell Ollie:

-and ascribe capabilities, and attributes, to our leaders that really, if they were there, they're never home, or they won't valued, so they really built different skill sets, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Russell Ollie:

Leaders really have to build influence skills, or building, empire building skills. It's a different set of skills that are typically valued, and so that's been a little bit disappointing. I had these assumptions around how people would leverage the scientific method, and logical thinking, and using data, has really born out.

 

Seth Adler:

We are at that inflection point though. It's time. You know, if that old way of thinking has worked up until now, it ain't going to work moving forward, right?

 

Russell Ollie:

Yes, very much it is.

 

Seth Adler:

Alright, so I'm taking a statistics class, and then I'm going to take an analytics class after that.

 

Russell Ollie:

I think so. Honestly, if I was going to recommend one thing, it's probably systems thinking.

 

Seth Adler:

Systems thinking class.

 

Russell Ollie:

Systems thinking is probably a better, kind of, a linchpin, or a keystone, for change, and make people think, and seeing integration out of procecees, and systems, and the whole nine yards.

 

Seth Adler:

I'll go up to MIT. I'll say "Russell sent me."

 

Russell Ollie:

There are many great institutions. MIT's great, don't get me wrong, and you know what, there's also great online learning now. Even those institutions, like MIT, are offering online experiences. Some of the same materials, same experiences.

 

Seth Adler:

If you can get that level of insight right to your computer, come on now.

 

Russell Ollie:

To your computer, usually free, so there's not excuses. Knowledge is being democratized.

 

Seth Adler:

That's it. What's most surprised you in life?

 

Russell Ollie:

Honestly, I think it's just the difficulty, in terms of managing, and keeping fruitful relationships, whether it's with your friends, with your family. It's work. There's never really a day off, or week off, or month. It's work, and as soon as it's not work, things go askew.

 

Seth Adler:

That's it.

 

Russell Ollie:

I feel like I'm constantly struggling to stay out in front of what's happening in the home front, and at work. It seems like I can only do one to my perspective right, and so it's a balance exercise, and it's tough. It's really tough to be where you need to be as a father, as a husband, as a leader at work, as a co-worker at work. It is a real tough exercise to balance the commitment.

 

Seth Adler:

Because you have to be constantly communicating, and constantly present within that communication, and if you're burning the candle on both ends.

 

Russell Ollie:

I've been guilty.

 

Seth Adler:

I'm just saying, but burning the candle on both ends means, in the morning, at work, and then at nite, so it's tough for everybody, I would imagine.

 

Russell Ollie:

It's tough everybody, and I give my wife all the credit, because she's done a great job, and more than her share of holding up the home front, but I tell you, I've had times I'm at work, and I'm working long hours, and I'm feeling, and thinking about what's happening at home, and then I'm at home at night, and I'm thinking about the emails that are landing in my inbox I need to deal with, so it's a constant struggle.

 

Seth Adler:

Well, I think, what I am trying to apply myself is, be present where you are, so if I'm at the farmer's market with my girlfriend, we're at the farmer's market. Let's select the bread. Let's select the sausage. Let's, you know, be here, and then if I'm talking to you, I can't be ... Of course, I'm always thinking about her, but I can't be thinking about her with quite the same distinction-

 

Russell Ollie:

I know exactly what you mean.

 

Seth Adler:

-if we're in the middle of this conversation, does that make sense?

 

Russell Ollie:

It makes perfect sense, and it's easier to say than it is to do.

 

Seth Adler:

Of course, it's easy to say.

 

Russell Ollie:

But yeah, you know, it's just kind of interesting, just life continues as an onslaught.

 

Seth Adler:

It's tougher. This is way tougher than they said it was going to be.

 

Russell Ollie:

It is. My wife and I are now empty nesters, and we thought we were going to have this period between son leaving the home, and deOllieng with aging parents.

 

Seth Adler:

Nope.

 

Russell Ollie:

No break, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah.

 

Russell Ollie:

And so, there's always something. One of the things I've learned is, and so I won't get religious on you, but there's an expression, want to make God laugh, tell him your plans, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Okay.

 

Russell Ollie:

So, it's taken me awhile to reOllieze I have no control, no influence over, really, what the most important things have happened, so I just have to change myself, and be a little more flexible.

 

Seth Adler:

That's it.

 

Russell Ollie:

That's probably the big takeaway for me, at this point, is I have to roll with the punches, and deal with what I can, and do my best where I can.

 

Seth Adler:

That's it. Get up in the morning. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Go do what you're going to do.

 

Russell Ollie:

Do your best there when you can.

 

Seth Adler:

Probably get knocked down, get up.

 

Russell Ollie:

Happens.

 

Seth Adler:

Keep going.

 

Russell Ollie:

That's exactly right, yeah.

 

Seth Adler:

Alright, on the soundtrack of your life, Russell.

 

Russell Ollie:

Yes.

 

Seth Adler:

One track, one song, that's gotta be on there.

 

Russell Ollie:

It's a little song we're asking about here, eh?

 

Seth Adler:

Yeah, it doesn't have to be a perfect song. It doesn't have to be your absolute favorite song, but as you've gone here. With the soundtrack of your life, here's one track that certainly on there.

 

Russell Ollie:

That's a great question. I am struggling with this one. This'll tell you, this is not what they give me, the softball, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Well no, some people have a more difficult time with this, because they try to be too precise, and so where I go to is college. So, when you were at MIT, what were you listening to?

 

Russell Ollie:

This is interesting, I'm going to get into my roots a little bit, so I listened to a little of everything, because I came up with a conservative, Christian household.

 

Seth Adler:

I was guessing, right?

 

Russell Ollie:

And we actually didn't have non-Christian music in the house, and so even though I went to college in the era of cassette tapes, and this new thing called a CD, I actually never owned music until I got to college, and I went crazy. I bought and listened to everything from pop, a lot of classical, I used to be a pianist for many years, and played a lot of classical.

 

Seth Adler:

Wow, what did you like to play? Who?

 

Russell Ollie:

Actually the one that used to be the challenge, I still want to tackle is [rocmananoff 00:50:36], actually, and Shostakovich, excuse me, is another challenge. I played a lot of Bach, and that was a bit of a challenge as well, but ...

 

Seth Adler:

Rachmaninoff is featured, just fleetingly, in the Gene Wilder version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That's one of the codes to get through one of the doors.

 

Russell Ollie:

Another thing to add to my list of to-dos to watch now, at this point, but when I went to college, I listened to everything. I listened to a lot of metal and hard rock. A little bit of rap, but that was in the early days before you had the gangsta rap, and all the cursing,-

 

Seth Adler:

This is way early.

 

Russell Ollie:

-misogyny, and the whole nine yards.

 

Seth Adler:

You're talking about Sugar Hill Gang, and all that.

 

Russell Ollie:

I went to college in '86, right?

 

Seth Adler:

Yes.

 

Russell Ollie:

It was back in that era.

 

Seth Adler:

Literally, Sugar Hill Gang, yeah.

 

Russell Ollie:

A little bit of rap, and a lot more of, actually, a little country, so one of the things I did hear a lot of as a kid was country. We lived in South Carolina, and other places, and country was always good, clean, wholesome music, and so I listened to everything in college, and I bought every genre you can think of, except for, maybe, didn't get a lot of punk.

 

Seth Adler:

Did not get into punk.

 

Russell Ollie:

Didn't get a lot of punk, otherwise I kind of-

 

Seth Adler:

Even though you're into metal, that's so interesting.

 

Russell Ollie:

A little metal, even a lot of the German metal, and hard rock, for example, as well, so in those days, groups like Scorpion. I listen to their music now, I'm like "What was I thinking?"

 

Seth Adler:

Not much. Russell, thank you so much.

 

Russell Ollie:

It was a pleasure.

 

Seth Adler:

Let's keep in touch here, as you go on your journey. How bout that?

 

Russell Ollie:

Definitely, anytime I can chat, or talk, grab me.

 

Seth Adler:

You got it.

 

Russell Ollie:

Thank you.

 

Seth Adler:

And there you have Russell Ollie. "If it was up to me, I'd call it business excellence instead of operational excellence, but most companies think of it as OpEx.", and whether you call it OpEx or not, you have to be able to move at market speed, and increase your capabilities, and still have the right resolution to hear what the market is saying, and where it's going. Russell Ollie, very much appreciate his time, and yours. Stay tuned.

 

 

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seth adler
Posted: 11/13/2017