Episode 159: Mark Graban – Transforming Mistakes into Positive Outcomes & Continuous Improvement

Listen on:


In this enlightening episode, Matt welcomes Mark Graban, an advocate for utilizing mistakes as opportunities for growth in business settings. With a compelling commitment to the concept of continuous improvement, Mark shares his extensive experience and insights on the positive transformation of workplaces.

From the onset, Mark delves into his diverse background, explaining the trajectory of his career that led him to focus on fostering better organizational cultures through continuous improvement and lean management principles. He reflects on his early days in manufacturing and how a move to healthcare consulting offered a broader perspective on the necessity of empowering employees and recognizing the universal desire to contribute meaningfully to one's work.

As the conversation unfolds, Mark emphasizes the importance of cultivating psychological safety in the workplace, asserting that an environment where employees feel secure to raise concerns, admit mistakes, and seek help is pivotal for fostering continuous learning and growth. He further discusses how the principles he learned in manufacturing and healthcare can apply to any business, and underscores the role leaders play in modeling constructive responses to mistakes.

Key Takeaways:

  • Continuous improvement and respect for employees are critical components of lean management and organizational success.
  • Psychological safety and effective problem-solving are foundational for building a culture that embraces learning from mistakes.
  • Mistakes should not be met with punishment but should be used as opportunities for improvement and prevention of future errors.
  • Organizations benefit from self-assessment and openness to change, especially when persistent issues are rooted in systemic problems.
  • Mark Grabin's work includes books, podcasts, speaking engagements, and his company, Kinexis, which focuses on supporting continuous improvement through software.

Mark Graban

Mark Graban is a published author, professional speaker, blogger, podcaster, and entrepreneur.

Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultantpublished authorprofessional speakerbloggerpodcaster, and entrepreneur.

He builds upon a deep education in engineering and management with practical experience working with executives and frontline employees in multiple industries. He synthesizes and practices approaches, including Lean management, continuous improvementstatistical methods, and people-centered leadership to cultivate psychological safety and employee engagement.

Mark helps others learn how to improve and sustain performance. In his healthcare work, this means improving the quality of care and patient safety while reducing cost and improving the workplace experience. Across multiple sectors, goals also include improving the customer (or patient) experience, helping develop leaders and employees, and building more robust, adaptive organizations for the long term.

He has learned, practiced, and taught these methodologies in settings including manufacturing, healthcare, and technology startups, working independently since 2010. Mark often works in partnership with other consulting groups on larger engagements. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology and software company KaiNexus and has a small equity stake.


  • Introduction to Mark Graban
    • Background and expertise in continuous improvement
    • The journey from manufacturing to healthcare
  • The Essence of Continuous Improvement
    • Definition and importance
    • Differentiating continuous improvement from other methodologies
  • Learning from Mistakes
    • The role of mistakes in growth and development
    • Psychological safety as a foundation for learning
  • The Impact of Culture on Continuous Improvement
    • Building a culture that fosters improvement
    • Psychological safety in the workplace
    • The balance between accountability and learning from errors
  • Case Studies and Practical Applications
    • Examples from healthcare and manufacturing
    • Success stories of implementing continuous improvement practices
  • The Role of Leadership in Fostering Improvement
    • Leadership behaviors that support or hinder continuous improvement
    • The importance of modeling and encouragement from leaders
  • Strategies for Implementing Continuous Improvement
    • Approaches to embedding continuous improvement in organizational DNA
    • Tools and frameworks for effective implementation
  • Challenges and Solutions in Continuous Improvement
    • Common obstacles in the journey of continuous improvement
    • Strategies to overcome these challenges
  • Mark Graban’s Contributions and Insights
    • Books, podcasts, and other resources
    • The future of continuous improvement and Mark’s vision
  • Conclusion and Reflections
    • Summary of key takeaways
    • The importance of continuous improvement in personal and professional growth

Click to See Episode Chapters and Timestamp

0:00:17Introduction and overview of Mark Grabin's background
0:01:51Transition from manufacturing to healthcare
0:04:33Challenges in building a culture of continuous improvement in healthcare
0:07:25Introduction to Kinexis, a software company
0:09:19Transition from working for others to starting his own business
0:11:43Joining Kinexis and leaving the Lean Enterprise Institute
0:12:59Flexibility and advantages of independent work
0:13:05Conclusion and closing remarks
0:13:48Matt and Mark discuss getting into the business
0:14:25Mark explains how he was introduced to Kinexis
0:15:19Mark talks about the alignment of values and culture at Kinexis
0:16:12Mark discusses the importance of learning from mistakes at Kinexis
0:16:46Mark reflects on the growth of Kinexis and hiring the right people
0:17:55Mark shares how Greg, the CEO of Kinexis, admitted mistakes and sought mentorship
0:19:23Matt and Mark discuss the continuous improvement mindset
0:20:06Mark reflects on the influences and nature vs. nurture in continuous improvement
0:23:43Mark explains the relationship between lean management and continuous improvement
0:25:21Matt and Mark discuss the role of respect in continuous improvement
0:26:19Mark talks about the importance of challenging and respecting employees
0:27:33Mark emphasizes the need for mutual benefit in continuous improvement
0:28:17Matt and Mark discuss the application of continuous improvement mindset in different contexts
0:28:51Challenging employees to think about problems and come up with solutions.
0:29:30The importance of collaborative problem-solving and not relying solely on leaders.
0:32:13Viewing mistakes as opportunities for learning and improvement.
0:33:35The ineffectiveness of blaming and punishing employees for mistakes.
0:34:54Evaluating whether mistakes are due to employee shortcomings or systemic issues.
0:36:18The significance of communication and expectations in successful outsourcing.
0:37:53Implementing a culture of continuous improvement and learning from mistakes.
0:39:29The role of psychological safety in creating an environment where employees feel comfortable speaking up.
0:40:59The importance of leaders modeling behaviors and rewarding employees for speaking up.
0:42:21Addressing the fear and futility factors in employees choosing not to speak up.
0:42:32Frustration with reporting issues and lack of change
0:43:12The importance of a positive workplace culture
0:44:05Taking responsibility for the organization's impact on employees
0:45:20Need for a coaching change to improve culture
0:46:58Mark's work in coaching, training, and consulting
0:48:13Focus on problem-solving and psychological safety
0:50:09Working with organizations in different industries
0:52:06Mark's online presence and social media
0:53:10Closing remarks and thanks
0:53:38Sponsor message: Unified Web Design
Matt Levenhagen
Latest posts by Matt Levenhagen (see all)


    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Recent Episodes

    Please check out the latest podcast episodes below!

    Unified Web Design

    Translating your brand’s vision into code.

    Learn more