Leadership, Innovation, and Operational Excellence: How Market Leaders Beat the Competition


MIT SDM Systems Thinking Webinar Seriesspear

Steven J. Spear, Senior Lecturer, MIT Sloan School of Management and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement

Date: March 14, 2011

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About the Presentation

A few, select organizations create substantial, sustainable competitive advantage for themselves even in the absence of strong market position. They do this by generating and sustaining exceptional rates of internally generating improvement and innovation, leading to unmatchable levels of performance–quality, productivity, reliability, responsiveness, safety, and so forth.

This presentation will explore how this is accomplished, discussing the ‘basic science of operating systems’ that allows some to succeed whereas others struggle and how this ‘basic science’ can be incorporated to enhance an organization’s ability to ‘discovery its way to greatness.’

About the Speaker

Operational excellence and innovation expert Steven J. Spear is a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and is a senior fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. His book, The High Velocity Edge, has won numerous awards including the Philip Crosby Medal from the American Society for Quality (ASQ) in 2011.

Spear is an internationally recognized expert in leadership, innovation, and operational excellence, and he is an authority on how select companies in high tech and heavy industry, design and production, manufacturing and services generate unmatchable performance by converting improvement and innovation from the rare kiss of inspiration to repeatable, broad-based, skill-based disciplines.

Spear’s research has been exceptionally well acknowledged with five Shingo Prizes and a McKinsey award from Harvard Business Review. Spear’s Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production System and Learning to Lead at Toyota, are part of the lean manufacturing canon. His Fixing Healthcare from the Inside, Today and articles in Annals of Internal Medicine and Academic Medicine have been on the forefront in health care improvement. He has contributed to the Boston Globe and New York Times, has appeared on Bloomberg TV and radio, CBS, and elsewhere. His clients have included well-known corporations like Intel, Lockheed Martin, Intuit, Novelis, Alcoa, General Electric, Memorial Sloan Kettering, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Among other accomplishments, Spear helped the Pittsburgh Regional Healthcare Initiative create its ‘Perfecting Patient Care System.’ That has been credited with eliminating horrible complications like central line infections and thereby improving care quality while reducing costs. The Alcoa Business System, which he helped design and launch, is regularly credited with hundreds of millions of dollars in annual savings. Other clients have dramatically compressed time and costs for marketing processes, new product development, and software design.

The MIT System Design and Management Program Webinar Series on Systems Thinking for Contemporary Challenges features research conducted by SDM faculty, alumni, students, and industry partners. The series is designed to disseminate information on how to employ systems thinking to address the engineering, management, and socio-political components of complex challenges.