Ryan McCormack’s Operational Excellence Mixtape: March 22, 2024

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Thanks, as always, to Ryan McCormack for this. He always shares so much good reading, listening, and viewing here! 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

Seeking Perfection is Back

Setting “zero defect” targets for quality was once a staple of the quality control industry, but decades later, quality remains a challenge. The recent public trials and tribulations of Boeing's quality problems have American manufacturers once again seeking perfection in quality (free WSJ link).

This will no doubt open the debate over whether setting zero as a target is helpful or hinders improvement efforts (including my own thoughts on the challenges of seeking perfection).


Creating a Culture of Improvement

I recommend spending 57 minutes listening to Jim Womack, co-author of Lean Thinking and founder of the Lean Enterprise Institute, as he shares his candid thoughts on the evolution of Lean over the past 40 years or so


Also noteworthy, Mark Graban celebrates his 500th Leanblog Interview podcast with some reflections on the evolution of his podcast over the last 17 years.

Become a Friction Fixer

Forces accumulate in the workplace that seem to conspire to prevent us from getting things done, like emails, meetings, instant messages, and corporate jargon. Audrey Kim shares a great summary of Bob Sutton and Gene Kim's book The Friction Project: How Smart Leaders Make the Right Things Easier and The Wrong Things Harder

Myths About Process Mining

Process mining is a powerful diagnostic technique, but it is still relatively new to leaders. Like most improvement challenges, people are at the core of successful methods. Here are 7 process mining myths.

Employee freedom has its limits at Netflix

Successful start-ups seek growth above all else. Eventually, successful growth results in a bigger company, and retaining the culture that made a startup successful becomes challenging. Netflix is rethinking its vaunted “freedom and responsibility” principle, signaling a growing mistrust of its much larger employee base, though senior leaders do not unanimously support this move. 

Will this “culture change” work? Netflix is a great example of how culture gets set up early on in an organization's development, usually by the founders. Henry Mintzberg reminds us that culture is usually based on the founders and is surprisingly sticky over the long term

Seriously – go and observe

Many of us have been trained to analyze data, develop solutions, and have all the answers – all by ourselves, with little knowledge of the actual work. The net result is a very real distance between problem-solvers and workers. This is easily solvable by going to the source, observing, asking questions, and caring deeply about actual conditions. Shaun Barker, assistant director of the Shingo Institute, shares some best practices for going and observing the actual workplace and the three levels of “go & observe”

Boeing Whistleblower Found Dead

John Barnett, the former Boeing quality control manager who raised the alarm about Boeing's culture was tragically found dead one day after testifying at a deposition related to Boeing.

How can the problems with quality at Boeing be fixed? It seems to have baffled everyone.


Coaching – Developing Self & Others

Be Relentlessly Useful

I had a manager repeatedly ask me, “Would you rather be right or be useful?” Roger Martin reminds us that the Winningest Personal Strategy is to be relentlessly useful

Plant Your Own Decision Tree

It's hard to know when to say no. One of the most underutilized decision-making tools is the simple decision tree. Suzi McAlpine shows how to use a personal decision tree to help prioritize and make decisions less stressful

Convince Your Body That Change Is Good

Many of us have trouble “getting going” after we've set a goal. Here are some great ways to prepare your nervous system for new goals


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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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