Ryan McCormack’s Operational Excellence Mixtape: January 26, 2024

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


Operational Excellence, Improvement, and Innovation

Your employees have good ideas. Just ask them.

Healthcare in Canada is struggling. In October 2023, Nova Scotia provided an open challenge to healthcare employees to come up with low-cost but impactful ideas to improve healthcare in their province. The results are in, and the top 10 ideas are listed here. While I applaud these efforts, perhaps healthcare leaders can recognize the value of asking employees for their ideas and finding ways to implement them as a regular practice.

How Lego builds a new Lego set

Lego sets are as fun to design as they are to use. I enjoyed learning about how Lego develops, designs, manufactures, and packages new Lego sets. Not surprisingly, it requires high degrees of collaboration, iteration, innovation, and even joy.

More on Boeing's 737 Max Woes. Who's to blame?

In the wake of Boeing's ongoing quality problems related to the 737 Max, the media (and everyone else) is spending more time determining who's to blame rather than focusing on solving the problems. Elon Musk blames diversity, the Globe and Mail blames the public's desire for cheap flights, an article in Slate blames an unknown operator for failing to tighten the bolts, an aviation expert believes faulty processes related to third-party inspections are the cause, and the Wall Street Journal blames former CEO Alan Mullally for selling off component manufacturing to private equity firms. Predictably, Boeing is throwing more inspection at a quality problem, which is unlikely to get to the root of anything.

Many of the articles involve hypotheses about tradeoffs, reigniting discussions on common tropes such as the Iron Triangle of Speed, Quality, and Cost (Good, Fast, Cheap – pick two). What is your experience?

You may not need to transform (your dataset)

Process engineers are often interested in cycle times and lead times but related datasets are often lognormally distributed as they are bound by zero. Do engineers need to spend time transforming the data into a normally distributed dataset to analyze it? Donald Wheeler shows us that you don't need to transform lognormal data to detect a signal using process behaviour charts.


Creating a Culture of Improvement

What's expected to change in 2024?

No surprise here: digital transformation dominates the list of the Top 10 expected changes organizations expect they face in 2024.

Learning from your mistakes (or others')

It's fashionable for leaders to claim they learn from their mistakes, but it's more common that they learn from others' mistakes. Why? The usual: ego, confirmation bias, and self-preservation. Amy Edmondson joins Dave Stachowiak on Coaching for Leaders to discuss how leaders can grow from their own errors.

Good friction and bad friction

In the pursuit of efficiency or, often, control in response to a failure, leaders put in place measures that are supposed to improve the workplace but end up making it more difficult to get anything done. Great leaders and organizations make it easier for people to get the right things done, and harder to do the wrong thing. I'm looking forward to Bob Sutton and Huggy Rao's new book The Friction Project.


Coaching – Developing Self & Others

I'll have the feedback, hold the sandwich

Maybe 2024 will be the year where we finally ditch the feedback sandwich and instead challenge ourselves to be better because we respect each others' abilities to excel. I should probably cut out the carbs anyway.

Brains may not be required to solve problems

Problem-solving continues to show up on most lists for the “top skills of the future of work” and many take misguided solace in the idea that AI cannot replace humans because we can “think”. It turns out that brains may not be required when it comes to thinking and problem-solving, and that problem-solving is innately natural.

The dark side of focus

Deep work. Task-switching. Most of us subscribe to the view that greater focus can help get things done in a world of increasing distractions and competition for attention. Oliver Burkeman challenges us to redefine interruptions as the parts of life that make it interesting.


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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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