Ryan McCormack’s Operational Excellence Mixtape: September 22nd, 2023

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Insights about improvement, innovation, and leadership


Operational Excellence, Improvement, and Innovation

When to standardize (and when not to)

Standardization is a cornerstone of improvement. It helps reduce unwanted variation, speeds up training, and creates baselines for continuous improvement. But what processes truly benefit from standardization, and more importantly, which ones don't? Standardizing for its own sake drives waste and unintended consequences. Christoph Roser shares some excellent insights for When to Use Standards…and When Not on allaboutlean.com (which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary). 

Understanding where and when to standardize is important when gaining adoption and support for improvement methods in the workplace. Too often, the misplaced zeal of a new team to standardize everything drives reactance. Standardization has its place but is not a blanket solution to improve quality or productivity.

One reason you can't train your way to continuous improvement 

Training a bunch of people on improvement tools and “belt-training” is a pretty common first step in organizational continuous improvement programming. It's also just as common for leaders to become frustrated that people don't simply “start improving.” One reason the training fails to deliver is that training people to improve in a culture where it is unsafe to raise ideas or run experiments is unlikely to create the conditions for employees to thrive. Mark Graban suggests that organizations stop spending money on problem-solving training

It's Complex

Organizations are becoming increasingly complex, and the principles that have worked well for decades for more simple systems may no longer be effective. Here are some complexity principles for organizations.


Creating a Culture of Improvement

Bypassing traditional hierarchy

Can a top-down hierarchy and thick bureaucracy be bypassed through bottom-up empowerment? It's probably too early to tell, but a couple of rebels within the Dutch National Police Force have been trying to disrupt the old management models for the last decade.

Platforms for Collaboration

Digital collaboration has never been more possible. Modern digital platforms make communication, collaboration, and creativity more accessible than in any previous era. But how can managers encourage creativity if they discover that the platforms are mostly private groups that are underutilized? Check out the profound influence of small choices in digital collaboration.

The Lean Mindset

The Lean Mindset - See the entire series of posts

GE hosted an exciting event called The Lean Mindset Event, with leaders from various industries, sports, and academia sharing insights on various topics, including safety culture, growth mindset, improvement principles, and operational excellence. Check out the summary of the event on leanblog.org.  

I highly recommend browsing the 15 videos – a treasure trove of great insights for establishing a culture of continuous improvement.


How to excel when everything is in flux

The pace of change seems to be accelerating everywhere, and burnout seems to be at all-time highs. I learned some great tips from this excellent podcast from  The Next Big Idea: How to Excel When Everything is in Flux. I highly recommend it for any leaders or change agents operating in increasing uncertainty. 


Coaching – Developing Self & Others

Questions to Move Forward 

Asking questions is an essential coaching skill, but simple inquiry often isn't enough to drive progress. Dave Stachowiak offers up 5 different questions to move things forward in this excellent set of short podcasts from Coaching for Leaders.

Lesson 1. How so?

Lesson 2. What's an example of this?

Lesson 3. How will you know you're on the right track?

Lesson 4. What's the next step?

Lesson 5. What's one thing you'd suggest?


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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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