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Lean Enterprise Institute Marks 15 Years of Advancing Lean Management Around the U.S. and World

Cambridge, Mass., July 31, 2012 – To mark its 15th anniversary on August 1, 2012, the nonprofit Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) today offered some lessons learned about how to achieve successful lean transformations.

“Lean is often misunderstood as cost-cutting,” said LEI CEO John Shook. “But properly understood, lean thinking and practice means to systemically develop people and continuously improve processes to meet customer needs while consuming the fewest possible resources.”

Shook identified the two most common missteps companies make when trying to adopt lean management:

  • Senior leaders, thinking they can delegate the lean implementation effort, don’t learn and live lean management
  • Companies deploy lean tools for the sake of using the tools, without first specifically identifying what problem they really need to solve and what business need they should address

Shook, who spent 11 years at Toyota helping the automaker spread the Toyota Production System -- the original lean business system -- beyond Japan, said the lean movement continues to evolve “through deepening the understanding and application of fundamental lean practices while promoting adoption in new areas such as healthcare, academia, science, and the public sector.”

Lean Leadership

Based in Cambridge, MA, LEI was incorporated August 1, 1997 by Founder James Womack, Ph.D., who led the MIT research team that coined the term “lean.” LEI is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit. Shook succeeded Womack as CEO and chairman by 2010.

Among LEI’s accomplishments are:

For the complete list of LEI highlights and resources, see the new LEI Fact Sheet.

What is Lean?

The terms 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.

Lean production is a business system for organizing and managing product development, operations, suppliers, and customer relations that requires less human effort, less space, less capital, less material, and less time to make products 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.

Lean Community Resources

LEI offers a weekly newsletter with lean management news and resources such as case studies, webinars, interviews with executives on lean leadership, and archives of essays by authors and lean management thought leaders.

 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. The Cambridge, MA-based nonprofit conducts research projects and supports other lean initiatives such as the Lean Education Academic Network, the Lean Global Network and the Healthcare Value Network. Visit LEI at https://www.lean.org for more information.

Media: Communications Director Chet Marchwinski, cmarchwinski@lean.org, (617) 871-2930.