Ryan McCormack’s Operational Excellence Mixtape: September 9, 2022


Thanks as always to Ryan McCormack for this… there's always so much good reading, listening, and viewing shared here by him!

Insights about improvement, innovation, and leadership

Operational Excellence, Improvement, and Innovation

It's What You Do With It

How important is leadership to productivity? A study of US automobile assembly plants finds that the effect of individual plant managers can explain about 30% of the variation in the average hours per vehicle. Plant managers with knowledge of the current models helped reduce the negative impacts on the productivity of new model introductions, and longer tenure at the plant positively impacted productivity. Institutional and technical knowledge still matter.

Not Far Away

Companies are focusing on supply chain problems and there are early signs of a turnaround. Diversifying sites, sourcing, and transport is critical to creating resiliency. 

Many wonder whether “on-time delivery” or “just in time” is a thing of the past but this is partly because of people's poor understanding of  “just in time”. Short lead times and tight connections with suppliers are part of the renewed focus on resilient supply chains.

Killing Time

Despite the perceived shifts in attitudes towards remote asynchronous work (for knowledge workers at least) during the pandemic, there remains pressure to appear to be working 9 to 5. Digital presenteeism presents barriers to productivity and retention. 54% of knowledge workers feel pressure to show they are online at certain times of the day according to the Qatlog/Github study Killing Time at Work


In a world where it's hard to agree on what's true, despite the growing availability of data, the killer question for getting people to align on strategy is “What would have to be true?”.  I first encountered the power of this question when practicing Matthew May's Play to Win Strategy Canvas in the Reverse Engineering section, and use it quite often.

A Few Quick Quotes

 “Leadership is a continuum where you think at the beginning the most important part is having the loudest voice, and at the end, you've realized the most important part is amplifying other people's voices,” – Dr. Alika Lafontaine, the first Indigenous leader of the Canadian Medical Association.

Creating a Culture of Improvement 

Every Single Day

Companies working on their culture often stop at defining a set of values and then putting them on the wall, only to be disappointed when it becomes empty sloganeering. Instead, focus on designing your day-to-day work and management systems to drive the specific behaviours that define the culture you seek.  “Culture is more of a verb than a noun,” according to Melissa Daimler, Chief Learning Officer at Udemy. 

Same Old Story

I've always been leery of the phrase “going above and beyond”. It has long been used as a form of worker exploitation, implying that the only way to succeed is through heroic efforts and “hustle”, effectively absolving leaders and organizations from improving working conditions and work systems. So it's not surprising to see a viral backlash labelled “quiet quitting”, spawned on TikTok, describing how to do the least amount of work without getting fired. All major news outlets are reporting on quiet quitting (herehereherehere).

Wishing, pressuring or incentivizing people to simply “work harder” is rarely an effective approach to productivity, let alone engagement. The real problem? Quiet quitting is about bad bosses and not bad employees. The solutions are simple and well known: provide purpose and joy in work, respect every individual, and continually develop people. Simple, but difficult. 

Don't know what makes work meaningful? IZA Institute of Labor Economics has done research into what makes work meaningful and why economists should care.

Perfect people

Your culture lives and dies on the strength of your middle managers. But our obsession with leadership may be making us overlook the basics of good management: designing the work, setting direction, and following up. It may be time to save management from our obsession with leadership

Coaching – Developing Self & Others


Consultants and Google searches are replete with ‘best practices' and ‘one size-fits-all' advice on just about everything. Implementing a best practice without understanding the current state might actually exacerbate a weak underlying system. Future fitness starts where you are.

Peaceful Day

This Labour Day weekend, I was touring with my family through a heritage village, where over 100 years ago people lived and worked together with common goals – with a sense of purpose, belonging, competence and control. Modern workplaces often lack these dimensions but our desire for them has not waned, leading us to question our existence regularly. It may be helpful to craft a personal narrative about meaningfulness in your life

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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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