Ryan McCormack’s Operational Excellence Mixtape: November 3rd, 2023


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Insights about improvement, innovation, and leadership

Operational Excellence, Improvement, and Innovation

If you build it, will they improve? 

Productivity software platforms are big business and are the focus of many organizational digital transformation roadmaps meant to empower and democratize data, decision-making, and digital productivity. But is making open platforms available to employees sufficient to unleash productivity? Mixtape subscriber David Haigh shared this article that suggests that tools are helpful, but the process (ways of working) and management systems may need to be rethought and redesigned to get the desired results.

Just what is ‘operational excellence' anyway?

The practice of continuous improvement has suffered through many ‘makeovers' in the last several decades. No matter what flavour you subscribe to, effective CI has always involved elements of applied science to systems of people, process, technology, and data in the pursuit of measurably better value for customers, stakeholders, and society. I started using the umbrella term ‘operational excellence' several years ago (including in the title of this compilation) in an attempt to capture its basic principles and avoid branding to common methodologies. Here is an article that does a pretty good job of defining ‘operational excellence' in a contemporary context.

Wiring the Winning Organization

I'm patiently awaiting the arrival of my pre-ordered copy of Wiring the Winning Organization: Liberating Our Collective Greatness through Slowification, Simplification, and Amplification by Gene Kim and Steve Spear but in the meantime, I'm getting a sneak preview by listening to Steve Spear discuss 

Wiring the Winning Organization on Connecting the Dots with Skip Steward.

I often get asked, “What book would you recommend for someone new to operational excellence?” and one of my go-to's is 2010's The High-Velocity Edge: How Market Leaders Leverage Operational Excellence to Beat the Competition by Steve Spear.

Are we close to a productivity boom?

Are we on the cusp of a North American productivity boom? With a slower growth of the labour force, a focus on leveraging technology to drive productivity is poised to continue to accelerate over the next decade. The Productivity Imperative: Companies Sharpen Their Focus on Continuous Improvement.

Creating a Culture of Improvement

Define Your Organization's Principles

Principles and values are not interchangeable. Values tend to be vague or generic statements that are often subjective. Principles are instructive, universal rules that govern actions and consequences. Defining principles is essential when defining strategic objectives that will require consistent behaviours and assumptions to be more successful. Leaders and employees will need guidance during ‘crucible moments' to make consistent choices. It's time to define your organization's principles through wide engagement, communication, and integration into your ways of leading and working.

Making Change Stick By Understanding Your Big Assumptions

Making change stick is one of the greatest challenges of the operational excellence professional. We are all walking around with some big hidden assumptions – assumptions that stand in our way from committing to the changes we really desire. But how do we surface these big assumptions? One of my go-to books for making change stick is 2009's Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization by Kegan and Lahey, which offers some practical frameworks for exposing our big assumptions and then driving actions accordingly. 

I recently checked in with The Lens episode 84, Making Change Stick, where Amy Mervak and Mike Radtke share examples of how they apply this framework to deeply understand the potential barriers to change and then develop plans to make change stick. This approach is powerful yet continues to be underutilized.

Boost Psychological Safety During Uncertain Times

Here is a great collection of articles that describe effective strategies for building and boosting psychological safety.

Countdown to Meetings Doomsday

Looking for a clean calendar? One of the causes of meeting-geddon is that it is almost impossible to remove a standing meeting from a calendar. Many organizations, including Asana, are conducting “meeting doomsdays” to reset their calendars, which involves an audit followed by a complete wipeout of standing meetings.   Now, if you're looking for ideas on how to sustain the gains made from a meeting doomsday, check out these 4 ways to find magic in meetings again

Coaching – Developing Self & Others

Become who you are

“There are certain aspects to your personality – things you're good at, things you like doing or don't – that are obvious to you on some level, and probably very obvious to people around you, but that for various reasons you really don't want to acknowledge. You should, though – not least because you'll almost certainly be a lot more productive, and find lots more fun and meaning in what you do.”

Oliver Burkeman challenges us to become who we already suspect we are

17 Life Lessons

Looking for inspiration outside of the usual news/magazines/substack articles? I've enjoyed The Marginalian (formerly known as Brainpickings) for 17 years of inspiring content and book recommendations. Maria Popova shares 17 Life Lessons from 17 Years of the Marginalian

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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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