Lean Whiskey #43: 100 Years of Suntory Whiskey; Safety at SpaceX

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In Episode 43 of the “Lean Whiskey” podcast, Jamie Flinchbaugh and Mark Graban begin by talking about each of our interviews regarding the new book by Steve Spear and Gene Kim, Wiring the Winning Organization.

Mark interviewed Steve and Gene for the Lean Blog Interviews podcast, and Jamie interviewed Steve for a forthcoming episode of the People Solve Problems podcast. We then shifted our attention to celebrating 100 years of Suntory Distilling by each pouring different expressions from the Japanese side of the company, Hibiki and Yamazaki. We also discussed the Jim Beam side, its progression and integration into the Suntory ownership. 

We eventually jumped into our primary In the News segment discussing a detailed investigative journalism report from Reuters on the objectively poor safety record at SpaceX. The data is compelling, from a fatality to a coma, and eight amputations. But the safety rate is six times the industry average, coming in at 4.8 per 100 workers. Yes, space travel and doing anything breakthrough is inherently dangerous, but there's two arguments with this. First, the injuries are things like falling out of trucks and not related to launching a rocket. Second, there are numerous examples of doing inherently dangerous work with a great safety record. Alcoa, under the leadership of Paul O'Neill, is a great example of this, where not only is the work done safely, but with increasing profits along the way. 

We explore the importance of leadership — through policy to system to culture — in the outcomes of safety. Elon Musk, as the leader of SpaceX, has signaled in many ways that safety is secondary. This includes a distaste for safety yellow on aesthetic grounds to statements that workers are responsible for protecting themselves. Both SpaceX and Tesla have a tendency to withhold reporting required data to OSHA, which might not be visible to employees, but it likely is to management. We make clear that safety practice and culture is the responsibility of management. 

We wrap up this episode sharing fun facts about our hometowns, wishing everyone a happy holidays, and a final cheers to 2023!


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Mark Graban
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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