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Photo by Joe Wilhelm Jr. - With more than 30 years of experience helping businesses improve through lean thinking, former Medtronic Inc. executive Jerry Bussell has written his first book comparing lean leader Abraham Lincoln to 10 current CEOs. The l...
Jax Daily Record Friday, Dec. 7, 201212:00 PM EST

Khan, Rutherford included in author's book on leadership

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by: Joe Wilhelm Jr.

Even in "retirement" a former Medtronic Inc. executive is working to improve businesses throughout Jacksonville and the world.

"I failed miserably at retirement," said Jerry Bussell in a Friday interview.

Bussell's inability to enjoy retirement after leaving Surgical Technologies — the sixth largest Medtronic business, according to its website — in 2011 as vice president of Operational Excellence and Global Operations led to the publishing of "Anatomy of a Lean Leader as illustrated by 10 modern CEOs and Abraham Lincoln."

"One of the things the book allowed me to do was to reflect on everything I did over my career. What I did well. What I didn't do well. What could I share with others to help them develop their businesses," he said.

Bussell, 64, currently serves as an executive advisor to UL Knowledge Services and the company encouraged him to write the book and agreed to publish it.

"The main reason we are doing it is I am helping (UL Knowledge Services) build brand recognition to let people know they do continuous improvement because it's a new area of business for them," said Bussell.

He uses the definition of lean thinking from co-authors Jim Womack and Dan Jones in the book "Lean Thinking."

It states that lean thinking is "an organization-wide strategy that focuses on delivering even more value, as defined by the customer, through continuous improvement of processes to eliminate waste.

"Lean does this by engaging people at all levels of the organization every day to improve their work and their work experience for the benefit of the customer," it says.

Bussell described a lean leader as being someone who is "purposeful, respectful, transparently honest, an influencer, a continuous learner, persistent, a holistic thinker, a problem solver, results-driven and courageous."

He considered President Abraham Lincoln as someone who possessed those characteristics when he studied Lincoln's leadership skills.

"There was so much information out there about Lincoln, some right, some wrong, that it became a hobby of mine to read all I could about him," said Bussell.

The chapter on "Persistence" uses Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan as a leadership example.

The story of the multibillion dollar business developed from Khan's design of a seamless automobile bumper has been widely reported, but the persistence needed to have those bumpers installed on vehicles hasn't been discussed as much.

General Motors Co. in 1978 was interested in applying the bumper to every car line, but Khan's first company, Bumper Works, had a staff of four people and couldn't handle the volume GM needed.

Not willing to walk away empty-handed, he was able to work with GM partner Isuzu Motors Ltd. to supply bumpers for its trucks. Khan would later include Toyota trucks as a customer in 1984. The growth of the company allowed him to purchase former employer Flex-N-Gate and by 1989 it was the sole supplier of bumpers for Toyotas produced in the U.S.

Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford was included as a management example in the "Problem Solver" chapter.

Rutherford was elected in 2001 to lead the consolidated police and sheriff's office in Duval County. The sheriff credited lean management with helping his office save tens of millions of dollars from 2004-11 as it modernized and improved office management.

The example detailed Rutherford's efforts to improve conditions at the jail and improve community involvement in policing neighborhoods.

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