Steven J Spear

Senior Lecturer
Senior Fellow, Institute for Healthcare Improvement

Primary DLC

MIT Sloan School of Management

MIT Room: E40-315

Areas of Interest and Expertise

Management Science
System Dynamics
Operational Excellence and Innovation
Lean innovation

Research Summary

Author of The High Velocity Edge and a number of articles in managerial and medical journals, Spear has focused his research, writing, and consulting on how select organizations achieve game changing performance, gained through accelerated, sustained, and broad based improvement and innovation. The driving mechanisms are high speed feedback loops and learning cycles through which aberrations and problems trigger problems solving, leading to solution sustainment and spread.

This ‘principle based’ approach to the design and operation of complex ‘socio technical systems’ (i.e., many people working in some concert towards common purpose, often using complex technology to do so) aligns with several academic streams including ‘design theory’ (e.g., axiomatic design, modularity), control theory, system dynamics, organizational learning, and innovation.  

His work represents a departure from topics like ‘lean manufacturing,’ six sigma, and the like:
(*) Moves from categorization by benchmarked best practice to causal theory of action and reaction; and
(*) Adds the dynamic elements of feedback loops and learning cycles to what has been characterized as a structural issue alone.

Recent Work