Ryan McCormack’s Operational Excellence Mixtape: March 24th, 2023

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Insights about improvement, innovation, and leadership


Operational Excellence, Improvement, and Innovation

Lean taking root at General Electric

GE Marketing proves again that Lean principles and tools can be usefully applied to virtually any system where work is being done to create value for the customer. I often continue to hear that “that factory-style thinking doesn't apply”, but as this GE team discovered, there is plenty of potential to improve processes in creative fields. 

GE is having a pretty good overall year, as Larry Culp's bold moves to reduce debt and revitalize operations with Lean transformation are starting to show results, demonstrating again that transformation is almost never linear or immediate. 

Insights from Process Behaviour Charts

Process behaviour charts remain underused in performance management systems. It's been over 20 years since the second edition of Don Wheeler's brilliant introductory manual Understanding Variation: The Key to Managing Chaos was published, and 4 years since Mark Graban released Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, yet I seldom encounter PBC's in most workplaces, despite their efficacy.

Wheeler shares a reprint of an article that demonstrates the use of process behaviour charts by a behavioural psychologist, Dr. Al Phadt, to help gain insight into the treatment of a 25-year-old man with severe autism and self-injurious behaviours

Avoid ‘dashboard theatre' and improve your performance management system with process behaviour charts.

Value-Based Healthcare – almost 20 years later

It's been almost 20 years since Michael Porter published his framework for value-based care – a way to restructure healthcare systems to align to patient outcomes rather than provider activity (fee for service) and other inputs. It's true that since 2006, there has been an increased interest in value-based healthcare, but it has fallen well short of becoming a paradigm shift. This NEJM Catalyst commentary optimistically makes the case that value-based healthcare is at an international inflection point and that an integrated outcomes-focused health delivery system is more possible this decade.  


Some quick hits on operational excellence


Creating a Culture of Improvement

Meet In The Middle

Your culture thrives or fails with your middle managers and first-line supervisors. Despite their critical importance, middle managers continue to bear the brunt of organizational bureaucracy and administrative waste. Middle managers are a precious resource that organizations can't afford to waste.

Be Intentional

Traditional command-and-control leadership endures even though it's less than effective. So what capabilities are more effective? Intentional Leadership, a set of 8 leadership capabilities, are must-have for leading in the future.

Crisis? What Crisis?

The sudden and spectacular collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank has many wondering, “why did this seem to come out of nowhere?” and “why didn't senior leaders see it coming?”. Leaders often fail to consider downside scenarios, let alone worst-case scenarios due to a “shared myth” bias, where inconvenient data and suggestions are ignored and confirmation and validation are sought instead. Michael Skapinker and Amy Edmondson discuss how managers put organizations at risk when they fail to plan for worst-case scenarios in the Financial Times article ‘Why did no one see the crisis coming?'.


What I am reading and listening to

 Why do some inventions prevail over others? Why are some technologies hyped but yet it seems like we wait for them forever? Vaclav Smil's Invention and Innovation: A Brief History of Hype and Failure attempts to answer these questions and others with a fascinating look back at everything from leaded gasoline, supersonic air travel, and the cure for cancer.

 I recently ordered and received Matt Mayberry's new release Culture Is the Way: How Leaders at Every Level Build an Organization for Speed, Impact, and Excellence. I can't wait to dive in.

Just because your organization has been around for 150 years does not entitle it to be around for 100 more. How does a 150-year-old institution like Prudential Financial believe it can maintain the social license to continue in business in the future? By creating a relentless focus on creating value for customers in the changing technology landscape. I highly recommend giving this episode of Leadership Next featuring Prudential Financial CEO Charlie Lowrey as he describes how he cultivates a deep connection to purpose in everything his organization does.

 “Just give me the tools”! Jamie Flinchbaugh, author of People Solve Problems: The Power of Every Person, Every Day, Every Problem joins Ron Pereira on Gemba Academy episode 466 where they discuss Problem Statements, Ideation, and Coaching.


Coaching – Developing Self & Others

Slay the Monster

We all have an inner Work Anxiety Monster – the internal voice that keeps repeating negative stories and robbing us of joy in the workplace. Learn how to slay your anxiety monster and reclaim happiness at work

Stay Curious

Curiosity is essential for creativity and cultivating a growth mindset, yet adults become less curious over time. Practice staying curious.

Intro to PDCA

 Looking for a simple and practical introduction to PDCA? Check out EdX's Practical Improvement Science in Health Care: A Road Map for Getting Results. It's a great course, even if you aren't into healthcare. 


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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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