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Background: What Is the Lean Enterprise Institute?

Founded in 1997 by management expert James P. Womack, Ph.D., the Lean Enterprise Institute is as a 501(c) (3) nonprofit education, research, publishing, and conference company with a mission to advance lean thinking around the world.

We teach courses, hold lean 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 to support other lean business initiatives such as the Lean Education Academic Network (www.teachinglean.org ), an organization of university educators teaching lean management, and the Lean Global Network (www.leanglobal.org), a growing number of nonprofit or nongovernmental organizations throughout the world advancing lean management and the development of lean leaders.

Lean thinking or lean management is a set of ideas based originally on the Toyota Production System. These ideas are described in a series of books and articles co-authored by Womack and Daniel Jones over the past 20 years. The most widely known books and articles are:

The Machine That Changed the World (Macmillan/Rawson Associates, 1990), Lean Thinking (Simon & Schuster, 1996), Seeing The Whole: mapping the extended value stream (Lean Enterprise Institute, 2001), Lean Solutions (Simon & Schuster, 2005), Gemba Walks (Lean Enterprise Institute, 2011) Articles: "From Lean Production to the Lean Enterprise" (Harvard Business Review, March-April, 1994), "Beyond Toyota: How to Root Out Waste and Pursue Perfection" (Harvard Business Review, September-October, 1996), “Lean Consumption” (Harvard Business Review, March-April, 2005).

What is Lean Management?

Lean management is a business system for organizing and managing the primary value-creating processes of service and industrial companies, namely: product and service development, operations, suppliers, customer relations, and the overall enterprise. It requires less human effort, less space, less capital, less material, and less time to make products and services with fewer defects to precise customer desires, compared with traditional management.

Toyota pioneered lean management as a complete business system after World War II. During the late 1980s, a research team headed by Womack at MIT’s International Motor Vehicle Program coined the term “lean” to describe Toyota’s system.

James Womack on lean management vs. traditional management: