Ryan McCormack’s Operational Excellence Mixtape: July 14th, 2023

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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! Subscribe to get these directly from Ryan via email.

Insights about improvement, innovation, and leadership


Operational Excellence, Improvement, and Innovation

One-Piece Flow isn't always the best solution

Lean practitioners have often relied on the ‘flow cell' as an idealized model of how the perfect operation should perform, often with a stated goal of achieving flow nirvana with one-piece flow. The purpose of using mental models like the flow cell is to challenge teams to think differently or more divergently, or to reduce batch sizes as an experiment to reveal hidden sources of unevenness in the process. Unfortunately, many use the flow-cell ideals as immutable design criteria, and suggest that only processes that conform to the flow-cell are truly ‘lean'. But one-piece flow doesn't fit all (or even most) production processes.

5 Tips to overcome operational excellence challenges

Operational excellence ain't easy. Here, some experts share Operational excellence challenges and 5 tips to overcome them. 

Find the balance in your strategy

I grew up during the golden era of the Balanced Scorecard. It's interesting to remember that non-financial or operational performance measures were once controversial. Today, a Balanced Scorecard remains useful in an enabling management system. Roger Martin muses on the Balanced Scorecard and how it fits into the Playing to Win Strategic Choice Cascade

Digital Transformation is Rocket Science?

Many organizations are trying to figure out how to unravel their legacy systems and take advantage of modern approaches to digitization – even NASA. Behind the business of NASA's digital transformation.

Learning to fail

Many high-achievers in any field spend their life believing they will never fail, only to become devastated when they encounter a major setback. If you're a high-achieving, top-of-the-class PhD science student from one of the best schools in the world, you're probably not used to failing. Yet failure is an occupational hazard for researchers and scientists. Learn how top schools are training early-career scientists to weather failure


Creating a Culture of Improvement

Why being wrong is right

The workplace is increasingly complex, and changing even more rapidly. It follows that what worked well for you in the past won't work for you in the present. Being wrong is essential to getting closer to the truth

Falling flat

Do ‘flat' companies work? The jury's still out. In business, ‘flat' structures rarely work. Is there a solution?

Twitter doesn't sounds like a fun place to work

If you're going to make your people responsible for success, you'd better be prepared to define what success looks like. It only took 10 words for Twitter's new CEO to explain why you shouldn't want to work there


What I'm reading and listening to

 We have to work with others, but navigating relationships at work is increasingly important and takes up even more bandwidth and energy. I recently picked up Michael Bungay-Stanier's latest book, How to Work With (Almost) Anyone. It's as expected from MBS: easy to read, practical, and focused on asking better questions.

 Change management is established as a staple of transformation in the corporate world, but the ‘science' supporting change management is often shaky and self-proclaimed gurus may have dubious motives and credibility. Change Myths: The Professionals Guide to Separating Sense from Nonsense by Paul Gibbons and Tricia Kennedy does the research for you using the “LIAR” methodology of critical thinking. Change Myths debunks some very popular change frameworks and tools that will have you questioning the utility of what your consultant recommends.

Adam Grant and James Clear get together to discuss Atomic Habits on WorkLife with Adam Grant.  

I enjoyed this interview with Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun on the challenges of taking over the top job during a crisis


Coaching – Developing Self & Others

Know when to fold'em

We have a bias to stick to our goals and objectives, even when it makes more sense to quit them. Take a more agile approach to goals and consider some “kill criteria”. It's not you, it's your goals.

Walk softly

When it comes to skills, Tom Peters says “Hard is soft, and soft is hard”. IDEO shares 12 soft skills to fuel your growth in 2023, but they all look really hard.

Delayed response

Stop beating yourself up or apologizing for taking the time to respond to an email. Your email does not constitute my emergency.


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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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