Paul Critchley Interviews Mark Graban About “The Mistakes That Make Us”


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For Episode #480 of the Lean Blog Interviews Podcast turns the tables, as regular host Mark Graban is interviewed today by a guest host, his friend Paul Critchley.

Paul was previously the host of the New England Lean Podcast and he's been a guest of Mark's in Episode #5 of the Lean Whiskey podcast series.

Today, Paul asks Mark questions about his new book, The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation, the general topic of learning from mistakes, and more.

Questions, Notes, and Highlights:

  • What was the origin of the My Favorite Mistake podcast?
  • What have you learned from your guests about PDCA / PDSA and learning from mistakes?
  • What's your favorite mistake?
  • Iterating on improvements and engaging people in that process
  • What advice would you give to leaders and managers so they can incorporate a culture that encourages risk takin… that mistakes are okay with psychological safety?
  • Saying “I'm sorry” shows strength not weakness
  • What'd you wanna be when you were little?
  • What inspires you?
  • What's one thing nobody knows about you?
  • What superpower do you wish you had?

The podcast is sponsored by Stiles Associates, now in its 30th year of business. They are the go-to Lean recruiting firm serving the manufacturing, private equity, and healthcare industries. Learn more.

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Automated Transcript (Not Guaranteed to be Defect Free)

Announcer (1s):
Welcome to the Lean Blog Podcast. Visit, our website at www.leanblog. Org. Now, here's your host, Mark Graban.

Mark Graban (12s):
Hi, it's Mark Graban Welcome to episode 480 of the podcast. It is July 20th, 2023. Today's one of the occasional sort of rare episodes where we're turning the tables. I am going to be the guest on today's episode, going to be interviewed by my friend Paul Critchley, formerly the host of the New England Lean podcast. So he's gonna be talking to me, interviewing me about my new book available now, The Mistakes That Make us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation, So, you can learn more about the book, you can find links in the show notes. You can go to, or you can go to

Mark Graban (53s):
Now here's Paul.

Paul Critchley (57s):
All right, hello everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. You don't recognize my voice unless you listen to the New England Lean podcast, which I haven't done any episodes of recently. So even if you did use to listen, you still might not recognize my voice. But I am Paul Critchley And I. Am happy to be guest hosting the podcast today and interviewing our fearless leader, Mark Graban. Mr. Graban How, are you?

Mark Graban (1m 23s):
I'm Paul. I'm doing great. Happy to have you get back into the podcasting saddle, even if it's just a one-off here. Maybe, maybe you'll get back into your podcast someday. You still got the gear?

Paul Critchley (1m 35s):
I still got the gear. I didn't lease it. I did a rent to own.

Mark Graban (1m 42s):
But thank you for accepting my offer to have you turn the tables on me here.

Paul Critchley (1m 47s):
Thank you. I hope you, I hope you brought your A game, cuz I got all kinds of hard hitting. I

Mark Graban (1m 52s):
Hope. I hope So I hope so. This might have been a mistake, but we'll see.

Paul Critchley (1m 56s):
Well, you, you could always just not publish it, I guess, if it, if this thing goes south on you. All right. So let's jump right in. Congratulations, you have a new book coming out. Yeah. Thank you Paul.

Mark Graban (2m 10s):
The Mistakes That Make us, as we're recording this, I don't have the books yet, So, I'm gonna hold up a cover for those. Looking on YouTube, the mistakes that make us cultivating a culture of learning and innovation. Brand new book, And I. Hope people will check it out and read it. Check it out. Library. That would be fine too. Buy the book. Read the book. The, the main thing, I, I hope the book is helpful in some way. You know, I think having a culture of learning and innovation is, is something we would benefit from. And, and to shift from a, a culture of, of being punitive about mistakes to being one that's more constructive, I think is ultimately better.

Mark Graban (2m 51s):
If, if our goal is to reduce the number of mistakes happening to some people, that is still maybe counterintuitive, maybe not to this audience, but we can try to help influence and remind or try to convince others that You know shifting from, shifting away from the punitive approach is actually the better path forward for driving mistakes down. So, we touch on that in the book You know we talk about mistake proofing. It's not a book that looks like a Lean book on the cover, and it's not all about Lean, but hopefully it's gonna introduce some people to concepts that they might not have turned You know come across before.

Paul Critchley (3m 29s):
Nice, nice So I. I think there's enough of those out there anyway. I mean, let's be honest, it's been around, what, 30 some odd years now. I think there's plenty of books that people can choose from as like the how to I'm, I get excited about some of the newer books that You know like yours, some of the other ones that friends of ours have published in recent years. That's kind of more of the storytelling and kind of gets what I consider to be kind of sort the respect for people side to talk about culture and how important that stuff is. Because You know as a fellow engineer, you can appreciate You know we tend towards tools I think sometimes, and obviously that's important, but that's not the whole picture.

Paul Critchley (4m 10s):
So I really like, kind of some of the You know in books and some of the conversations I'm seeing online that are happening surrounding, like I said, culture, respect for people. That kind of, it, so You know, I just wanna jump right in. So I wanna, well I'll jump in and back up. I guess. So, you actually have a podcast, right? Yeah. Mistakes that make us So can you just tell us a a little bit Oh,

Mark Graban (4m 34s):
Slight a slight mistake though. I I'm gonna cut you off. My Favorite Mistake…

Paul Critchley (4m 39s):
Favorite mistake podcast. I, I had that written down. And I boned it up. So there you go. There's

Mark Graban (4m 43s):
Mistakes. It's all right. Mistakes happen right? Count as Paul won and we'll keep track of how many mistakes. I'm gonna make mistakes too.

Paul Critchley (4m 50s):
I was gonna say, if we can put a graphic up of a little tally mark, that's, that'll be awesome. But so can you just talk a little bit, how'd you come up with that idea? Cuz that's been going on for, what, two or three years now I think, right?

Mark Graban (5m 4s):
September, 2020 is when I launched the podcast. And I You know this Lean podcast that people are listening to here. You know somebody I started in the summer of 2006, so 17 years now. And You know if you do a podcast long enough, you, you somehow get on the list of these PR firms that will send out pitches, You know people to interview. Very rarely are those firms pitching somebody who is like a perfect fit for a Lean podcast. But I got an So I would say no to people that I thought, boy You know that would've been interesting. I'd like to meet them, but I just can't figure out how to make it fit a Lean podcast.

Mark Graban (5m 47s):
And then I think it was May of 20, 20 June early pandemic times So I wasn't traveling for work, You know, trying to just keep busy and doing stuff and got an email pitching Kevin Harrington, who was one of the Sharks on season one of Shark Tank, And I thought, wow, like, again, I, I would like to talk to him. It would be fun to meet him and his co-author for a book he had coming out and he was promoting, I don't know how to make it fit. So anyways, so there was some back and forth in brainstorming with the PR people of You know. Do I start kind of just one, one option would've been just kind of a very broad business podcast, might have been a You know Dime a dozen sort of podcast.

Mark Graban (6m 29s):
And the PR people were actually kind of keen on the one idea of a, a podcast about mistakes. And So I thought, okay, well let's try Kevin Harrington and his co-author, mark Tim said yes. And they both came on and really they crushed it. I mean, they, they didn't do the whole, i I was a little afraid that it would be like the job interview, like, Paul, tell me your greatest weakness. And the answer is something like, man, I just care too much. And I work too hard and I'm too focused on results. I'm like, okay, well if it was the equivalent of that, it probably wouldn't have made for a very interesting podcast. But You know, Kevin in particular told You know a really vulnerable story about a mistake that as he put it, could have put his company out of business.

Mark Graban (7m 14s):
And he told that on the podcast. So it's one of the lead stories You know in, in the book. And so with that, I had n equals two, I guess they would say it was You know one episode, two guests. Could I find other people willing to share a similarly You know compelling, not a humble brag mistake story. And and thankfully people have, we're at over 215 episodes in that series so far, my my mistake Wow. So I Think Not a Mistake starting that podcast when, when you start anything new you don't know, right? Is this gonna work? Is it gonna be a mistake? I felt confident enough to try, but then again, the stakes were low, right?

Mark Graban (7m 55s):
If if if it flamed out after a couple of episodes, then okay, fine, so be it You know, but I, I think I had some legs and kind of roundabout way then is what led to the book project.

Paul Critchley (8m 7s):
Nice. Yeah, so And I gotta give you a lot of credit as, I mean, you And I chat often anyways. But I do give you a lot of credit because just as you mentioned, I, I see so many folks that You know, not, not analysis paralysis, but they try to overanalyze these things and look at it from different angles and, and, and that's smart. But at a certain point, right, PDCA has gotta kick in and we just say, You know what the risk reward here, let's just try it and see what happens. And if it sticks, awesome and if it doesn't work, oh, well I tried, but I see it happen so often, whether we're doing client work or just You know, I I just keyed at a a local bank branch.

Paul Critchley (8m 59s):
You know. and that was kind of this a similar motif I guess is is that as we were, as I was talking, And I was getting questions. It was, well how do You know? They taught, they asked about critical thinking skills and it was all under the umbrella of, because we don't wanna screw this up, And I, just wonder out of, you said what, 215 episodes right? That you've recorded. Have you seen something, a pattern like that emerge? Or what's your feeling? Do you see anything with your guests that You know you've learned that maybe You know you cover in the book or anything like that? Well,

Mark Graban (9m 39s):
Both. I mean, I You know there's a lot of guests on the podcast. I mean, there's different types of mistakes, right? So the people who are entrepreneurs, they're, they're in a startup, they're doing innovative things. That's the situation where you maybe don't just expect mistakes, but almost welcome them or realize, okay, we we're, if we have an idea that we're gonna launch and if we don't fall into the analysis paralysis trap, we're gonna launch, we're gonna learn, we're gonna iterate You know. I think those stories are really powerful and You know, I think that combined with even process improvement thinking I've been exposed to from You know former Toyota people testing a countermeasure or testing a solution as part of a plan, do study, adjust cycle, you plan, right?

Mark Graban (10m 26s):
And You know you, you maybe have this 85% confidence level that, okay, well this, this doesn't seem like a horrible idea, but rather than You know, I think there's a mindset difference. And And I do write about this. The difference between knowing that my solution is perfect, so let's just go implemented or roll it out is a different mindset than feeling like we've thought this through, we've tried to poke holes in it, we've made it better, but we, it's probably not perfect. So let's do a small test of change and let's see what happens. And, and if we have the ability to kind of honestly evaluate the study and adjust cycles.

Mark Graban (11m 6s):
And, and that's where one of the big themes in the book is psychological safety. To have the psychological safety to try something and not be perfect and You know to be able to adjust instead of having to stubbornly rationalize what we did. And the You know this facade of perfection. Well actually, I think You know be far more likely to, to iterate our way to success You know. So there's this balance here of like, it's not an excuse to throw whatever random ideas against the wall like spaghetti. It's not licensed to be reckless You know. But I think it's this idea And I think the launch of my favorite mistake was similar where we'd talked through the idea with people.

Mark Graban (11m 52s):
Yeah, I, it wasn't impulsive, right? I mean I I I talked to people. I didn't do full-blown market research. I, I made sure that had You know some guests, not just one before launching, but I was You know, willing to accept the risk of like, well, what's the worst could happen? It's, it's not a rocket blowing up over somebody's town, right? It's just, if it's another, yet another podcast that sort of withers after three or five episodes, then I, I was willing to accept that risk.

Paul Critchley (12m 23s):
Nice bore So I, I'm gonna ask you to be a little tiny vulnerable, and I'm sure you've probably gotten this question already and it might've been in an episode and maybe I missed it. How about you? Hmm. How mistakes you've made, what's your favorite mistake? Ooh,

Mark Graban (12m 40s):
There's two, there's two answers. I mean, I, I have gotten asked this and the sh the, the, the more flip, the more flippant but totally sincere answer was that my one favorite mistake was taking a job at Dell Computer in 1999. I ended up leaving there after about two years to go to a, a startup software company. I realized pretty quickly that that wasn't a great fit for me culturally. I didn't wanna stay there a long time. I did meet my wife through that, right? So You know that's making a positive You know 21 and a half years married now, even though the Dell job was 21 months.

Mark Graban (13m 22s):
You know, we'll call it You know, sometimes we make a positive out of something that's that's a negative You know, the more serious answer is actually You know the type of story that was in earlier book practicing Lean, which is similar vibe if you will, of kind of looking back and sharing mistakes and reminding myself first off. And we're trying to remind others, Hey You know we all make mistakes, but let's learn from 'em. Let's not be too hard on, on people who make mistakes when they're new to something. I made a lot of mistakes and You know, one was You know my last manufacturing job at, at Honeywell.

Mark Graban (14m 2s):
So this was still, I mean it was the first decade of my career. I mean, at that point it's probably five years of direct manufacturing experience. You know some time at the startup and grad school in between You know of implementing change and failing of being told You know through Honeywell to get my basically Lean black belt certification. You know you need to go do this project. And it was in a production department, kind of cellular manufacturing with different operations running at different times and there's changeovers and basically designing, it was a technically correct production Kanban system of like visual reorder points and trying to get the, the, the change over time down.

Mark Graban (14m 44s):
But, but looking at You know the sequence and the timing of changeovers, And I, basically nobody used it. That was humbling. And I think sometimes people use the word humbling in a mistaken way. I think, I think I'm using the word accurately here, right? It was humbling now in to my credit or my own defense, like I was trying to engage the people working in that area, but it was not a culture that really did that. It was not a culture that would allow us to shut down production to really work with people. So there were some systemic factors, but there still, there was a lesson learned or at least trying to reflect on. I, I could have put more efforts and more emphasis into that.

Mark Graban (15m 27s):
Even in the face of You know a culture that was You know, not Toyota like, but trying to do Lean projects. You know, but, but part of the lesson there is trying to avoid situations where that might happen again as a consultant.

Paul Critchley (15m 42s):
Right. Right. and that makes sense. I mean, I'd like to, I mean I certainly have stories like that as well. There's one, I tell that I worked at a play, I was engineering manager of a manufacturing plant and we had a systemic issue where we had a hand assembly, You know, and there's five or seven pieces and they had to go in a certain order and we would get them out of order. We'd be missing pieces because we're doing hundreds and hundreds of assemblies a day and it's all done by hand. And it was our job as the engineers to try to mistake proof it So, we looked at scales, we looked at high speed cameras, and just because of the nature of what we did and You know weights and costs, it's, none of that stuff would work.

Paul Critchley (16m 29s):
Well. One of my engineers finally built this pretty slick little light curtain system. So it was probably five feet long by eight inches high by eight inches deep. And basically you had to break the light curtains in order in a certain sequence to make sure that you got the parts that you needed. Right? So, we do all this stuff and it, it works really well. We roll it out on the floor and every time somebody screws up a light goes off and a buzzer sounds and the buzzers the loud, it's like the loudest one we could find. So I hear the You know we roll it out there the first couple of days, I hear the buzzer all the time, and then gradually it tapers off and then a couple weeks go by.

Paul Critchley (17m 14s):
And I don't hear anything. And I'm You know, we're high fiving each other in the engineering office. We're thinking, ah, we're off You know we're the best there is right up until I walked out on the shop floor. Because what happened was they defeated the whole purpose of it. They, instead of, they broke the sequence correctly once, and instead of grabbing one part, they grabbed a whole handful. So they had little piles of nuts, bolts and washers in front of the light curtain. And So I tell that, actually I tell that story often, but the mistake we made was we didn't involve the folks. Yeah, yeah. That were gonna be using it. Right.

Mark Graban (17m 54s):
I I I I thought you were gonna, I thought the story was gonna end with they disabled the loud buzzer, but they more so they avoided triggering it with, right. But people are clever, right? So like, why You know, the ideal would be engaging them and, and using that creativity for kaizen instead of being creative and circumventing mistake proofing attempts. Right, right,

Paul Critchley (18m 20s):

Mark Graban (18m 20s):
Or worse people circumventing safety guarding where that comes back to a cultural mistake, a cultural issue of emphasizing You know numbers, numbers, numbers and You know. I mean, I read, read a sad story last year of manufacturing worker getting killed. You know the supervisor had had basically encouraged, if not taught them how to circumvent the safety guarding. And this big boom came around and hit the worker in the head and probably killed them instantly. And You know it. The You know the, the, these You know cul cultural issues around putting safety first and You know, thinking of the You, know the problem solving that, that You know if, if there had been these other problems, more effective problem solving would've solved the jams or whatever problems in a way that that wouldn't have You know that, that that would've kept the safety mechanisms in place instead of being circumvented.

Mark Graban (19m 21s):
So there's You know, gosh, there's principles, there's culture, there's problem solving. A lot of this is all very wrap, You know, all interconnected,

Paul Critchley (19m 32s):
Right? Which is sort of where we started the conversation. But I think it makes a lot of sense because You know, like in in, in my example, our hearts were in the right place. And there's a lot, trust me, there's a lot of things we tried before this. I mean, this whole thing project was six, eight months long and we tried this, it didn't work. We tried that, it didn't work. So there was some iterative back and forth until, but finally I call it, I refer to it as the constant pressure of production. And whether you're You know making parts or providing a service, it's You know. We're all, we all jobs because the organization that we work at has customers and we're trying to meet those customers needs.

Paul Critchley (20m 15s):
And like you said, sometimes we apply our creativity on how to, I don't wanna say necessarily say cut corners, but we take, we assume some risk that maybe if we had a different type of culture that didn't allow those things, then You know. Yeah, it might take a little longer, but You know it's, again, it gets back to the risk reward, I guess piece of it.

Mark Graban (20m 40s):
Well, but let, lemme turn it back on you a little bit then and ask Like what So I, what was the moment of truth Like, what was the reaction of seeing the workers with their piles? And you learned You know what they had done. What was, what was the response from you or others?

Paul Critchley (20m 54s):
So I. Good question. I remember at first, I remember my f I could feel my face getting red cuz I think I was angry because again, we had spent a lot of time and effort trying to figure this whole thing out that I'd say that passed pretty quickly. And I forgot to tell you the part of the story. That buzzer lasted about two days, by the way. And then they, there was a key that the supervisor needed to turn it off. And the whole idea was he had the key, he would have to come over, turn the buzzer off, investigate, find out what happened. He had, I think 30 people in You know four or five different departments.

Paul Critchley (21m 37s):
Like, so he just left the key in there. Yeah. And he just left it in the off position. So that lasted, like I said, not long, but

Mark Graban (21m 44s):
See that's, that's understandable though. That comes back to system design. This is not a Toyota plant with the ratio of team members to team leader to have that kind of instant response.

Paul Critchley (21m 54s):
Right? Exactly. and that was exactly the problem. So I remember I was a little angry at first. I didn't You know, and I'm not a yell yelling type of dude. So I didn't yell at anybody, but I just remember asking this, I'm Like what is, where, how is this happening? And, and he And I were, we're actually to this day, good friends, So I asked him, Like, what is going on? He's like, well, it just, they don't like it. It gets in the way. It's You know in, in retrospect, there was a lot of input we should have and needed from them. You know should have gotten and needed. And we just didn't, we just didn't ask because, and that's my fault as engineering manager, I told You know my folks what to do.

Paul Critchley (22m 41s):
I didn't recognize the importance of getting buy-in and investment from everybody on the shop floor. I just assumed And I was You know in my defense, I will say this is 25 years ago, So I was much younger, much more naive. I'd like to think I'm smarter now, but still I see that same You know that same mentality, same mistake happen sometimes. And it's not because people don't want to do it. And this is one of my biggest sticking points when we start talking about culture and mistakes. I firmly believe the vast majority of people's hearts are in the right place and everybody's trying to do their jobs the best that they can, but it's the interactions between people and between disciplines, it just gets so messy.

Mark Graban (23m 35s):

Paul Critchley (23m 36s):
I'm real. So that was gonna kind of lead into my next question for you is, again, after 200 some odd episodes, what do you think, what advice would you give to leaders and managers like so they can in incorporate a culture to encourage risk taking and that mistakes are okay and psychological safety? Like can you, is there a nutshell umbrella statement you can make?

Mark Graban (23m 60s):
Yeah, there's, there's, there's two. I think You know the one that comes from patterns in the podcast and someone that comes from my friend Karen Ross, who was the guest in episode number three. I've got a coffee mug that, that I've had made. Th this is a, this is a long story here. This is a broken handled version that's basically a pen holder slash crud junk holder, my insurance card, the information wasn't showing there. Nobody could pause the video, get any You know, thankfully no identity theft here. But there's this side of the mug that I often use to drink coffee. Non broken, one shipping mistake, by the way, from the company that made the mugs.

Mark Graban (24m 44s):
It says here, You know, be kind to yourself. And the implicit is You know, try to be kind to others when they may make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. The important thing is continuing to learn from our mistakes. So there's patterns from the You know the podcast guests of even if there were other factors involved, like there's this healthy habit of taking responsibility for your own actions. Even if there are things you wish others had done differently. You can't control that you can learn from that. You can try to do things differently moving forward. But I think there's this pattern that I admire and appreciate of not just telling the story, but then secondly, like not blaming and pointing fingers at others, taking ownership of the mistake.

Mark Graban (25m 32s):
I think that's a great habit. And then not so much directly from the podcast, but from things I was learning in parallel. And then finally did get to interview on my favorite mistake, Timothy Clark, the author of a book called The Four Stages of Psychological Safety. I had taken some training classes with him virtually and through his company Leader Factor, and really helped me connect the dots on the advice around how, how do we build psychological safety so that people feel safe among other things, speaking up to admit mistakes, to point out mistakes that weren't theirs. To bring improvement ideas, You know forward the, the, the two key countermeasures for how do leaders build psychological safety.

Mark Graban (26m 16s):
For one, it's not trying to declare you should feel safe, Paul, this is, this is a safe environment. Now there's no punishment zone. You should feel safe speaking up about mistakes. Well, you may or may not. You're shaken, you're shaking his head no. Right? No. That's for each person to decide has it been demonstrated that it's safe. And so the two key countermeasures are really just either A for leaders modeling vulnerable acts, and then B, rewarding, or was it one and two A and B first model? My, there's a mistake for me, I think modeling vulnerable behaviors such as admitting mistakes, saying you were wrong, saying, I don't know.

Mark Graban (26m 58s):
And then rewarding others when they do the same. Like it's really, it's mostly through action. Like you can try to encourage people, but if the actions don't align with the words, people will learn, they will protect themselves and they will keep quiet. They will hide mistakes. I saw a lot of that in General Motors era, especially under the first traditional yelling and screaming plant manager and You know I can only imagine Paul, your situation if that happened in my GM plant, oh, there would've been yelling, what's wrong with you people? Don't you care about quality? Blah blah, blah, blah, blah, And I. Like, stop. There's this lesson of like You know, stop blaming bad apples, quote unquote.

Mark Graban (27m 37s):
It's not bad apples. It's it's bad systems, right? People wanna do good work and You know when we engage them and have alignment around goals and what we're trying to accomplish and make it safe for people to try things now like You know at the same time, Paul You know, hopefully your leaders above you didn't get all punitive You know with you. Like, Hey, why didn't You know better? Oh, you really leaped that up. Or like, I mean like, okay, you learned, right? I mean, You know you did your best. You tried, you learned And, I. I try to You know, again, back to being kind to myself of not beating myself up over different mistakes that I make. I think that's one of the first steps to trying to also extend that to others.

Paul Critchley (28m 19s):
Right? And that's an important point. I mean, I actually had a c e o boss of mine one time, and this is, I'll tell you not that long ago, about maybe 15 years ago, she told me once And I, forget the context. I think we were talking about something that had happened in manufacturing and And, I think I had said something or done something. And, and as we were talking about it, I'm like, yeah, I really should go apologize and take ownership or something like that. And she said, she looked me dead in the eye and she said, never apologize. And I. I yikes You know. And, and again, I was getting a little older now and I'm like, why?

Paul Critchley (29m 1s):
That doesn't seem You know. In my head I'm thinking that doesn't seem right. Right? And she said, oh no. She goes, you never say the words, I'm sorry. Because it shows weakness. Mm,

Mark Graban (29m 10s):
No, it shows, it shows strength though.

Paul Critchley (29m 12s):
Right? Exactly. And that's the part she didn't get to You know. Quite quite honestly. I, I worked there for a few years and it became more and more apparent to me that it was a, a little bit of a house of cards. You know, it was a lot of, lot of talk, a lot of action. And those two things were at opposite ends of the normal distribution. There's a lot of great talk going on, but when You know when it came right down to it, it was not a, I wouldn't call it toxic, but you could see toxic from where we were.

Mark Graban (29m 43s):
Yeah. But there, You know, there's that human interaction of like, it, you, you get taught as a kid. If you do something wrong, say I'm sorry, not some sort of conditional, if you're upset, I apologize. No, no, no. Just, just apologize and state You know what you did wrong. And people respect that You know. And, and, and in the healthcare realm, You know there, there's, there's studies that show when a a, a physician or a surgeon apologizes for a a a mistake, they get sued less often. Like a lot of times patients and their families get litigious because they're, they're mad about the mistake.

Mark Graban (30m 23s):
They're even more upset and offended by the denials, the stonewalling, the bi that, I mean, and I'm not saying, well, okay, just make all the mistakes you want, just apologize. I mean, like, there's some mistakes in Healthcare that we should be working really hard to prevent so that they are truly, quote unquote never events that's different than situations where we're trying to be innovative or do creative process improvement, problem solving. But, but back to the, the general point of like Like what, why You know people say, oh, well You know you, it's just business or You know this idea that you can't be authentically human at work.

Mark Graban (31m 6s):
Yeah. That's, that, that, that does seem outdated or You know. People seem to want to be able to be themselves, which is in Tim Clark's framework, stage one of those four stages of psychological safety. Can you be your authentic self? Now that's not licensed to be a jerk and say, Hey, psychological safety, I'm being authentic. Like, well, but are you, are you feeling You know, accepted included and respected by your team, by your boss, by your company? That's stage one. If people don't have that, it's hard to ask them then to feel safe taking risks to learn, to contribute and to challenge the status quo.

Mark Graban (31m 47s):
If people don't feel accepted, included in a respected, you can tell 'em all day long, you should be challenging the status quo. And they're like, no,

Paul Critchley (31m 56s):
Why would I do that?

Mark Graban (31m 57s):
I'm good. Yeah. It's safer, not, it's safer not to challenge the status quo. It's not best for the company. Right. But that's where the, the, the role of leaders is to help build psychological safety instead of saying, Hey, be brave, be courageous. It's your duty. No. Like reduce the risk and danger and people will speak up.

Paul Critchley (32m 17s):
Right? Exactly. And that's, I mean I talk a lot about You know the quote from Steve Jobs, which You know multifaceted, lots of You know, depending on who you listen to You know he is, he wasn't the nicest guy. But, he has a quote that I like. We don't hire smart people, So, we can tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do. And it's always interesting to me that as organizations, we struggle with that sometimes because as we get You know quote promoted, now all of a sudden we're You know somehow smarter than everybody else. And we have access to the Oracles and all this other ridiculousness that, I don't know if it's throwback from the Industrial revolution or like pseudo military hierarchy.

Paul Critchley (33m 9s):
We've as, I don't know why I gotta, when I retire it's gonna be my PhD thesis I guess on it. But

Mark Graban (33m 15s):
Yeah, this dynamic of like, the higher up you you go, the more all-knowing and omnipotent and right infallible you're supposed to be. And that's just, that's, that's nonsense.

Paul Critchley (33m 29s):
Right? But I've had jobs where I was You know engineering manager, plant manager. And there were people that said that to me. They're like, well you should know this. Like, why would I, why would I know this? Why I have, I have no more knowledge. And it wasn't even So I forget, it was like, it wasn't covid, cuz this was long before Covid showed up, but it was something like that. And, and I'm like, I see the same news. You see, I don't have You know, we don't get like You know, there's not a double secret manager newsletter that the Illuminati sends out that I get and you don't like. Right. It's just You know.

Mark Graban (34m 6s):
Yeah. But when, when you, when you punish someone for asking that question. So this is stage two learner safety in You know the psychological safety approach. When you scold someone or punish them or embarrass them, especially in front of others, Like, what you should have known that? Well, they're gonna learn to stop asking questions and they might be now guessing or f faking it. And whether that leads to You know some sort of mix up in patient safety problem or, or some sort of employee safety risk or quality problem like that. It just hurts performance. When, when, when, when you scold people instead of rewarding 'em. I, I'll tell You know a quick story.

Mark Graban (34m 48s):
I remember once I had a primary care physician who stopped and thought about something and he said, hang on, I'll be right back. He leaves the room. I'm like, oh, okay. Whatever. And, I Dunno if I had to go to the bathroom, it wasn't really clear, but okay, he left. That's fine. And he came back in and he apologized and he said, oh, I had to look something up and whatever such and such guide. I'm like, I'm sorry. And I'm like, no, don't, don't apologize. thank you for taking the time to go look it up instead of trying to pretend like You know everything. And that's, that's cultural. Like John Toussant told a story that I heard once where he was a young er doc or he, or no, he was in internal medicine anyway.

Mark Graban (35m 28s):
He was a young doctor, got scolded for carrying some sort of guidebook around in his pocket that You know you're supposed to memorize these things and like, that's just a, a ridiculous expectation. Right? So I. I, I think I rewarded him. I I certainly thought more of the doctor that he was gonna take the time to go look it up instead of guessing and maybe being wrong. And what are, I don't even remember what it was, but You know, I try to reward those moments. And, I think we can do the same. Same in a workplace,

Paul Critchley (36m 1s):
Right. Ab absolutely. There's no reason. Right. And and like you just said, you don't remember what it was, but you remember that he did that and you probably always will, right? Yeah. So Mark, if I may, you may And I, guess I can cuz I'm the host You are. There's something that I usually do on my podcast called Affectionately the wicked fun part. Yeah. Which I think you right. You went to Northeastern did you? Or Northwestern

Mark Graban (36m 31s):
North. Another mistake. Paul one. Northwestern.

Paul Critchley (36m 36s):
Ah, but you

Mark Graban (36m 36s):
See, but Northeastern is in Boston and so you're, you're Yeah. I can see why you'd say Northeastern.

Paul Critchley (36m 42s):
That's what So I. That was my planned segue for the wicked part because Right. It's a Boston.

Mark Graban (36m 49s):
I did spend time in Boston though So I know. I know some of the vernacular.

Paul Critchley (36m 53s):
All right. Just don't try to fake the accent cuz we'll know.

Mark Graban (36m 57s):
No, no, no. I'll try not. No, that would, that would be a mistake, I think.

Paul Critchley (37m 1s):
Yeah, no kidding. Especially

Mark Graban (37m 3s):
Say to my friend'll, say hi to my friends in Worcester.

Paul Critchley (37m 5s):
There you go. Yeah. Don't do it at a so Yankees game. That's, that doesn't end well, trust me. But anyway, So I play. I play this little game called the Wicked fun part if you're up for it. Sure. All right. So I, basically, I'm just gonna rapid fire you a few questions. Pseudo not really Lean related, but just sort of a get to know you. I mean, not that people that listen to this podcast haven't heard you for 17 years, but maybe nobody's ever asked you these

Mark Graban (37m 31s):
Before. I'm asking. I'm I'm almost always the one asking someone else the questions, so. Right. All right, let's do it.

Paul Critchley (37m 37s):
All right, here we go. What'd you wanna be when you were little?

Mark Graban (37m 41s):
I wanted to be a journalist, baseball writer more specifically. Nice. A friend of mine, his dad did that. And to me, loving baseball, that was a dream job. And I still get the right books and blogging. It's not quite journalism, but there we have it.

Paul Critchley (37m 58s):
Yeah. It's, it's journalism adjacent, right? Yeah. How about what inspires you?

Mark Graban (38m 8s):
People shouldn't hate coming to work and that sounds like that sets the bar really low. But let's, let's surpass that bar and then we can work our way up in the hierarchy of needs. But I mean, I do mean that seriously though. I mean, it's just people, we spend too much time at work for people to be miserable there. And so that's one common thread. No matter what kind of company or industry I've been in, people shouldn't hate coming to work.

Paul Critchley (38m 35s):
Yeah. I, I reference Gallup surveys and they haven't changed in many years. It's roughly two thirds of, of employees either feel not engaged or actively disengaged from and, and,

Mark Graban (38m 46s):
And, and don't let people fool you that this is recent and that this is because of Covid and that this is because of work from home. Nope, nope, nope, nope. But see that, that be careful of people with two data points and an agenda.

Paul Critchley (39m 1s):
There you

Mark Graban (39m 1s):
Go. All these articles about, Nope, we gotta get back to the office. I'm like, well, a lot of people disagree.

Paul Critchley (39m 7s):
Yeah, exactly. I mean, slight tangent, the great resignation that was in all the news. A couple what, a year and a half, two years ago. That that number comes from what they call the quits report. I've referenced that quits report for a decade. It wasn't that far off from what it was during the great resignation. I mean, we were up around 4 million people quitting their jobs every month anyways. Was at the highest during Covid and right after. Yes it was. But yeah, not that much to put it in Measures of Success Speak. Right? It's within the noise of the data.

Mark Graban (39m 42s):
It might be every, I'm gonna hold that book up too. Every data set has a highest point ever. It doesn't mean that Data Point is a statistical signal or outlier.

Paul Critchley (39m 54s):
Right? There you go. How about this one? What's one thing nobody knows about you?

Mark Graban (40m 2s):
One thing that nobody knows about me,

Paul Critchley (40m 6s):
You gotta keep it PG 13. This is a family show. I

Mark Graban (40m 8s):
Mean something that, no, something that, can we set the bar a little different? Something that most people

Paul Critchley (40m 15s):
Sure. Yeah, that's, I mean, I'm assuming You know. Dunno, your family knows pretty much everything. But yeah, let's say the average podcast listener,

Mark Graban (40m 25s):
Most people don't know. I mean, I see a pair of drumstick sitting over here. It kinda, it's not the juiciest answer you've gotten from anybody. Most people probably don't know that. I also really love drumming And I need. I want to pick that up more again in adulthood. Maybe secondary job. Like I wish I could have been You know professional percussionist, but music and drumming You know that, that's really important to me.

Paul Critchley (40m 53s):
Nice. I'll look for that on YouTube. Do you have any drumming videos uploaded or Nah.

Mark Graban (40m 59s):
No. I, I don't, but so, so You know I'm not just totally making something up. See, I've got a pair of drumsticks and I've got I what I call a practice pad, which is basically like playing a scenario drum. I would love to get an electronic drum kit though, put on headphones like yours and try not to, try not to annoy the neighbors too, too badly.

Paul Critchley (41m 20s):
Yeah. Well, You know, we have a, we have a Nintendo, we and we have rock band, so it's kind of the same thing. Yeah.

Mark Graban (41m 28s):
I, I enjoyed Guitar Hero. Yeah. back in the day, the Home Guitar hero set up. I never did the rock band setup up with the drums. I should have,

Paul Critchley (41m 37s):
You're missing out, mark. I gotta tell you.

Mark Graban (41m 39s):
Too much of a toy though. I'm sure like real guitar players don't like playing Guitar Hero. Maybe

Paul Critchley (41m 43s):
I saw a video once of Rush playing the we to one of their songs. Mm. And I Mean Argue. Arguably one of the best bands ever. And I will argue that point because I have a lot of respect for 'em. But anyways, it didn't go well. But they You know. I mean, they were playing along with the whole, the whole shtick of the whole thing. But You know. All right. How about what quality do you admire most in others?

Mark Graban (42m 15s):
I think, I mean, there's, there's many, I'm gonna tie it back into my book available now. The mistakes that make us, I mean, there's a couple of those characteristics. One is You know, again, someone in a leadership position being willing to say things like, I made a mistake. I don't know, I could be wrong. I was wrong. Like there, there's a really strong culture of that at Conexus You know software company. I've, I've been involved in, in a, a very part-time way for more than a decade. But that starts with You know, c e o, Greg Jacobson, like humility, You know. I mean, I'm throwing a lot of different, not just actions, but, but traits, You know.

Mark Graban (42m 59s):
I think that's, that's really key. And, I, And, I. Think when somebody can react constructively to bad news, whether that news is related to mistakes or a problem or I just, those, those are a couple traits that come to mind and are, I kind of think illustrated by people's stories that I'm sharing in, in the book.

Paul Critchley (43m 21s):
Nice. Last one. What superpower do you wish you had

Mark Graban (43m 25s):
Superpower take flying?

Paul Critchley (43m 31s):
Probably the number one

Mark Graban (43m 31s):
Answer without giving that Too much thought. I'll take. Yeah, I'll take flying.

Paul Critchley (43m 36s):
Okay. Solid, solid choice.

Mark Graban (43m 40s):
That sounds fun. I mean, I fly enough as it is in airplanes, so Right,

Paul Critchley (43m 45s):
Right. All. So, Mari, I did, I wanted to wrap up a little bit. So, you kind of mentioned it already. So when does the book officially come out?

Mark Graban (43m 56s):
Well, through the magic of recording and holding the episode, by the time I release it here, it's already available.

Paul Critchley (44m 5s):

Mark Graban (44m 6s):
June something or other ish, You know, like hopefully that ends up, that forecast ends up not being a mistake, but by the time people are hearing this, the, the book is available now in paperback Kindle format, hardcover format. Somebody wants that a couple bucks more for the hardcover version, but yeah, available mainly through Amazon. People can learn more through my website, mistakes We'll forward to the page where people can learn more download sample material. People wanna order signed copies or do a bulk order. They can do that through the website as well. Nice.

Mark Graban (44m 46s):
So it's mistake not going through some of that with you before we started recording. But see, so be it like, see we're 85% prepared for the episode. I, there's no need to go edit that You know. Just it's fine.

Paul Critchley (44m 59s):
Yeah. I kinda, I mean I would've asked you that question right now anyways. Right, right. Because it's a natural progression of the whole thing. And this is book what four for you? Five.

Mark Graban (45m 8s):
This is it. That's more complicated to answer than it should be. So I'll, I'll call this my third solo book: Lean Hospitals then Measures of Success. And then this one, The Mistakes That Make Us. Co-authored a book, with Joe Swartz, Healthcare Kaizen. And then we did a variation of that book called The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. And then Practicing Lean had you know 15 other co-authors, So I. Guess the easiest way to answer it is third solo project. And then I've had some collaborations with other, with other folks.

Paul Critchley (45m 47s):
Nice Congratulations. I mean, I haven't Thank you. As you And I have chatted before. I haven't even, I co-wrote one. And I have Katie Anderson, who was two time, the only two time guest on the New England Lean podcast. Gave me one of her You know darumas here, miss Right. So I filled in the eye. Yep. Yeah, it kind of came up funny cuz I, I spun, right. Yeah. So I have the One Eye, So I set the goal, which is to write my book. I have, and it's been like this for a few years now. Yeah. Regrettably, So I. Really get it.

Mark Graban (46m 23s):
So Katie also gave me, I had a daruma for Measures of Success. This was my daruma for The Mistakes That Make Us, and even though the writing is done, I haven't colored in the other eye because as publisher to me, that other eye gets colored in when the book is actually on the market available in people's hands. So we're getting there.

Paul Critchley (46m 43s):
Nice. So what's on tap for the launch? Is this, are you renting out Madison Square Garden?

Mark Graban (46m 51s):

Paul Critchley (46m 51s):
Fireworks over You know.

Mark Graban (46m 54s):
Well, nothing like, nothing like that. I did a, a book cover reveal online event with a mutual friend Elizabeth Swan. We kinda went through and, and showed, okay, here's the cover. Told some of the story behind the cover and the iteration and, and that process plan on doing, trying to think of the timing of when compared to this podcast being released with KaiNexus. We're gonna do a bit of a online launch event with You know, kinda a, a panel discussion with me and some KaiNexus leaders about learning from mistakes and how do we, how do we cultivate that culture, if you will, trying to You know, do a lot of writing and, and getting articles placed in different places.

Mark Graban (47m 40s):
Try to promote the book, getting on other people's podcasts. No fun event where we're like renting out a distillery in Kentucky or Texas or anything. But You know. Maybe not

Paul Critchley (47m 53s):
Tied with the Van Winkles.

Mark Graban (47m 55s):
No. Well, we'll see. I mean, and then audiobook version I think will be available later this year. I certainly do plan on producing the audiobook. My book coach said, oh, don't worry about trying to have that ready when the print book is available. It's not unusual for the audiobook to release later. And then that gives an excuse to do kind of a second launch.

Paul Critchley (48m 18s):
Hmm. Who's gonna, are you gonna read it?

Mark Graban (48m 21s):
Yeah. Yeah. For better or for worse, people wanna hear my voice that well, right.

Paul Critchley (48m 27s):
You You know. I always, I don't know, I listen to a lot of So I, I log a lot of windshield time, So I actually do a lot of pod, listen to a lot of podcasts and audio books. And, I always kind of like it when the author reads their own book because they really know these stories. And I feel like they're not only the energy comes through, but the intonation and it's pride. I don't know what to call it, but it feels better. I think So congrats.

Mark Graban (48m 56s):

Paul Critchley (48m 58s):

Mark Graban (48m 58s):
Maybe. Right. So then there's a question of do I Right. And I am definitely gonna work. It is like with the book, quote unquote self-publishing. That's, that's a mistake to really call it that. I'm gonna partner with people who know what they're doing and that could mean going to someone's studio and recording it, or it might mean I record it at home and send them the files and You know, do the editing. The one advantage I think of being in a studio is that there's sm the feedback loops. If I kind of mumble my way through a word and they can, they can call it out and stop me and, sorry, snap my fingers in front of the microphone. They would say, don't do that either. You know, we can go back and You know record immediately as opposed to sending 'em a big batch.

Mark Graban (49m 40s):
Right. It's more expensive to go into the studio. And, I think It's not just the sound quality, but I think the iteration cycles would be tighter and faster. So I might go do that.

Paul Critchley (49m 52s):
Nice. Cool. Well, I hope you, I hope you talk about that as you go through it or post on You know LinkedIn. Yeah.

Mark Graban (50m 0s):
I'll, I'll, I'll share about that process. Yeah. You know I've shared mistakes that I've made along the way and shared iterations that have happened along the way. You know with, with writing the book and bringing it to be, I mean, again, it's like a book's like a startup. You, you, you, you better be ready to iterate because you probably don't have it all figured out up front. And be open to that and expect that and try not to get too discouraged with it. But keep, keep moving forward.

Paul Critchley (50m 31s):
There you go. All right, Mark. Well thanks for allowing me to host and turn the tables on you a little bit. I really appreciate it. Yeah. I hope you had fun. Thanks.

Mark Graban (50m 40s):
I did, I did. thank you for doing that.

Paul Critchley (50m 42s):
Yeah, sure. And so, yeah, I'll see you. I'll see you around online I guess until our paths cross at some point.

Mark Graban (50m 50s):
Yeah. Well I look forward to seeing you in person again. Quick story though. Paul, Paul brought me in to do a workshop in, where was it, central Massachusetts? Yeah.

Paul Critchley (51m 1s):
It was just, it was like Boston proper.

Mark Graban (51m 3s):
It was a Measures of Success workshop. Do you remember the mistake I made? The

Paul Critchley (51m 7s):
Travel? Yes I do.

Mark Graban (51m 8s):
I showed up to the hotel pretty late at night. Even I think like 11:00 PM I think there had been some travel delays. I had forgotten to book the hotel and they were full and the Motel six across the highway had a room, but there wasn't really a good way to walk there cuz it was like divided highway and like, I think I wind and asked you to come, did you come drive me?

Paul Critchley (51m 33s):

Mark Graban (51m 34s):
No. In the morning I got an Uber, I think to drive me, even though it wasn't very far. No. Yeah, you picked me up the next morning. So my mistake No in the, yeah, but me,

Paul Critchley (51m 43s):
It happens. But I was like, You know there's a fair bit of stress cuz I mean, you're flying halfway all around the, from the You know halfway

Mark Graban (51m 52s):
Across the

Paul Critchley (51m 52s):
Country, half the country away. Right. To come up to Massachusetts, And I had to get the hotel and the conference room and lunch and all this coordination. And I. Just remember I went to bed And. I'm like, okay, great. Mark's on a plane. He's on his way. And I wake up the next morning at like five. Yeah. And, I had all these frantic te

Mark Graban (52m 11s):

Paul Critchley (52m 11s):
Chronological texts from you at the hotel. Forgot to book the room looking now and all a sudden Yeah. And I was already asleep. But yeah, I just remember I picked you up at, at the highway was a four-lane highway with a jersey barrier, with a chain link fence on top of it. Yeah. So, you physically couldn't get across the highway even if you wanted to. Yeah. So, but it, it all worked out.

Mark Graban (52m 32s):
That's the one and only time I think I've forgotten to book a hotel for some sort of work like that. So. we where I'm gonna read my coffee mug to myself here, be kind to myself. I wasn't kind to myself at the time. I'm trying to get better at that. No one's perfect. We all make mistakes. The important thing is learning from our mistakes and then I've actually changed the mug to add and helping others do the same.

Paul Critchley (52m 57s):
Nice. I like it a lot. Cool. Yeah. All right, Mark. Well good luck with the launch. Thank you. And. I. Can't wait to read it.

Mark Graban (53m 5s):
Thanks again.

Paul Critchley (53m 6s):
All right bud. Thanks. See ya

Announcer (53m 8s):
Thanks for listening. This has been the lean blog podcast. For Lean news and commentary updated daily, visit www.leanblog.o rg. If you have any questions or comments about this podcast, email Mark at

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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