Ryan McCormack’s Operational Excellence Mixtape: August 25th, 2023

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Insights about improvement, innovation, and leadership


Operational Excellence, Improvement, and Innovation

Who knows? People doing the work.

Who's the real knowledge worker? Everyone, especially those who deeply understand the work, no matter what the work is. Peter Drucker's 20th-century definition of knowledge work is ready to be relegated to the historical management archives and remain there. Read more on the Old Lean Dude's (Bruce Hamilton) blog post: Knowledge Workers

Consider the hierarchy when making changes

We focus a lot on “what's in it for the front-line workers” when we are making change, but the formal and informal hierarchies can make or break change at large organizations. Research shows that fear of losing status in an environment of change and interpersonal dynamics need to be front and centre when planning change

Rethink your governance for digital transformation

Strong traditional project or program governance structures are very valuable. They allow for consistent allocation of resources and oversight for those high-ticket capital projects. But applying these structures to your digital transformation aspirations may hinder progress. Rethink your governance structure for digital transformation and innovation.

Continuous Improvement – some quick hits

5 essential steps to drive a culture of continuous improvement

Just make things 1% better

The leadership mindset of continuous improvement


It may be time to retire the sticky notes and Visio: a focus on Business Process Management

It used to be that business processes could be readily documented and described with Word or Visio using boxes and diamonds, or captured via sticky-notes and butcher paper during an improvement activity. There's still a place for these approaches, but with business processes becoming more integrated with digital tools, work becoming less visible, and an increase in distributed work teams, new tools and approaches are often necessary to maintain agility in operational excellence.

BPMN and more sophisticated Business Process Management platforms allow organizations to more rapidly document, analyze and democratize business process management using standardized notation that can be leveraged by enterprise architects and business process owners. BPM also integrates technology, process, data, and people into a comprehensive view for improving how value is created. 

Even using BPMN and BPM platforms can limit agility and comprehensive views of rapidly changing technology and processes. Case Management Model and Notation (CMMN) and Decision Model and Notation (DMN) can combine with BPMN to provide a more holistic approach to operational excellence

Thinking of developing a Centre of Excellence for Business Process Management? Check out this whitepaper from Nintex on best practices for developing a CoE for BPM


Creating a Culture of Improvement

Don't just tell your people to “be brave”

In the August 10th edition of the mixtape, many readers resonated with the concept of organizational culture's “quiet retaliation”.  Here's how to build a culture where employees feel free to speak up.

The Business Case for Purpose

Constancy of purpose has long been a key principle of enterprise excellence. Indeed it was point #1 on Deming's 14 points of management. But the late 20th century was dominated by Friedman's shareholder primacy, and profit maximizers such as Jack Welch were lionized during this era. The 21st century has seen a revival of purpose and stakeholder primacy, where organizations are concerned with how their brands are perceived by consumers relative to contributing to causes such as sustainability and climate change. But is there a business case for ESG? Surely organizations still need to make a profit to survive. What's the long-term business case for corporate purpose?

Ultra Hardcore comes at a cost

Getting results is important, but I've always believed that how you get results matters a lot. Tesla is famous for its “ultra hardcore” manufacturing culture, and while it probably makes shareholders happy by making the numbers, it sounds like working conditions can be unpleasant. Listen to the accounts of former Tesla employees on 

Land of the Giants: The Human Cost of Ultra Hardcore.



Coaching – Developing Self & Others

Try percolating

For years, I would write and re-write my daily task list to make sure I wasn't wasting any potential opportunity and squeezing “value” out of my work day. Did it make me more productive? Maybe, maybe not. But it was only after I started making space for reflection that I found myself making real strides and focusing on what really matters. Stop obsessing over your productivity and try percolating.

If you haven't changed your mind lately, maybe you should

People seem to like leaders who are decisive. But being decisive does not mean that you can change your mind and decide something else. Smart leaders change their minds based on better information. Here are some ways to avoid becoming too entrenched in your thinking.


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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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