Speaker, L&D

Steven Spear

Operational Excellence and Innovation Expert

The success of many organizations—from manufacturers to health care providers—increasingly hinges on their ability to manage highly complex processes. Steven Spear, the award-winning academic and consultant, literally wrote the book on how organizations can outperform their peers by an order of magnitude. In his dynamic presentations, Spears’ draws on his “High Velocity Edge” approach to help companies discover their way to greatness and become wildly successful.

Spear is a well-recognized expert in how exceptional organizations create competitive advantage through the strength of their internal operations.  An MIT senior lecturer, and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Spear teaches in the Leaders for Global Operations program in the Sloan School and has guest lectured at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Harvard Medical School, Ohio State University, and elsewhere.

As a speaker, Spear’s clients have included Intel, Lockheed Martin, Intuit, Novelis, the US Army, and he has worked with hospitals such as Massachusetts General, Brigham Women’s, and Memorial Sloan Kettering.

He has been published in numerous medical journals and op-ed publications and is the author of The High-Velocity Edge: How Market Leaders Leverage Operational Excellence to Beat the Competition (which won the Philip Crosby Medal) and Chasing the Rabbit: How Market Leaders Outdistance the Competition.

Spear was the recipient of a McKinsey Award as one of the best Harvard Business Review articles in 2005 and has won four Shingo Prizes for Research Excellence.

Making the Leap: How High-Velocity Organizations Get Ahead & Stay Ahead

Regardless of your industry or sector – whether civilian, military, high tech, heavy industry, manufacturing, or design – the difference between your organization being great and being average is having the knowledge to be great. In this engaging presentation, speaker Steven Spear explains that great organizations distinguish themselves through their ability to build new and useful knowledge, to innovate, and to bring new discoveries into useful practice.

Drawing from examples as wide ranging as NASA’s bid to put a man on the moon within a decade and a hospital’s failure to diagnose a problem well in advance, Spear shows how an organization can make the leap from average to great by using a “hop, skip, and jump” method. Just as the Mercury spacecraft – the “hop” – led to the Gemini spacecraft – the “skip” – which only then led to the Apollo spacecraft – the “jump” – organizations make giant leaps to greatness through many small steps.

Spear shares specific tips and examples to show your organization how it can make these small steps to stay ahead of the learning curve and thus become or remain great.

Leading in a High-Velocity World

We live in a world where even the most distinctive products or services become commoditized, seemingly overnight. At the same time, the complexity of designing, manufacturing, and distributing goods and services approaches unmanageability. The temptation for many companies is to outsource, restructure, and downsize as a way to “cheat death,” at least in the short run.

Speaker Steven Spear thinks this is wrong. He lays out the case for competing on the basis of high speed, sustained innovation across the span of determining market needs, developing products and services to meet those needs, and creating and running systems to deliver those items to market. The challenge is not so much to find a position, unhampered by competitors, but to simply outrun the field, propelled forward by new and ever better ideas, as they struggle vainly to catch up. Drawing on his rich experience with firms such as Toyota, Alcoa, and the US Navy, Spear shows how leaders can design and run fast, innovative, and adaptive organizations using new capabilities. These center on capturing and integrating knowledge around problems, swarming around and solving problems to build new knowledge, disseminating knowledge to the peripheries of the organization, and embedding these disciplines as part of the leadership mantra of the enterprise. Once you see these practices in operation, you will never return to the traditional management models we’ve grown up with.

Improving Healthcare: Twice the Care at Half the Cost

As the debate on US healthcare reform reaches fever pitch, we risk losing sight of a basic problem: in the current healthcare system, Americans pay too much and get too little in return because care delivery is often mismanaged. Individual practitioners spend half their time and work compensating for malfunctioning systems rather than providing care.

Speaker Steven Spear believes that the American health system can do better. In his presentations, Spear lays out a path to providing much better care to more people than we currently do at less cost and with less strain on providers. How?

High-velocity medical providers are learning how to replace their old approach to management with a more sophisticated approach to designing and operating complex processes, improving them when flaws are found, and modifying the systems as appropriate when circumstances change. This continuous process helps healthcare organizations better manage their internal complex systems, identify inefficiencies, and quickly address them. As a result, in model institutions, hospital-acquired infections, patient falls, misdiagnosis, and other risks and injuries to patients have been dramatically reduced.

Steven Spear is at the leading edge of healthcare reform and offers tangible solutions for the industry’s most pressing challenges. His innovative approach to management has helped numerous healthcare providers improve safety, increase the quality of results, and drive down costs.

Chasing the Rabbit: How Market Leaders Outdistance the Competition

Duration: One Day
Target Audiences: Senior Executives, Managers, Human Resource Professionals

Across a broad variety of hyper competitive sectors, a few organizations simply outrun their competition – generating more value, in less time, with less effort, at less cost. The secret to the success of these organizations is that they attack all the market uncertainty with innovation that is so organically institutionalized in their organizations that no one can match its speed, endurance, or breadth. Learn to integrate these core capacities into your organization.

Across a broad variety of hyper competitive sectors, a few organizations simply outrun their competition. Though competing in the same markets for the same customers, offering similar products and services, reliant on the same suppliers, and subject to the same rules and regulations, they nevertheless generate more value (from the customers’ perspective), in less time, with less effort, at less cost. The result is growing market share and higher margins. The resulting success pays dividends to all concerned: customers, suppliers, employees, and shareholders.

The secret to the success of these leaders is that when they face the common challenges of identifying market needs, generating product and service designs to meet those needs, and generating those offerings, they attack all the attendant uncertainty that is involved with innovation that is so organically institutionalized in their organizations that no one can match its speed, endurance, or breadth.


Fortunately, applying institutionalized innovation across the board is not merely the realm of a few idiosyncratic inspired geniuses. Rather, it depends on core capabilities that can be taught, cultivated, practiced, and applied effectively. The workshop will:

  • Introduce the capabilities that characterize the highest velocity, most innovative organizations,
  • Explore how they apply in your particular work,
  • Identify what leaders need to do to cultivate and engage the capabilities, and
  • Develop an action plan for initial ‘test of concept’
  • Method

The day-long workshop will involve presentations, case studies, exercises, and break out sessions to achieve its goals.