General Management, Philanthropy Come Together in Darden’s Fortive Challenge
By Dave Hendrick
As active leaders in the General Management and Operations Club at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, Nikhil Shetty (Class of 2018) and J.D. Alexander (Class of 2018) wanted to devise a way to introduce First Years to the field.
“We wanted an event that would give First Years the experience of general management,” Shetty said. “We wanted it to be more hands on than a case competition, and we wanted it to be fun.”
The pair took the germ of an idea to Professor Elliott Weiss, who endorsed the concept, but encouraged them to make the end result a useful one — to have something to show for the work in addition to the experience.
Alexander and Shetty hooked up with Fortive Corp., the industrial conglomerate that spun off from Danaher Corp. in 2016, and over the course of the summer the Fortive Challenge began to take shape.
The pair devised a scenario in which a hypothetical Fortive business unit manufactured two products —emergency kits and hygiene kits — and worked to optimize their supplier relationship with their purchaser, The Haven.
Representatives of The Haven, a day shelter in Charlottesville offering services to the area’s homeless population, worked with Shetty and Alexander to ensure that the actual kits being produced by the hypothetical companies would be put to good use after the competition.
On the day of the competition, after an introduction from Darden alumni and Fortive representatives Jason Lund (MBA ’06) and Pete Dempsey (MBA ’09), Darden students separated into 12 teams of four students each, and tackled their production challenge over the course of the afternoon.
Under the rules of the challenge, the teams went through a three-year production cycle over the course of the afternoon, with each “year” measured in 30-minute increments. Between years, the teams negotiated selling prices for their products with the customers — here played by Lund, Dempsey, Fortive’s Courtney Lindemann and Weiss — with the previous year’s performance informing the eventual terms.
And while teams had to forecast their expected demand when meeting with the buyer, the actual purchase order was unveiled via sealed envelope to be opened at the start of the year’s production work.
Expectations of inflation costs and labor productivity offsets also had to be taken into account.
The teams were judged on five equally weighted metrics, including the Fortive “core value drivers” of core growth, operating profit, quality and on-time delivery. The fifth metric was an aggregated assessment of Fortive’s five “leadership anchors.”
In the end, the 12 teams built a total of 245 emergency kits and 297 hygiene kits, all of which were donated to The Haven. The “Kaizen Ninja” team composed of First Year students Diana Du, Adam Zhao, Pengyang Wang and Yogi Huang took first place, winning $500 toward the charity of their choice and dinner with a Fortive executive. The second place team, “Fortunemakers,” earned $250 toward charity.
“It was a great way to help First Year students learn what it’s like to be a general manager while giving back to the community,” said Alexander. “And a lot of what we learned was how to run an event that is both fun and meaningful.”
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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