LGO Alumni Newsletter May 2015

The monthly LGO Alumni Newsletter goes out by email to all alumni; archived issues are posted on this page. If you would like to change your contact information, please email Josh Jacobs.

Message from Thomas Roemer


Thomas A. Roemer

Dear friends,

Goethe’s description of the land emerging from winter seems very appropriate these days in Boston: "from ice they are freed, the stream and brook, and April has brought us Spring's enlivening, lovely look." The Charles is lined by eager joggers and crowned by dashing sails. Open spaces and beer gardens alike fill with hopeful faces.

To LGO, April has brought the Class of 2017. We are proud to have assembled another group of outstanding individuals, and even during Open House, we observed the first signs of LGO community spirit emerging in our next class. We can’t wait to have them arrive on campus and start another academic year.

The LGO alumni conference in Austin at the end of April brought many of our alumni together for one of the highlights of the LGO calendar. The 21st annual conference featured a rich list of speakers on topics including the future of health care, the convergence of art and technology, the manufacture of Texas bourbon, and innovations in launching new businesses in the sports, cloud storage and food industries. Many thanks to our alumni and staff who helped organize this event and its flawless execution.

I would also like to call your attention to several stories this month that focus on LGO alumni—especially this feature story in which many of LGO's early alumni who are now in executive roles discuss the effectiveness of the program in giving them the tools to succeed.

Finally, in April a long-awaited book was published on one of the LGO program’s most cherished legacies, the leadership lessons of Don Davis. Called Do the Right Thing: Real Life Stories of Leaders Facing Tough Choices, this book, edited by four of our alumni and Don Davis’ daughter Ruthie Davis, illustrates with stories from a range of LGO graduates the ways in which they applied Don Davis’ “Leadership Mantras” to some of the toughest leadership challenges they faced in their careers.

I encourage you to get a copy of the book, to edify your minds, to dive into Don Davis’ “Leadership Mantras,” to share the spirit of LGO with colleagues, friends and loved ones, and last but not least to benefit the LGO program in yet another way as the editors have generously offered to donate profits from the book to the LGO program. I am personally looking forward to reading the book and would like to thank the authors and editors for their generosity and dedication to LGO.

Spring greetings from Cambridge,

Thomas A. Roemer
Executive Director, MIT Leaders for Global Operations Program

LGO News


Internship project earns kudos for student, could save millions for company

SanDisk confers an award on Weng Hong Teh for an internship project that resulted in a better technique for slicing microprocessor chips. Read more...


Three LGO alumni take an entrepreneurial direction

Three alumni use business and engineering know-how in targeting markets for their company's inventions. Read more...


LGO has succeeded in its mission to create industry leaders, alumni say

The majority of early graduates have achieved executive rank, and they say their LGO toolkit has been a key to their success. Read more...


LGO alumni, faculty members win kudos

The awardees include Nima Subramanian (LGO '07), winner of a TWIN award (Tribute to Women and Industry). Read more...

Alumni Scholar profile

The Alumni Newsletter includes periodic first-person accounts by students who have benefited from an LGO Alumni Scholarship.


Andrew Thoma

In the spring of 2014, while I was enjoying the warm sunshine and beaches of Honolulu, I knew two things: (1) I was leaving the Army, and (2) I was going to grad school. Where would I be and what would I be studying exactly? Not quite sure.

Getting the phone call from Don brought some instant clarity… and the realization that I would be trading in my island paradise for a New England winter (if I only knew how bad it can get). Not only did I find out that I was accepted into the LGO program, but I was also receiving an alumni scholarship! This exciting news was a fitting introduction to the supportive LGO culture and community. The scholarship also helped alleviate some lingering concerns I had about not receiving a paycheck for two years.

If I had learned anything from the past five years in the Army, it was that you have to sometimes do things that truly suck. Not only do you have to do these things yourself, but you have to convince those you’re leading to do these things with you. Whether on the dusty, explosive streets of Baghdad or in the Amazonian rainforest in Peru, there were times when I had to learn to “embrace the suck.” The one takeaway from these experiences is that shared hardships have a very unique way of bonding people together and building cohesive teams.

Interestingly, my eight months in the LGO program have taught me that a similarly close bond can develop through a series of fun, intellectually stimulating and diverse set of shared experiences as well. Our class has developed a close connection through such events as the Domestic Plant Trek, a vacation in Puerto Rico, social gatherings almost every week in venues all over Boston, C-functions in Walker Memorial, and Steve Spear’s “Creating High-Velocity Organizations” class.

This inclusive LGO community has extended to my off-cycle internship at Amazon, where I’ve enjoyed connecting with welcoming LGO alumni in the Seattle area. After having received so much support, I’m even more proud to be a member of this amazing network and plan to pay it forward in the future by proudly representing the LGO culture and giving assistance whenever I can to future classes. Thanks again, and I look forward to meeting many more alumni in the near future!

— Andrew Thoma, LGO '16

Knowledge Transfer

When you click on the Internship page on the LGO website, you’ll find detailed profiles of recent LGO internships to show you examples of LGO projects and the results they achieve.

The internships are organized into seven categories:

  • Capacity and production planning
  • Energy and sustainability
  • Lean operations
  • Manufacturing processes
  • Product development
  • Sourcing
  • Supply chain

Each section includes profiles of two internships with information on the students’ approach, project impact and MIT faculty participation. New profiles will be posted on a regular basis.

This month will feature two projects involving aerospace product development. Allen Ball analyzed producibility risk in early-stage product development at Sikorsky Aircraft. Ammar Asfour worked on ways to measure engineering quality during airplane development.

If you have companies or areas of research you are interested in having highlighted in the monthly news, please contact Ted Equi (tedequi@mit.edu).

Name: Allen Joseph Ball

Allen Joseph Ball

Allen Joseph Ball

Company: Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.
Supervisors: James Villano
Academic Advisors: Nancy Leveson, Roy Welsch

Title: Identification of Leading Indicators for Producibility Risk in Early-Stage Aerospace Product Development

Multiple new and derivative aerospace product development programs were being pursued by the Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. at the time of this investigation. Programs in the initial phases of production were challenged by suboptimal yield and the need for configuration iterations resulting from constraints encountered during fabrication and assembly. These challenges impacted operational efficiency and product delivery commitments to internal and external customers. Related to development program efforts, United Technologies Corp., the parent company of Sikorsky Aircraft, was concurrently attempting to harmonize requirements and demand for the enterprise supply chain by standardizing best practices between all subsidiary business units. The observed challenges and standardization efforts provided the impetus to understand indicators of producibility risk in early-stage product development.

Producibility is an emergent property that encompasses the ability to physically manifest a product that is compliant to design requirements while maintaining schedule commitments, a high level of quality, and preservation of operating margin. While product feature-related influences on producibility have been extensively examined in academia and industry, it was hypothesized that organizational design and control are more significant sources of producibility risk for development of aerospace products with an inherent high level of complexity. An objective method was needed to identify and capture all sources of producibility risk in early-stage product development. This method needed to integrate with existing risk management processes and promote cross-functional collaboration.

As with the emergent property of system safety, producibility may be impaired even when all aspects of an organization’s sociotechnical system are functioning as intended. Given this parallel, a hazard analysis technique known as system theoretic process analysis (STPA) was extended to examine organizational and procedural control for producibility at Sikorsky Aircraft. Leading indicators of risk were identified using this technique by examining assumptions and causality associated with inadequate organizational control. Focus for the assessment was placed on new military product development requiring supplier fabrication of Sikorsky-defined hardware. Resulting from this analysis, a methodology for producibility risk assessment during the concept and preliminary design phases of development is proposed. The method is based on subject matter expert scoring of risk in control action-related categories using a leading indicator-based rating scale. Scoring is aggregated to achieve a relative risk likelihood using coefficients derived from retrospective implementation in conjunction with multivariate regression.

Implementation of the proposed risk assessment method was conducted on three current product programs in the design phase of development. Non-product feature-based risk was identified in the areas of process capability, ergonomics, obsolescence, supplier capability and validation. In addition, significant opportunity was identified in product team structure, understanding of supplier capability, manufacturing and tooling interfaces, inspection requirements, leadership incentives, and standard work alignment. Identified risk and opportunities were consistent with operational challenges observed on prior programs that had not been captured through traditional producibility assessment methods.

Name: Ammar Asfour

Ammar Asfour

Ammar Asfour

Company: The Boeing Company
Supervisor: Sandra Toro
Academic Advisors: Olivier de Weck, Brad Morrison

Title: Measuring Engineering Quality in Airplane Development


Airplane Development (AD) is a recently formed organization focused on bringing the next generation of airplanes through development, certification, and delivery. The driving force behind this new organization is the need to increase the focus on development processes, which will help improve reliability and reduce the cost of development programs. The AD Quality organization focuses on the quality factors of the engineering and development processes.

This project was motivated by the desire to apply quality metrics to the multiple stages of the airplane development process. Engineering Quality can be defined as delivering the engineering work as requested by the customer to the consumer (manufacturing/production) on time and on budget. This project first identified integration and process discipline as most critical towards final quality of the engineering work. Integration, defined as the path and connectivity between teams and activities, was studied by analyzing performance of a small engineering support team. To understand the effects of early stage quality on later stages, i.e. process discipline, a system dynamics model was developed focusing on the design and development of components with suppliers.

The case study regarding integration focused on the engineering work as a four-steps process: Inputs, Engineering Activities, Output and Customer Review. All unplanned reworked deliverables of an engineering team with five to seven members were analyzed. The study tracked the process step at which the error was first caused. The results found that 21 percent of unplanned engineering rework was caused due to inadequate delivery of inputs to the requested engineering work. Furthermore, the 21 percent of unplanned engineering rework had the highest hours per reworked deliverable of any stages. Over all, 75 percent of engineering rework was due mainly to the process rather than the actual technical engineering work.

The system dynamic modeling achieved two main results: showcased the necessity to simplify the process, and the importance of accounting for iterations in engineering. Through the group-modeling discussions with the process owner, it was evident the need to provide clear checkpoints and reviews of the engineering work. Furthermore, discovering engineering rework within a given stage has the same effect as delivering first-pass engineering quality.

This project provided a methodology to work with engineering teams to measure their quality performance. Furthermore, it has the potential to show the thresholds of quality from one stage to another in Airplane Development.

Student Bloggers

Please make our student blogs a regular part of your reading about LGO. If you’re interested in the current state of the program, these blogs are a great place to start.

  • Yalu Wu ’15 wrote about her recent trip to India as part of MIT Sloan's India Trek. She was amazed by the country's diversity and richness of the culture, food and history and is grateful for the opportunity this program gave her.

Give to LGO

The Alumni page of the LGO website explains how your donation to one of our alumni gift funds will benefit current and future students.

Alumni Reference Information

Log in to the Virtual Community to see LGO alumni information, find other alumni, update your information, or find theses. If you have trouble getting in, contact lgosdmvc@mit.edu or use the "forgot password" button. If the email address you submit is in our system, your username and password will be sent to you.

Josh Jacobs, LGO Director of Operations and Partner Integration (jsjacobs@mit.edu, 617-253-2959).