Ryan McCormack’s Operational Excellence Mixtape: May 3, 2024

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


Operational Excellence, Improvement, and Innovation

Danaher: Masterful Capital Allocation and Lean Manufacturing Combined

Danaher is revered as one of the true lean success stories in North America over the last 40 years – and they did it not by copying tools or best practices from other organizations, but rather from shrewd acquisitions and a relentless focus on kaizen. Check this well-written case study describing how the Danaher Business System was born and evolved to become a value-creating powerhouse

How do you show the value for money of continuous improvement?

I've led continuous improvement efforts in a variety of industries, and while the adoption and deployment is very different depending on the organization, one thing is certain: a skeptical executive will eventually demand that the value of ‘spending so much time improving' is proven using traditional financial return methods. This is typically the beginning of the end for improvement, as it is used to justify a desire to reduce investment in innovation and improvement and position efforts to improve as unnecessary, discretionary, or “not the real work”. 

To put it bluntly, you either believe improvement is important or you don't. There are social, economic, and business benefits that aren't readily reflected in your IRR calculator. The NHS has been applying continuous improvement at scale at varying degrees of intensity over the last 30 years, and, in an ambitious report, attempt to provide a more robust lens of defining and demonstrating the value from continuous improvement in healthcare.

Transformations that Work

Corporate transformation programs rarely meet their stated objectives. The culprits? Underfunding, treating it as “on top of” the real work, failing to inspire leaders, and failing to engage middle management to name a few. Learn six critical practices for increasing the odds for your company's transformation.

Sustainability, Continuous Improvement, and Technology 

Manufacturing and process industries are increasingly digitized, but that doesn't change the fact that the people closest to the engineering and production processes are critical to optimizing the plant. Your plant still needs continuous improvement.


Creating a Culture of Improvement

Ferrari CEO goes fast by listening to employees

If you want to know the truth, go to the source. Ferrari CEO Benedetto Vigna has made a point of listening to employees to find out how to make things easier for them. Upon talking to over 300 employees, he gained a clearer picture of how bureaucracy prevents employees from delivering quality with speed, resulting in a restructuring that reduced layers, silos, and the distance between leaders and employees.

Connecting employees to the customers they serve and the pride in the products that they build is essential for quality. Some believe that Henry Ford famously raised wages in part so that his employees could afford to buy the products they made. Now, Ferrari employees are unlikely to be able to afford the cars they build, but Vigna discovered that there were people at Ferrari who had never even been in a Ferrari, upon which he invited employees to the test track to learn more.

“After the company invited employees to a test track to experience the cars for themselves, he says one woman came up to him on the verge of tears. She had been mounting Ferrari's dashboards for decades, but only after seeing her work in action–at several hundred kilometers per hour–did she really understand her job.”

Boeing and the Dark Age of Manufacturing

Manufacturing used to be a source of great pride for Americans. Over time, pride shifted from building things towards financial engineering, shareholder primacy, outsourcing, and offshoring, creating greater distance between decision-makers and the factory floor. “But half a century of self-inflicted damage is enough. The doors have fallen off, and it's plain for all to see: The story was barely bolted together.” Read more in Boeing and the Dark Age of Manufacturing

Think long term

Leaders, executives, managers, and politicians are pressured to optimize in the short term, which makes many reluctant to invest in operational capabilities that deliver value in the long term. Corporate boards, incentives, and risk management can help organizations boost performance with long-termism.


Coaching – Developing Self & Others

Don't Waste Your Power Hours In Meetings

We all have those two to three hours where we feel most productive at work. The problem is, our ‘power hours' are not all at the same time (mine are between 6 – 9 AM). It's important to figure out how to keep these hours protected. Don't waste your power hours in meetings.

Are You Asking the Right Questions?

Arnaud Chevallier offers up a useful taxonomy of questions for leaders in episode 962 of  HBR's Ideacast: Are You Asking the Right Questions?


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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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