Ryan McCormack’s Operational Excellence Mixtape: June 16th, 2023


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Insights about improvement, innovation, and leadership

Operational Excellence, Improvement, and Innovation

Kata-lyze your thinking

Thinking scientifically is a long-held principle of operational excellence but it is much, but embedding related habits into an organization is much easier said than done. It's frustrating that sharing data and setting objectives doesn't seem to drive deliberate experimentation, data-focused decision-making, and innovation, but rather proliferates defensiveness, gaming, and politics. Why? Changing your mindset, your own or someone else's is hard. 

How to get started? Practice. Mike Rother shares the Improvement Kata and the Starter Kata for coaches to begin developing scientific thinking in themselves and their teammates – one by one

Fostering an Innovation Culture among Machine Learning Scientists

Amazon spends a lot on machine learning to optimize its business and is also committed to keeping improvement teams small (the two-pizza rule). So how do all the machine learning scientists share their insights across a large company? They set up a friendly competition to foster collaboration, innovation, and learning

“We transform while we perform”

“We're not an assembly line” – every business leader attempting to suggest that they are immune from learning from assembly companies, implying that it their business is far more complex.

Enter Robert Engelhorn, President of BMW Manufacturing as he shares the Spartanburg SC plant approach to transforming while they transform, facing challenges such as adding 6 new models on their existing lines, developing new skills, embedding new technology, and building resilience in the face of uncertainty. 

It's Not Brain Surgery!

Surgery has often been at the cutting edge of technology and innovation in healthcare. Recent studies show the next wave of surgical digital transformation may include machine learning models that outperform clinical prediction models, VR training models, and post-operative monitoring using smartphones and wearables.

In Memoriam – Masaaki Imai

The improvement community lost legendary sensei Masaaki Imai this month. Imai founded the Kaizen Institute and authored several improvement classics like Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success and Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense Approach to a Continuous Improvement Strategy. Many of the mental models and principles introduced by Imai endure today.  

RIP sensei.

Creating a Culture of Improvement

Learning & Development is a No-Regret Investment

Training budgets are one of the first things to get cut during belt-tightening, often creating a short-sighted risk. Think carefully about how to prioritize learning and development during times of layoffs and cost reduction

Pursue Zero?

When it comes to safety, many organizations adhere to the philosophy of pursuing zero harm. Jake Mazulewicz shares that pursuing resilience is better than seeking perfection. (Disclaimer: personally, I believe in the pursuit of zero harm as an important mindset for safety excellence).

What's Key

What's key to building a culture of continuous improvement? Bill Keen shares what his finance organization focuses on to drive improvement and accountability everywhere.

International Business Jargon

Professionals often resort to jargon as a shortcut, but often it just confuses everyone else. Here is a study that reveals the most confusing workplace jargon around the world. I was surprised to learn that “feedback” is considered confusing in Brazil.

Coaching – Developing Self & Others

Don't Manage Your Time. Set it Free.

“If you got time to lean, you got time to clean”. Should time be ‘filled' or effort maximized? The cult of being busy at work remains strong, as does the personal productivity industry. Jenny Odell asks us to more deeply examine what time is owed and to whom in a new book “How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy. 

They Won't Put Your Overtime Hours on Your Headstone

Reminder that 20 years from now, the only people that will remember that you worked long hours are your kids.

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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.


  1. Mark it was interesting to see that at the top of that blog you sent a picture of that old C60
    I am only 55 I was able to buy a tape player years back and play my tapes until 6 months ago my tape player broke down.
    At least I was able to find a Dictaphone C60 recorder and player. So I can play them ( not as good)
    Your picture got me thinking about how computers used tapes, the big round tapes, then smaller round tapes. cant play the short past.
    So how could people now learn from the short Past great things, and mistakes? The people starting now can’t learn from the people around us. I still stick to pencils and use different colours. and paper. Before it goes into typing for tenders and finished safety folders. When I stop I still use permanent paper and ink . Is that what you were thinking about when you put up that picture? ( I was a project manager more that buildings, equipment, helping people learning lots of other things).. Sorry if I made a mistake, but a remembered C60 and knew how I was young I couldn’t find a tape player easily. Thank you JK 16/June/2023 (see we use dates from ye)

  2. I learned about the passing of Masaaki Imai through Ryan’s newsletter / this post.

    I will share more in a blog post later…

    I want to express my deepest condolences to Mr. Imai’s family and colleagues. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet him a few times — once in Seattle when he was visiting and speaking at a healthcare organization and twice during Japan study tours organized by Kaizen Institute. Thank you for your contributions to the world!


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