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Since her career began, Jean Cunningham has been breaking new ground. At the former Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in Maynard, MA, she was the innovative company’s first woman plant controller, using a fully engaged team approach to create excellence in the function. She later moved from DEC finance to operations.
Between 1993 and 2005 Jean served as CFO at two manufacturing companies, where she broke new ground integrating lean manufacturing with finance, IT, HR, marketing, and other business functions.
As CFO and vice president for administration at capital equipment maker Lantech, she played a key role in one of the earliest examples of lean production success and lean enterprise innovation. Lantech’s transformation was featured in Harvard Business Review, business best-seller Lean Thinking, and The Work of Management, published by LEI in 2017. She later became CFO of Marshfield Door Systems.
Jean is one of the original thought leaders behind the Lean Accounting Summit and the Lean HR Summit. She is a board member of the nonprofit Lean Education Advancement Foundation, which provides scholarships for undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students and faculty to attend lean management conferences or conducted research.
From 2006-2011, she was the voluntary CFO of the Association of Manufacturing Excellence. "In 2006, she founded Illinois-based Jean Cunningham Consulting, and for the past 13 years has provided strategic guidance, lean management coaching, and other continuous improvement practices globally to companies in manufacturing, services, and healthcare."
Writing and Painting
A sought-after speaker and keynoter at conferences, Jean was inducted into the AME Hall of Fame for Manufacturing Excellence in 2018. The next year, she was inducted into the Shingo Academy, which honors business leaders who have distinguished themselves in operational excellence. She teaches Lean Accounting at the Ohio State University Master of Business Operational Excellence program.
Despite a busy schedule, Jean has found the time to write three business management books. She is co-author of the acclaimed, Real Numbers: Management Accounting in a Lean Organization, an essential text for learning lean accounting. She is co-author of Easier, Simpler, Faster on applying lean principles to IT processes. Both books were awarded a Shingo Prize for Research in 2004 and 2008, respectively. In 2018, she published The Value Add Accountant, a follow-up to Real Numbers on how finance and accounting can innovate and add value in strategic improvement efforts.
When she isn’t helping companies start or advance continuous improvement systems, Jean enjoys swimming and painting. She holds a bachelor’s in accounting from Indiana University and a master’s from Northeastern University’s Executive Program.