Ryan McCormack’s Operational Excellence Mixtape: March 8, 2024


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

Operational Excellence, Improvement, and Innovation

Here comes the (productivity) boom?

AI. Remote Work. US productivity data is showing significant increases. Are we in a productivity boom?

Mistake Proofing (Not Fool Proofing)

Blaming people for errors doesn't improve quality. This seems to be self-evident, but it continues to need to be restated. 

Mark Graban shares the wisdom of the late Shigeo Shingo and Norman Bodek on mistake-proofing processes to improve quality.

“W” is for a Winning Strategy Deployment

A great strategy is only as good as your ability to action it. Organizations often ‘push' down strategy and cascade goals without sufficient feedback mechanisms. This year, try the “W” method to build in deliberate feedback and integration processes.

Effective “W”-style strategy deployment requires the ability to have effective conversations and “catchball”. Karen Martin describes the power of catchball in this clip from her upcoming online class on Strategy Deployment

Creating a Culture of Improvement

Don't “roll out” culture. Endorse and enrich it.

When startups grow to a certain size, the founders and initial core often lament the loss of the culture. When an organization is large or spread out, it develops localized subcultures based on the unique characteristics of different locations, work types, and demographics. How can a large organization cultivate a common culture? Endorse a common set of values or principles from the top (Big “C” culture) but enrich, empower, and experiment locally (small “C” culture). 

How to actually execute change at a company

We rage to get things off our to-do list, and rightfully so. But in our zeal to get things done, we may be firing off memos and plans that ignore opportunities to reduce reactance. Try to “ACE” the memo (Actionable, Credible, Emotional) when communicating change

Go and See (Lexus)

Lean practitioners are familiar with the philosophy of genchi gentbutsu or “go and see for yourself”. I recently re-listened to Malcolm Galdwell's six-episode podcast series Go and See which captures great insights from his tour of Japan and Lexus back in 2020. Worth a first or second listen for anyone interested in cultures of excellence.

Coaching – Developing Self & Others

The Curiosity Matrix

Much has been written about the power of curiosity as an essential trait for the continual learner. Explore The Curiosity Matrix: 9 Habits of the Curious Mind from Ness Labs.

Facts don't change minds

I love the idea of a world where facts and data drive the most critical decision-making processes, or where “being right” changes minds. But this isn't how the world works.

Why facts don't change minds.

“Faced with a choice between changing one's mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy with the proof.” – J.K. Galbraith

Your favourite personality test is not very predictive. But that won't stop you from using it.

I'm sure most people reading this have taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test as some part of a leadership development training course. It's indeed fun to do and reminds us that people are different (I'm an “ESTP”). The trick is when you're being sold the test as a “scientific” tool that is useful for predicting outcomes. Personality tests aren't all the same. Some work better than others.

But, as stated above, the facts don't matter too much. Over ten years ago, now superstar professor Adam Grant published a brutal takedown of the validity of MBTI, but that did little to curb its popularity. The test's durability comes down to its simplicity and our desire to label ourselves and others (see astrology's enduring popularity). The mistake academics make is assuming that people taking these tests care that the test is valid.

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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.


  1. I appreciate the Fed Chairman’s honesty:

    “For now, Mr. Powell is unconvinced that America is in a new productivity boom. “My guess is that we may shake out and be back where we were,” he said during a Jan. 31 news conference.

    But, he acknowledged, “I don’t know.”

  2. On the MBTI, I’m an INTJ. Or am I?

    “I began to read through the evidence, and I found that the MBTI is about as useful as a polygraph for detecting lies. One researcher even called it an “act of irresponsible armchair philosophy.” When it comes to accuracy, if you put a horoscope on one end and a heart monitor on the other, the MBTI falls about halfway in between.”


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