Ryan McCormack’s Operational Excellence Mixtape: October 21, 2022

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Thanks as always to Ryan McCormack for this… there's always so much good reading, listening, and viewing shared here by him! Get these directly from Ryan via email.

Insights about improvement, innovation, and leadership


Operational Excellence, Improvement, and Innovation

Does Lean Work? Ask Larry Culp, President and Chairman of General Electric.

4 years ago, Larry Culp, a former Danaher CEO, took over at a much-beleaguered General Electric to much optimism and some skepticism. Culp had led Danaher using lean principles and a hands-on approach to leadership, and was expected to bring the same to GE.  How's it going 4 years later?  Culp shares the results and successes of his team and a vision fo what's in store next for GE. Culp's outlook is indeed positive, but GE‘s stock performance over his tenure has been uneven, and GE is trading much lower than it did when he took over in October of 2018.

Don't just improve, improve what needs improving the most. 

Many Lean “programs” begin with training people on tools and then sending them back to the workplace to work on some “quick wins”. You may end up with a few point improvements, but it will fail to transform much else.  If you're not solving the most important problems, then frankly, it's improvement theatre. Calvin William of Impruver explains why companies are ditching lean programs for strategy execution



No time to improve.  We're too busy growing.

Should you focus on improvement when you're a startup chasing triple-digit growth? Developing an operational excellence muscle early on can pay dividends later

You know it's tough to find people when…

Private Equity touts the importance of talent management, people, and purpose for driving operational excellence in PE portfolios.


Creating a Culture of Improvement 

What can we learn from the “Toyota of healthcare”?

One of the criticisms of lean thinking in healthcare is that the lack of a “Toyota” for healthcare serves as evidence that it doesn't apply, even though Toyota spent many generations achieving its famous culture of continuous improvement. Probably the closest example of a “Toyota of healthcare” is Virginia Mason (now Virginia Mason Franciscan Health) in Washington state, where Dr. Gary Kaplan spent 22 years dedicated to applying the principles of the Toyota Production System to patient care.  

What can other healthcare organizations learn from Virginia Mason? The NHS (UK's public healthcare organization) shares its insights from its partnership with the Virginia Mason Institute to learn how to build an organizational culture of continuous improvement. The detailed report of the findings can be found here.  

Communicate, and then communicate some more.

Communication is key to leading and supporting improvement. But how much is enough? When you think you've done enough, do even more. Employees prefer more communication to less, and overcommunicating shows them that you care

Cultural Detox

With the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting in the headlines, it's not surprising to see a lot more attention paid to culture. About 10% of workers experience their workplace as toxic, and anyone who has endured a toxic culture can attest that it is soul-crushing. How do leaders begin to detox their culture? Leadership, social norms, and work design


Coaching – Developing Self & Others

Your favourite problems

Fall in love with your favourite problems again by turning areas of interest into areas of inquiry. How to turn problems into a curiosity engine

The Difference Between Winning and Success

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.” John Wooden is arguably the greatest coach of the 20th century.  His teams had incredible winning records, but this is not how he defined success.  Coach John Wooden defines the difference between winning and success.

Capable of change

You may be capable of effective change, but is your entire organization capable? Assess the maturity of your organization's change management capabilities using the Prosci Change Management Maturity Model


When the consultants come around

Almost anyone involved in improvement, innovation, or transformation at an organization has worked with management consultants. Few other professions are as universally reviled by managers and employees leery of the jargon, Powerpoint, and busywork thrust upon them by executives. McKinsey has a rich history of consulting with Fortune 100 companies, but also a history of secrecy and questionable approaches. In When McKinsey Comes to Town, New York Times reporters Walter Bogdanovich and Michael Forsythe interview 100 ex-McKinsey consultants and clients to dig deep into the culture of management consulting. – Buy via Amazon (affiliate link)


If it's too good to be true…

I've always enjoyed cautionary tales of leaders or companies who seemed too good to be true, from Long Term Capital Management in the 1990s to Enron in the 2000s, and Theranos in the 2010s. It's no surprise that I'm enjoying the Wall Street Journal's podcast series Bad Bets Season 2: The Unraveling of Trevor Milton following the rise and fall of the founder of Nikola. 


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