My Favorite Mistake — 266: Lynn Kelley on Leading Change and Learning from Mistakes in Diverse Industries

My guest for Episode #266 of the My Favorite Mistake podcast is D. Lynn Kelley, the author of Change Questions: A Playbook for Effective and Lasting Organizational Change (with John Shook).

Episode page with video, transcript, and more

Lynn currently serves as a senior advisor to BBH Capital Partners. Following a career highlighted by leadership roles in engineering, supply chain, and continuous improvement in various industries, Kelley retired from Union Pacific Railroad in 2018.

At Union Pacific, she was senior vice president of supply chain and continuous improvement. She was also the executive co-owner of the company’s innovation program. 

Before joining Union Pacific, Kelley was vice president of operational excellence, an officer and a member of the executive leadership team at Textron. 

Kelley holds a PhD in evaluation and research and taught undergraduate and graduate statistics courses. Before becoming a professor, she held the positions of executive vice president and chief operating officer of Doctors Hospital in Detroit.

In this episode, Lynn discusses her journey of learning from mistakes, the importance of change management, and how fostering a culture of psychological safety can drive innovation and continuous improvement. Lynn also reflects on her experiences in healthcare and manufacturing, highlighting the critical role of effective leadership and communication in successful organizational change.

Questions and Topics:

  • When you mentioned it was before it was referred to as lean, were people calling it the Toyota Production System or just Japanese management practices?
  • As Textron integrated these companies, did they standardize or adjust the metrics for the French plants to include quality and safety?
  • What were your other key takeaways from your experience in France, especially regarding metrics and relationship building with plant managers?
  • Could you share your experiences as a leader in healthcare and how they compare to your roles in other industries, particularly in terms of change management?
  • What prompted you to write “Change Questions,” and what was the inspiration behind it?
  • How would the methodologies in your book have helped you during your time at Textron or Union Pacific?
  • How do you cultivate psychological safety to encourage people to ask questions, push back, or bring new ideas during change initiatives?
  • How did you change your approach to giving feedback to make it more effective, and were you ever coached on this?
  • How do you compare continuous improvement and innovation? Are there different ways to manage change for larger-scale innovations?
  • What are some of your thoughts or experiences on cultivating an environment where people feel safe to suggest changes or improvements?
  • What lessons did you learn about balancing the need to fit into an environment versus realizing it might not be a good fit for you?
  • How do you intentionally manage change when it comes to bigger innovations?