Operational Excellence Mixtape: Best of 2018


Hi All –  here's a collection of the most read Mixtape links from 2018.  I compiled the links with the greatest number of viewers and then organized them into some themes.  Enjoy!

Setting goals and developing effective and actionable KPIs is a perennial OpEx challenge.  It seems that many of us are interested in challenging the long-held ‘SMART' approach to describing operational targets described in the popular articles When SMART Goals Are Not So Smart, as well as, With Goals, FAST Beats SMART.   6 Ways Your KPIs Reveal Your Thinking was the most popular article I've published on LinkedIn.  For 2019 – let's resolve to experiment with new ways of setting goals.

It appears that readers are busy people, as evidenced by the popular interest in articles such as 4 Ways Busy People Sabotage ThemselvesThe Speed Trap: When Taking Your Time Really Matters , When You Shouldn't Delegate , You're Never Going to Be “Caught Up” at Work, So Stop Feeling Guilty About It .For 2019 – let's resolve to improve our ability to prioritize, create focus, and give ourselves permission to be human.

Developing empathy and humility can lead to high performance and continual learning, and readers expressed high levels of interest with many views of articles such as Six Habits of Highly Empathic PeopleResearch: When Being a Humble Boss BackfiresA New Way to Become More Open-Minded , and Daniel Kahneman: Your Intuition Is Wrong Unless These 3 Conditions Are Met. For 2019, let's resolve to put people first.  

Not surprisingly, Lean thinking and improvement were popular topics, with specific interest in the articles Quality Improvement Explained in Four Everyday ObjectsAn Approach to Becoming Agile in a Dynamic World , and, Netflix Brings Lean Thinking to Board Meetings.  For 2019, let's resolve to continually challenge for better and improve our work.

Daily Management continues to interest readers with articles such as How Huddles Help Us Lead, and One Way to Improve Your Lean Daily Management Board.  For 2019, let's resolve to get a little better every day and engage our entire workforce in improvement.

Healthcare Transformation remains an important and interesting topic. Readers took interest in What If Amazon Ran Hospitals? , Management Lessons From One Hospital's Dramatic TurnaroundAccountability: What Does It Mean? How Do You Get It?, and Doctors Need to Stop Communicating to Patients Like It's 1980.  For 2019, let's resolve to create measurably better value for patients and families.

Specifically, Canadian Healthcare challenges interest readers as evidenced by the popularity of Why It's So Hard To Reform Canadian Health CareThe Meddling Masters of Our High Cost Healthcare, and Solving Ontario's Hospital Crowding Problem Without Spending a Dime.  For 2019, let's resolve to challenge our healthcare system for better outcomes.

Other workplace challenges such as The Change Management Field Needs to Change Before It's Disrupted, and The Root Cause of Workplace Drama: Lack of Clarity, proved popular as well. For 2019, let's resolve to integrate change management into everyday management.

Here are my Top 5 favourite OpEx-related books from 2018:

1. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou.  I didn't put this one down to the end.  Both a gripping story and a reminder of terrible behaviours that lead to failure and corruption.  It shows that an organization with a compelling purpose and a leader pretending to be Steve Jobs can seduce investors but failing to create value, instilling fear in staff, insisting on opacity, leading via command and control, and outright lying will ultimately lead to total collapse. 

2. An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization by Kegan, Lahey, Miller et al.  I like all of Kegan & Lahey's books and this one didn't disappoint.  Sustainable levels of operational excellence require all employees to contribute and this book describes how to be intentional at engaging and developing all employees for the dual purposes of individual and organizational excellence.

3. Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More by Mark Graban.  Self described “Lean geek” Mark Graban gives improvement practitioners and leaders practical advice and tools to reduce the waste associated with poor KPIs, management systems, and scorecards.  Graban updates the lessons from Wheeler's classic, Understanding Variation: The Key To Managing Chaos, in this highly relatable and relevant work. 

4. The Excellence Dividend: Meeting the Tech Tide with Work that Wows and Jobs That Last by Tom Peters.  The cantankerous Tom Peters compiles 40 years of thoughts on excellence in this collection of key points and thoughts about Excellence.  It reads like a collection of Powerpoint slides, notes, anecdotes, and calls to action which makes it easy to browse or pick up / put down.  

5. Humble Consulting: How to Provide Real Help Faster by Edgar & Peter Schein.  A follow up to Humble Inquiry and Humble Leadership, this book describes how to assess the type of relationship required between client and consultant to be most helpful most quickly.  I recommend this for internal and external consultants alike.  

Honourable Mention: Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. Though not expressly about operational excellence, Leonardo's brilliance as an engineer and artist demonstrates the power of many of the proven principles OpEx practitioners know well.  It inspired me to write a brief article about how Leonardo's processes can teach us about continuous improvement.  

Here are my Top 5 favourite OpEx-related podcasts from 2018:

1. The Truth And Lies of Performance Management – Michael Bungay-Stanier – Coaching for Leaders Podcast #361  (35 min) .  The author of The Coaching Habit returns to provide some practical advice on performance management and sift through the many conflicting theories and contemporary research on organizational performance reviews.  Excellent listen for anyone responsible for developing others.

2. Mike Grogan, Personal Lean and Lessons Learned – Lean Blog podcast #308  (59 min).  Improvement practitioner Mike Grogan provides frank and personal insights in his journey as a student and teacher of lean principles.  I listened to this multiple times as it resonated with my experience.  Loved it!

3. Time of Day Matters with Dan Pink – What's Next with Tiffani Bova March 14 (38 min).  Business author Dan PInk walks us through his latest research on how timing is everything and attempts to unpack the science behind timing and waiting and the impact on test scores, performance, and outcomes.

4. Seth Godin on How to Say “No”, Market Like a Professional, and Win at Life – The Tim Ferriss Show #343 (1 hr 44 min).   If you don't listen to or read anything (or everything) by Seth Godin, I recommend that you start.  Seth Godin has a unique ability to cut through to the heart of solving problems and provides clear and concise views on just about every topic for improvement practitioners, entrepreneurs, and the future of work.  

5. Ask Better Questions – HBR Idea Cast #631  (22 min) A “right-sized” podcast reminding leaders on the importance of asking questions and discussing types of questions that are most effective.

Thanks for reading in 2018.  Here's to an even better 2019.

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Ryan McCormack
Ryan is an operational excellence professional with over 18 years experience practicing continuous improvement in healthcare, insurance, food manufacturing, and aerospace. He is an avid student of the application of Lean principles in work and life to create measurably better value.


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