Operational Excellence Mixtape: April 24, 2020


Thanks as always to Ryan McCormack for this…

Healthcare – Creating Value for Patients

Paul O'Neill was a pioneer in establishing an all-encompassing pursuit of safety and zero harm as the path to excellence and profitability at Alcoa, and then later in healthcare.  Sadly, we lost Paul O'Neill last week.  Mark Graban delivers an excellent tribute to Paul O'Neill at leanblog.org

The Wall Street Journal published an obituary of Paul O'Neill (paywall) and a In Memory of Paul O'Neill site can be found here. 

Healthcare teams are finding that the current conditions have fostered creative problem-solving, teamwork, resourcefulness, and humility to deliver the best possible care.  These behaviours serve patients and providers well under normal conditions too.  NEJM Catalyst shares some management lessons from Covid-19.  

Operational Excellence

It often takes a crisis for organizations to take stock of their cultures and capabilities, but operational excellence, centered around adaptability, innovation, and the continual pursuit of better, is essential to help manage through bad times.  Steve Denning describes why only the agile will survive.  

Some lessons in applying lean to looking after your baby while you are stuck at home.

Jeffrey Liker shares what the covid virus can teach us about the Toyota Way.

Interesting read by David Galbraith on our world in flow change.  The lasting effects of the current crisis will rebalance from efficiency to flexibility. 

Leading & Enabling Excellence

Seeking and raising problems is a key behaviour of excellent organizations.  Sometimes, this means seeking “bad news” and escalating quickly, especially in a crisis.  Steve Spear reminds us of the power of andon and the willingness to seek bad news

Great organizations often possess the ability to accept reality, even when it is unpleasant, but maintain unwavering optimism in the face of a crisis.  The Stockdale paradox is more relevant than ever.

There is a ton of articles out there now on how to lead in a crisis.  HBR shares 4 behaviors that help leaders in a crisis. I can't help but think that these behaviours would also serve us well during “normal” conditions.

Coaching – Developing Self & Others

Perhaps the current crisis shows us the limitations of over-optimizing systems to the point of inflexibility. This applies to ourselves as well.  Stop trying to be productive

Most events and conferences, if they're not cancelled, are now “virtual” events.  Nancy Duarte provides some great tips on how to make your (now virtual) event shine.  

How to become an agile superhero.

Books, Podcasts, Videos

Paul O'Neill on habitual excellence at leanblog.org.  

review the book What's Your Problem on Linkedin.  I recommend this book for opex practitioners and consultants.

I recommend the Netflix documentary “Command and Control” for some interesting lessons in operational excellence principles.

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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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