Ryan McCormack’s Operational Excellence Mixtape: Best of 2022


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Insights about improvement, innovation, and leadership

I shared hundreds of articles with my readers in 2022, and I've learned one thing for certain: I still have no idea which articles are most likely to be clicked. 

Here are the Top 10 Most Clicked Links of 2022 (in descending order):

Roger Martin helps me and others understand why no one understands their post-industrial job titles in Organizational Strategy and Job Titles: When More IS Better.

“Reward efforts, not outcomes.” Google CEO Sundar Pichai gives the best advice on how to lead in only 4 words

Just in time for annual planning in 2023, a reminder that the 4-step Eisenhower Time Management System is a brilliant way to prioritize

Change management is more than completing a stakeholder map or RACI at the beginning of a project, it's a way of leading. Changing Change Management: The Shift from Process-Centred to People-Centred.

Your culture of innovation lives and dies with your middle management and frontline supervisor. Middle Managers: The Forgotten Heroes of Innovation.

Remember the supposed rule of brainstorming that “we shouldn't criticize ideas”? Not so fast. Improve Creative Brainstorming with Constructive Criticism

How we talk affects how we lead. What *not* to say as a manager, unless you want to destroy psychological safety.

Kaizen can help entrepreneurs. The Secret to Trader Joe's Success? Embracing This Japanese Business Strategy

2022 will be remembered as the year the Surgeon General recognized a toxic workplace as a health hazard. These are the 5 Worst Signs of a Toxic Workplace, According to a New Surgeon General Report

Standard work isn't just for the “workers.” Leaders at Intermountain Healthcare share the value of Leader Standard Work in driving alignment across their hospitals and clinics. 

Best of 2022 – Books and Podcasts

2022 was a bit of a down year for me in terms of reading output, but I was still able to devour many new ones.  Here are my favourites:

1. The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America–and How to Undo His Legacy, by David Geddes. I devoured this deep dive into the era of Neutron Jack and the primacy of shareholder value. Despite Geddes' bias against Welch, he warns of the repercussions of the proliferation of many of his misguided management schemes that continue long after his death.

2. Bringing scientific thinking to life: An introduction to Toyota Kata for next-generation business leaders (and those who would like to be), by Sylvain Landry. An accessible guide to Toyota Kata for improvement practitioners and transformational leaders. While reading this, I had many moments of deep reflection on my own efforts to improve scientifically.

3. Flying Blind: The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing by Peter Robison. A terrifying reminder of how corporate culture can be a matter of life or death. Robison performs a detailed analysis of the pattern of mistakes, negligence, and pursuing deadlines at all costs created the conditions for catastrophe. 

4. Don't Blame the Lettuce: Insights to Help You Grow as a Leader and Nurture Your Workplace Culture by Eric Stutzman, Wendy Loewen, Randy, and Grieser. A compact set of vignettes for managers looking to nurture a culture of innovation and growth in the workplace. 

5. How to Begin: Start Doing Something That Matters, by Michael Bungay-Stanier. MBS is back with another installation of concise how-to guides that help get you unstuck.

My 5 Favourite Podcasts of 2022

I ended up commuting more regularly in 2022, so I was able to listen to many more podcasts this year. It was tough to whittle the list down, but here are 5 great ones:1. Legendary CEO Alan Mulally, formerly of Ford and Boeing, shares the secrets of his management system famous for driving cultures of excellence in Alan Mulally: The Power Of Working Together, The Knowledge Project Ep. #151

2. Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, discusses the cultural transformation at Microsoft with Adam Grant in Worklife with Adam Grant: Satya Nadella is building the future

3. Dr. Eric Dickson, CEO at UMass Memorial Health, shares how UMass sustained and leveraged its lean management capabilities to navigate the pandemic in Episode 59 of Habitual Excellence: Dr. Eric Dickson on Lean Management in a Crisis

4. In contrast, here's a podcast series that serves as a case study of how not to be a CEO. Check out the 6 episode series of Season 2 of Bad Bets on WSJ: The Unraveling of Trevor Milton

5. HBR Idea Cast shared a great series of 4 Business Ideas That Changed the World, including:

  • Scientific Managament. An exploration of Taylor and his ideas that led to management practices that remain today.
  • Disruptive Innovation.  Clay Christensen popularized the principles that allow small companies to take over industry giants through disruption.
  • Shareholder Value. Maximizing shareholder value became prominent in the 1970s but became a religion by the 1990s. 
  • Emotional Intelligence. Daniel Goleman brought emotion to the business arena where it was long thought that feelings don't matter.

Looking forward – 2023 Predictions

Wow.  2022 was quite a rollercoaster ride. It was really the tale of two halves. Inflation and interest rates rose precipitously on the heels of the pandemic era. The financial markets struggled early on and slumped badly to end the year with miserable returns. Corporate earnings started strong but virtually disappeared in Q4. The year started with extreme supply chain shortages across the globe, but those have eased and will likely produce a glut in certain sectors.

In the spring, headlines were dominated by “quiet quitting,” excessive burnout, and stories of toxic workplace cultures, leading many to think organizations are prepared to put people first. But not so fast. Elon Musk's takeover and installation of “hardcore” workplace practices are emboldening some tech leaders to trim the fat and demand increasing levels of productivity and loyalty from management and the workforce in pursuit of profits. There have been massive layoffs in the tech sector, but overall unemployment rates remain at historic lows. 

What will this all mean in 2023? It's impossible to tell, but here are some guesses:

With interest rates expected to rise again, albeit more slowly, consumers, businesses, and governments slow down on spending in the first half of 2023, but it won't last. Organizations will place a greater focus on productivity and cost certainty over growth but will not likely seek drastic austerity measures.

The customer experience continues to be an obsession for companies large and small, as competition for attention and retention becomes feverish, and switching costs continue to decrease. Organizations in all sectors continue to pour resources into improving the customer experience.

The employee experience suffers as burnout continues. Turnover, recruitment, and talent management will remain a challenge in many sectors, though distributed unevenly, making solutions even more challenging. Many organizations choose to rethink and improve turnover and recruitment processes rather than rethinking workplace conditions and remain bewildered by the results.

Middle managers continue to feel the pinch when asked to do more with less. Some organizations will pay attention, but most will not, and demand greater resilience rather than improve working conditions. Tired approaches to prioritization and time management surge back to the forefront while true engagement remains elusive. 

Interest in people-centred management principles grows, balanced by a revival of classical management techniques focused on execution. The tension between greater autonomy for workers and greater control from managers yields some innovation but not a widespread rethinking of organizational structure. Demand for innovative leadership development approaches continues.

Digital transformation accelerates, but there is an increased focus on technologies that reduce direct labour inputs and customer effort. Corporations put greater pressure on realizing hard dollar savings from digital investments sooner. 

Supply chains return to a steadier state, and a lot of efforts are put into making more resilient supply chains in all sectors. 

Could this year be the one where the healthcare system collapses or is fundamentally disrupted? I don't know, but the appetite for extreme reform will remain at all-time highs in 2023, and some will try some bold experiments.

Here's to a great 2023!

Happy New Year, 

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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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