Steve Spear

Senior Lecturer


Steve Spear

Steven Spear is a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and at the Engineering Systems Division at MIT.

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. His work investigates how the resulting leadership on reliability, agility, cost, quality, and safety produces sustainable competitive advantage even in the face of intense rivalry. Prior to MIT Sloan, he worked for the investment bank Prudential-Bache, the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment, and the University of Tokyo, and he taught at Harvard Business School for six years.   

As a consultant and an 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 and 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 at MIT Sloan and at the Engineering Systems Division, Spear teaches a course on high-velocity organizations in the Leaders for Global Operations Program and in several executive education programs. He supports the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s efforts as a Senior Fellow.

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. “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. Spear has published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and other medical journals as well, and has had op-ed pieces in The New York Times, the Boston Globe,, and Industry Week. He has been interviewed on Bloomberg TV and radio and on CBS News, has been 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.

Spear holds a BS in economics from Princeton University, an MA in management and an MS in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD from Harvard Business School. 

Faculty Media

  • History’s Lessons on Competitive Innovation

    History offers unexpected lessons on how to innovate at speed today.

  • Steve Spear on Evolving our Knowledge and Learning

    In this podcast, Steve Spear discusses what the evolution of knowledge means for companies.

  • Whatever happened to Six Sigma?

    Steve Spear is featured in this article and discusses why Six Sigma became "ritualistic and cultish."

  • Preempt Crises by Aggressively Seeking Solutions Before Problems Occur

    Steven Spear discusses how leaders and organizations can ensure their teams are capable of responding in the event of a disaster.

  • [Innovation@Work Webinar] 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...

  • An Interview with Steven Spear

    Steven Spear, author of Chasing the Rabbit: How Market Leaders Outdistance the Competition, is a well-recognized expert in how exceptional organizations create competitive advantage through the...

  • Spear Interview Part One: Passing the Baton

    Lakshman Swamy sits down with Steven Spear, Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and author of the The High Velocity...

  • Spear Interview Part Two: Learning from Gas Stations

    Lakshman Swamy sits down with Steven Spear, Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, and author of the The High Velocity...


Contact Information

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

Teaches In

The post-covid economy will reboot in fits and bursts, and the market will reward the businesses that can adapt to change and deploy their products and services with agility. In this webinar, Dr. Steve Spear discussed how and why a distributed experimental approach can help your organization succeed in the coming weeks and months.

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.