Ryan McCormack’s Operational Excellence Mixtape: January 12, 2024

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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.

News, articles, books, podcasts, and videos about how to make the workplace better.


Operational Excellence, Improvement, and Innovation

Practical Problem Solving – the Toyota Way

Back in the ‘aughts, I had the privilege of learning Toyota's practical problem-solving method from Tracey Richardson (now retired), and I refer back to the material regularly. This method applies to a large proportion of operational problems (but not all), and even better, it is simple, repeatable, and collaborative – ideal for developing problem-solving muscle across an organization. 

I was delighted to read a series of posts from Christoph Roser that expertly explains Toyota's Practical Problem Solving (PPS) approach with minimal Japanese words:

  1. Introduction. The overall PDCA / A3 Structure.
  2. Clarify. Identifying the priority problem and breaking it down.
  3. Targets and Root Causes. Create tension with a target and start asking ‘why?'.
  4. Countermeasures and Implement. Develop potential solutions, prioritize, and test. 
  5. Monitor and Share. Study, standardize, and share.

“Safety is our top priority”: Boeing is back in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Another incident involving a 737 MAX, this time a door plug coming out of an Alaska Airlines flight in mid-air, has thrust Boeing back in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, resulting in the grounding of many of its planes by the FAA, not to mention a big hit to their share price. 

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun has convened an “all hands” company-wide Safety Webcast to reinforce its commitment to safety, while Boeing stated in response to the FAA decisions where they emphasize that “safety is our top priority” – the surest sign that safety isn't the top priority. Whistleblower Ed Pierson shared that he is not surprised by the latest news and that pressures to produce quickly, based on his own experience that “Schedule is King” sheds more skepticism that safety is the top priority. 

The good news is that Calhoun shows signs of leading with humility, saying he intends to approach the investigation by “acknowledging our mistake” and with “complete transparency every step of the way.”

All this from the same organization that taught me at the beginning of my career that quality and flow go hand in hand.

Can Kirigami reduce packaging waste?

Cleaning up after the holiday season provides a stark reminder of how much packaging retail commerce generates. Lean thinkers have long embraced ideas for reducing waste through low-cost and low-tech innovations. Could applying kirigami to packaging materials reduce waste? 


Creating a Culture of Improvement

Reminder: Psychological safety is not about making everyone comfortable all the time.

Regarding citations, references, and articles produced, 2023 was probably “peak” psychological safety. With greater reach comes a greater risk of fad-ism and misrepresentation. Reminder to all – psychological safety does NOT mean creating an environment where everyone is always comfortable

Lesson Learned: Focus on the Individual

Leaders can create a different experience for every individual on their team: those who enjoy the process, those who are exhilarated by the challenge, and those who take pride in contributing to something bigger than themselves. Steve Spear shares his lessons learned on why it's important to focus on the individual.

Another year, another opportunity to ditch the annual performance review.

Many organizations continue to ditch the annual performance review as the primary method for employee feedback, determining merit, and evaluating performance. While it's obvious that annual performance reviews don't provide sufficient volume and timeliness of feedback, they also don't ensure consistent quality of feedback. If you are still looking for more proof, Textio surveyed corporate employees and established that poor feedback received in formal performance reviews leads to attrition

What are you and your organization waiting for?


Coaching – Developing Self & Others

Avoid becoming “too busy” to deliver on your personal strategy in 2024.

Roger Martin's #1 article from 2023 is a great New Year reminder that “strategy is what you do not what you say” so we should develop our own personal Play to Win strategy so that we avoid the busyness trap in 2024.

Three “Bad Boss” Habits to Avoid in 2024

Bosses will instinctively protect their ego and their status. They can pretend they have all the answers, detach emotionally, or simply toe the line. This year, commit to avoiding “bad boss behaviours” and instead reconnect with your inner curiosity

How to challenge yourself and your team without burning out.

Chances are, if you subscribe to the mixtape, you are already someone who challenges themselves and those around them for growth. How do we find the right degree of challenge without burning ourselves out? Do we set stretch goals or attainable goals? Do we focus on our strengths or shore up weak spots? Robert Kegan shares some great insights into workplace development and reminds us that “you have the right to grow in your workplace.”


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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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