Remembering A Long Time Colleague and Friend
Hau L. Lee Stanford University November 8, 2019
In was the beginning of the 90’s, and I was visiting Digital Equipment Corporation in the Boston area. I was told then that a key senior manager at DEC, Dr. Mitchell Tseng, was leaving DEC to become the first inaugural Department Head of the Department of Industrial Engineering at HKUST. Mitch was someone whom I have known for years, when he was a representative from DEC visiting Stanford’s Institute of Manufacturing and Automation on several occasions, and who had hosted me to give a workshop on service parts management a year earlier. Being from Hong Kong myself, I sought to meet with Mitch to tell him how happy I was that he was heading to HK. The two of us met at the cafeteria at one of the DEC buildings, and we exchanged preliminary ideas of mutual collaboration in the future. This cafeteria conversation, as it turns out, has formed the root of our long-term relationship.
Mitch was visionary as an institutional builder
In 1993, Mitch formed the first Advisory Committee of the Department of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management (IEEM) of HKUST, and invited me to be a member of it. I attended the first Advisory Committee meeting, held at HKUST, when Mitch shared with us his vision of what he liked the department to be. He wanted the teaching and research there had industrial relevance and impact. In a short time, he had already built a network of relationships with industrial enterprises in Hong Kong and China. During that trip, Mitch also arranged the Advisory Committee to go to Shenzhen. I had one of my first industrial visits in China, visiting Huawei. Huawei is now one of the largest and highly successful technology giants worldwide. In 1993, it was just a tiny startup, and I am impressed that Mitch had the foresight that this company would become a major force in the technology world, and had built a personal relationship with the company.
That year in Shenzhen, we also attended the first International Industrial Engineering Conference in China at Shenzhen University, a conference that was championed by Mitch. The initiation of the International Industrial Engineering Conference has resulted in the mobilization and recognition of the IE discipline in China, thanks to Mitch’s vision and efforts. The Industrial Engineering discipline grew from being in 4 universities to more than 100 universities in just a decade. The Conference is now the primary IE conference in China. I think Mitch can be credited as being the person who initiated and promoted the IE community in China.
Mitch was a great collaborator
Over the subsequent years, every time I came to Hong Kong, I would visit Mitch and we had many productive exchanges. Mitch also helped enlist me as an adjunct professor of the department.
The IEEM Department has also initiated executive education programs, and Mitch asked me to lead one of such programs in Global Supply Chain Management. The program was a two-day workshop, and it was the only time in my life that I delivered a two-day program single-handedly. At the end of the program, I was totally exhausted, but the enthusiasms and strong interests of the industrial participants were very satisfying.
Mitch was a champion of university-industry partnership
In 1995, I was asked to help organize a Supply Chain Conference at HKUST, and recruit the best and top researchers in the field to participate in such a conference. The co-hosts of the conference were Professor Shu Ming Ng and Mitchell Tseng. This conference would feature the latest and greatest developments on global supply chain management. I am happy to say that the conference was a wild success. We had prominent keynote speakers. The Who’s Who in supply chain management, all congregated at HKUST to exchange research findings and ideas. Mitch helped organized a boat ride to see the Hong Kong Chap Lap Kok Airport, which was under construction at the time. He could see that the new airport would help HK make a big step forward as a logistic hub, and he wanted to have the supply chain leaders of the world to have a chance to witness the construction of this airport.
In 1995, I founded the Stanford Global Supply Chain Management Forum. This Forum, an industry/academic consortium, was a great success. The Forum is an industry/academic partnership that fosters the advancement of the theory and practice of global supply chain management. Shortly after, HKUST created a Logistics and Supply Chain Management Forum. Mitch was very kind to invite me to speak at their first industrial workshop. The two supply chain forums have been strong supporters to one another. We have shared our ideas on themes for workshops, and tried to help promote each other as much as possible. I have attended many of the workshops organized by the HKUST forum, and have spoken at more than one occasion. Our friends at HKUST have also visited Stanford’s forum, and participated in many of the conferences organized by the Stanford Forum.
In 2000, Mitch and I recognized the importance of Asia as a major part of the global supply chain. The Logistics and Supply Chain Forum at HKUST, the European Supply Chain Forum and the Stanford Supply Chain Forum organized a workshop on Asian Supply Chain Challenges and Opportunities, as our first three-way collaboration. The workshop was held at HKUST, with participants coming from industrial members of all three forums. This event has helped us understand much better the realities of supply chain management in this part of the world, as well as provided us with ideas for research.
Mitch was an innovator in education
I should definitely say something about the Global Project Coordination Course. At the end of 1995, I began to notice that there were more and more indications from our industrial partners that our curriculum needs some new advancement. To successfully compete in today’s global market place, companies must increasingly be able to communicate information, plan activities and coordinate decisions globally among different organizations within or across corporations that are located in multiple continents. Successful engineering projects involving multiple organizations in multiple continents will now require a new set of necessary factors: team members should learn how to work effectively with members of different cultures, develop working knowledge to explore and leverage capability globally; team members function as a team, deemphasizing performance at the individual or independent organization level yet to be accountable for achieving the committed goals of the team; and team members gain command of advanced communication and networking devices to transcend geographical boundary for productivity enhancement.
In response to these inputs, Mitch and I started a course that would provide students with first-hand experience of such global projects, so that they can explore, exercise, and experiment all three facets of such global projects. Mitch was a doer. Once he agreed to a target and a joint initiative, he would work full speed to make it happen. In the winter quarter of 1996, Mitch and I ran a pilot course on global project coordination jointly with HKUST. Mitch was very resourceful to obtain sponsorship from global companies for the student projects. Students in this course got first-hand experience of global teaming, i.e., working in as a team with team members from a diverse culture and background, and learn to overcome the cultural, geographical, time-zone, and national boundary. Students also experimented with advanced communication and networking media, utilizing all possible avenues available to them -- internet, emails, long-distance phone calls, faxes, video-conferencing, as well as face to face meetings, particularly opportunities to share views with senior management of sponsoring companies. The results were very gratifying. Most students felt that this was the best course that they have taken at Stanford, and the experience was overwhelming.
Mitch was a friend and coach to many
Over the years, Mitch had been a great coach and mentor to many students. I have seen how students laughed with him, hung out with him at local eateries, listened to him to give both professional and personal advice, and got encouragement and support from him. In 2005 when Mitch organized the 10th anniversary of the Global Project course celebration, many of the alumni came back, and they all surrounded Mitch like children coming back home to see their father. These were a few pictures taken at the celebration. Mitch had also been a great supporter of events to bring colleagues together, as seen in the added pictures below.
I am very honored and privileged to have been one of the friends who have benefited from Mitch’s wisdom, warmth, inspiration and love. We will remember his smiles fondly.