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Lean Accounting Award Recognizes the Work of an Accounting Professor and Graduate Student

Cambridge, MA, Oct. 27, 2010 — An accounting professor and a graduate student have won 2010 Excellence in Lean Accounting Awards from the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI), a nonprofit education, publishing, conference, and management research company with a mission to advance lean thinking around the world.

The awards went to Associate Professor Rosemary Fullerton, Ph.D., CPA, at the Jon Huntsman Business School, Utah State University, and to Daniel Harris, a doctoral candidate at University of Mississippi.

The award, sponsored by LEI at the annual Lean Accounting Summit, recognizes teachers or students who attended the previous year’s conference then applied what they learned in the classroom. (Harris explains how he applied what he learned in this video interview on LEI's Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/video/video.php?v=491691437183 )

Lean Management Research

Fullerton, who also has been a summit presenter, said the conferences “have been invaluable in providing me with information, contacts, and creative ideas” for teaching a graduate course on accounting. Two contacts, Jerry Solomon and Brian Maskell, helped her with research that led to her and Solomon writing Accounting for World-Class Operations, which won a Shingo Research and Professional Publication Award in 2008.

Harris said he was new to lean management concepts last year “but I found the discussions on metrics very interesting.” He is using what he learned in his Ph.D. dissertation, which is focusing on a large company implementing lean accounting. “It’s really going to delve into plants that are in different stages of implementation,” he said.  

The awards were presented by LEI Communications Director Chet Marchwinski during a plenary session at the summit Sept. 21-22 in Las Vegas. The conference drew more than 300 accounting, finance, and operations professionals from service and industrial companies.

Making a Lean Leap

Conference organizers said the lean accounting movement seeks a shift from traditional cost accounting practices to practices that accurately measure and motivate companies implementing lean management principles.

The goal of the award program is to bring the principles and practices of lean accounting into higher education, which is still a challenge, Fullerton said.

“There are some excellent books on lean accounting,” she said, “but they are prepared for practitioners, which is very different from a typical textbook approach. In the classic cost accounting textbooks, there is also little information on lean accounting yet. There is much room to grow in lean accounting education, but there are also encouraging pockets of interest developing. ”

Getting graduate accounting students to look beyond career opportunities in public accounting also is a challenge.  

“The public accounting firms are certainly the main recruiters,” she said. “So even though my graduate students really seem to enjoy my lean accounting focused class  — I consistently get my highest teaching evaluations in this class — it is more difficult to pique their general interest in the material and convince them of its career relevance. I do have students come back after graduation and tell me that the lean class was the most fun graduate course they took, and they have been able to apply the lean concepts by improving processes in their work.”

Her students learn how to apply lean management concepts, not just in accounting, but everywhere in business, including the type of information system that supports lean management transformations. Students also participate in simulations and go on plant tours to see the concepts in action. Their main assignment is a group project, where they work with a company trying to improve a process related to accounting.

“It is a very different class than most accounting students are accustomed to,” she said.

For More Information

Lean Accounting Workshop from LEI guides financial and operations managers through the necessary changes in finance needed to support lean transformations, which often cause conflicts with long-established accounting systems.

What is Lean?

The terms lean, lean manufacturing, lean production, or lean management refer to a complete business system for organizing and managing product development, operations, suppliers, customer relations, and the overall enterprise that requires less capital, material, space, time, or human effort to produce products and services with fewer defects to precise customer desires, compared with traditional modern management.

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Join LEI’s Lean Community at www.lean.org for access to case studies, webinars, weekly newsletters, John Shook’s monthly lean management e-letter, an archive of Jim Womack’s thought-leading e-letters, and many other resources for your lean journey.

Lean Enterprise Institute

Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc., was founded in 1997 by management expert James P. Womack, Ph.D., as a nonprofit research, education, publishing, and conference company with a mission to advance lean thinking around the world. We teach courses, hold management seminars, write and publish books and workbooks, and organize public and private conferences. We use the surplus revenues from these activities to conduct research projects and support other lean initiatives such as the Lean Education Academic Network, the Lean Global Network and the Healthcare Value Leaders Network. Visit LEI at https://www.lean.org for more information.