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Lean Enterprise Institute Announces Its First Grant for Improving the Teaching of Lean Management in Schools at Every Level



Chet Marchwinski,

LEI Communications Director


617- 871-2930

The nonprofit Lean Enterprise Institute, Inc. (LEI),  has established the James P. Womack Scholarship & Philanthropy Fund (JPW Fund) to advance how lean thinking is taught in schools and learned through practice. The JPW Fund will support creative learning experiences in partnership with schools and foundations focused on education and training along with community-based social service organizations willing to provide gemba-based learning experiences focused on improving the delivery of services to those in need. (Gemba is Japanese for “the actual place,” meaning a place where value is added such as a factory floor.)

The JPW Fund’s goals are to develop:

  1. Next generation lean practitioners and leaders,
  2. Next generation lean teachers,
  3. New lean courses and curricula,
  4. New knowledge,
  5. More effective community services improving the lives of people.

LEI is pleased to announce its first collaboration with Oakland University (OU) and its Industrial and Systems Engineering Department’s (ISE) Pawley Lean Institute in Rochester, MI.  Read OU’s announcement here

The purpose of the collaboration is to create new educational opportunities in lean thinking and practice for OU students and develop new lean courses and curricula.

“LEI reached out to the Pawley Lean Institute upon learning about our ongoing efforts to educate our students on lean concepts, techniques, and applications,” said Robert Van Til, PhD, Pawley professor of lean studies and ISE department chair. “We look forward to a long-term relationship with LEI to make our educational programs even better.”

“The meshing of two of the great lean advocates, James Womack, PhD, and Dennis Pawley, is a unique opportunity that will make Oakland University a model that other universities will want to emulate,” said Dennis Wade, director, Pawley Lean Institute.

Students Get Practical Lean Learning

The JPW Fund has provided an initial $15,000 grant to Oakland University that will be used to place students into paid internships in community service organizations where they will continue their learning under the guidance of coaches from LEI.   

According to Matthew Lovejoy, a member of LEI’s Board and chairman of the JPW Fund, “Oakland University is unique in its approach to teaching lean concepts at the student level; not only is it theory-based but it also contains a practical, industry-focused, hands-on approach where students practice what they learn at the gemba.  We are excited about funding unique student learning opportunities.”

LEI and Oakland University are pleased to be partnering with Humble Design in Pontiac, MI, to run this first, innovative lean learning experiment.  OU’s students and faculty and Humble Design’s leadership and staff will be able to learn and practice lean thinking in a real-world setting improving operations and the delivery of services to those in need.

The funding will also allow for K-12 students to visit Oakland's campus to conduct hands-on projects in lean, ergonomics, and simulation working with Industrial and systems engineering students and faculty.

“Funding provided by the JPW Fund will provide Oakland students with hands-on lean projects and allow for high school students to attend sessions by the Pawley Lean Institute and the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department,” Pawley said.

Matthew Lovejoy added, “The collaboration is just the beginning of philanthropy opportunities with Oakland University, its lean programs, and community organizations.  We see research, joint ventures, shared learning and shared resources as a means of enhancing the student experience.”  Lovejoy added, “The JPW Fund is looking to develop additional partnerships in the coming year and, based on donations, hopes to provide financial assistance and research grants directly to students in 2020.” 

About the Lean Enterprise Institute\

Lean Enterprise Institute Inc. (LEI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Boston, MA, with a mission to make things better through lean thinking and practice by helping companies create more value and prosperity while consuming the fewest possible resources. Founded in 1997, by management expert James Womack, PhD, LEI conducts research through co-learning partnerships with companies, teaches on-site and public workshops, publishes books and ebooks, organizes conferences, and shares practical information about lean thinking and practice. Visit lean.org to learn more.

About the Pawley Lean Institute

Oakland University’s Pawley Lean Institute was established in 2002 by Dennis Pawley, the former executive vice president of manufacturing for the Chrysler Corporation, where he developed the Chrysler Operating System in the early 1990s to restore productivity and streamline procedures.  Visit Pawley.edu to learn more.