Steve Spear

Senior Lecturer


Steve Spear Spear is a well-recognized expert on how select organizations manage complex development, design, and delivery efforts to create unmatched rates of internally generated, broad-based improvement and innovation. Resulting leadership on reliability, agility, cost, quality, safety, and so forth produces sustainable competitive advantage even in the face of intense rivalry. Spear's book, The High Velocity Edge: How Market Leaders Leverage Operational Excellence to Beat the Competition (McGraw Hill, 2010), has won several awards including the Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing Research and the Philip Crosby Medal from the American Society for Quality.

His articles, “Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production System” and “Learning to Lead at Toyota” have been widely read and have become part of the lean manufacturing canon. Spear's “Fixing Healthcare from the Inside, Today,” won a McKinsey Award as one of the best Harvard Business Review articles in 2005 and his fourth Shingo Prize for Research Excellence. He has published in Annals of Internal Medicine and other medical journals as well and has had op-ed pieces in the New York Times, Boston Globe,, and Industry Week. He has been interviewed on Bloomberg TV and radio and on CBS News and quoted in a number of magazines and newspapers and has spoken to audiences as diverse as the Association for Manufacturing Excellence and the Institute of Medicine.

As a consultant and advisor, Spear works actively with organizations to develop their capacity for high speed sustained improvement and innovation. He played an integral role in developing the Alcoa Business System, which has been credited with saving hundreds of millions of dollars in Alcoa's annual report, and the Perfecting Patient Care system of the Pittsburgh Regional Healthcare Initiative, which helped raise quality and safety of care in area hospitals and which has been credited with saving many lives and much money. His clients include organizations such as Lockheed Martin, John Deere, Intel, Intuit, Brigham Women's Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He consulted for the MacArthur Foundation, and works with Toyota on supplier development efforts. A senior lecturer, both in MIT's Sloan School of Management and also the Engineering Systems Division, Spear teaches a course about high velocity organizations in the Leaders for Global Operations Program and in several executive education programs. He supports the Institute for Healthcare Improvement efforts as a senior fellow.

Spear’s academic degrees include a doctorate from Harvard Business School, master's degrees—in management and mechanical engineering—from MIT, and a bachelor's degree in economics from Princeton. He worked for the investment bank Prudential-Bache, the US Congress Office of Technology Assessment, and the University of Tokyo, and he taught at Harvard Business School for six years. He and his wife, Miriam, an architect, live in Brookline, MA with their three children.

Faculty Media

  • Watch: Creating High Velocity Organizations

    How do some organizations achieve exceptional levels of sustained improvement and performance that put their rivals to shame? This 60-minute webinar, which samples key content from Spear's popular...

  • [Innovation@Work Blog] The New Competitive Advantage

    The most successful organizations are the ones creating high value with their products, in less time, using less effort. These organizations, according to Steven Spear, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan...

  • [Innovation@Work Blog] Simple Rules to Govern Complex Things

    A general premise of MIT Sloan's Creating High Velocity Organizations is that if you have simple rules to guide your action--in even the most complex situations--you have huge advantages over...

  • Lessons from Kunduz: Prevent Disaster by Paying Attention to the Little Picture

    Organizations that fail to heed their vulnerabilities are more likely to encounter catastrophes.

  • Roundtable Discusses ‘Counter-cultural’ Change of High-Velocity Learning

    Culture change, particularly at the top, is at the heart of any success to be come from high-velocity learning. “If you’re asking people to behave wildly counter to culture, you can’t expect it to...

  • As You Were Saying ... MGH Needs Checkup for Possible ER Bottlenecks

    Five years after a $500 million expansion, Massachusetts General Hospital’s emergency department is again overburdened, in the words of hospital President Peter Slavin with “delays, dissatisfaction...

  • The Steve Spear and Anders Wallgren Interview at DevOps Enterprise Summit 2015

    Steven Spears discusses common traits of high-velocity companies.

  • Leader-led Learning: The Great Differentiator

    Certain organizations "punch above their weight," generating far more value (that accrues to everybody, not just customers or just shareholders, etc.), faster, and more easily.

  • Can’t Picture the Boston 2024 Olympics? Maybe You Need to Experience It

    How does Miriam convert negative to positive, getting clients to act optimistically? Before any commitment of serious time and money, she creates sketches and mockups so the final product can be...

  • Steven Spear: Accelerated Learning of What to Do and How to Do It

    If change is going to occur, it has to start with leadership first creating safe, bounded arenas in which they can practice self-reflection, self-correction before mentoring similar skills in others.


Contact Information

Office: E40-315
Phone: 617-281-7620
Support Staff

Teaches In

High Velocity Organizations: How the World's Best Organizations Learn Their Way to Greatness
Understand how high velocity improvement works in practice-and how to achieve it.

Steven Spear: Don't Be a Zombie Organization

Steven Spear, senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management, discusses how organizations can display either zombie or agile hero qualities.