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Volume 1, Issue 3
February 2009

Transforming Companies to Meet the Challenge of Change

  • Ram Narasimhan, Ph.D.
  • University Distinguished Professor
  • John H. McConnell Professor of Business Administration, Department of Supply Chain Management
  • Eli Broad Graduate School of Management

Our nation's businesses are facing major challenges, and not just as a result of the current economic crisis. In order to compete effectively in a globalized context—in fact in order to survive—businesses need to be flexible and innovative. Executives and managerial professionals need to know how to change and change quickly.

Ram Narasimhan, University Distinguished Professor in MSU's Department of Supply Chain Management, is bringing together the best minds in academe and industry to develop creative business strategies for these challenging times.

The Executive Summit

According to Narasimhan and co-director Joseph Sandor (Hoagland-Metzler Endowed Professor of Practice), the Executive Summit, now in the planning stages for its third event, is inspiring "transformational leadership, strategic change, and competitive excellence" on a national level. Business executives representing many major U.S. companies come to the Executive Summit, both to learn about cutting edge research from leading researchers, and to share their own insights, gained from years of collective experience. This exchange of knowledge is fostering new perspectives on how businesses can implement the changes necessary to survive and compete effectively.

A session at the Executive Summit

The idea for the Summit had been "incubating" in Narasimhan's mind for several years. With the formation and subsequent national prominence of MSU's Department of Supply Chain Management, and the addition of co-director Joe Sandor, the Executive Summit has become a reality. The Summit is intended to be the academic equivalent of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where heads of state meet to discuss the challenges facing their countries and economies.

Lisa Michalek, vice president of packaging procurement for Sara Lee Corporation, has attended both events. "The Executive Summit provides a unique forum that combines thought leadership from both the academic and corporate perspective around the challenging and evolving area of supply management. As a very proud MSU alumn in this field, I welcome and encourage the innovation around this topic that Professor Narasimhan and the Broad College of Business provide," Michalek said.

An important outcome of this gathering is its far-reaching effects on businesses and academe, and ultimately the public good, as executives begin to apply new ideas and researchers embark on new projects. Narasimhan, along with co-researchers Sriram Narayanan, Assistant Professor of Operations Management, and Ravi Srinivasan, a doctoral student, are turning information gained from conversations with executives at the Summit into data for a project called "Leveraging Outsourcing for Organizational Agility through Integrated Supply Management Practices." The project seeks to identify: 1) The contextual drivers that underpin strategic outsourcing; 2) The execution aspects of integrative supply management practices and best practices; 3) The operational and strategic metrics that firms can use to measure their performance; and 4) How to leverage strategic outsourcing through strategic alignment. This study is being undertaken on a global scale. The executives and their firms have agreed to participate in the study.

Executive Summit III in April 2010

Recently the event was moved from Fall 2009 to April 2010. The switch provides longer lead time for corporate planning in the tight economic environment, as well as additional time for Broad College of Business program planning. The tentative theme for the Executive Summit III, to be held in April 2010, is "innovation and sustainability." Narasimhan believes that innovation and sustainability go hand in hand. "Sustainability has been an important issue in Europe for some time, and is increasingly becoming an important issue for U.S. firms," he said. And, if an issue is important to U.S. businesses, Ram Narasimhan wants to provide a venue for business leaders to discuss such issues so U.S. business can stay ahead of the curve and meet new change challenges head on.

Visit the Eli Broad College of Business Web site for more information.

  • Written by Amy Byle, University Outreach and Engagement
  • Photograph courtesy of The Eli Broad College of Business