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John P. O'Donnell

John P. O'Donnell

Senior Advisor, Lean Enterprise Institute

John O’Donnell joined the Lean Enterprise Institute in November 2007 to serve as the first Executive Director of the Lean Global Network (LGN).  At LGN John oversaw a worldwide network of over 30 institutes whose mission it is to advance Lean thinking and practice throughout the world to make things better for individuals, organizations and society.  John’s role was to encourage LGN institutes and partners to work together to develop and strengthen their Lean thinking capabilities to create value for customers and ensure the success of our institutes.

From July 2010 to June 2014 John served as the Interim Chief Operating Officer at LEI.  During that time, he oversaw operations and was actively involved in defining LEI’s research mission and identifying partners to participate in co-learning, action research projects.  

In July 2014 John was asked to develop a strategy and look for opportunities to accelerate Lean thinking and practice in the public service sectors – government, universities, nonprofits, charities, and social service organizations.  Since then John has observed and coach improvement teams in several states and Federal agencies. 

Since mid-2018, John has been responsible for setting up a Development and Philanthropy program at LEI.  The program will support the advancement of Lean thinking in academia via scholarships and research stipends and provide greater access to LEI’s knowledge, products and coaching services to communities in need with limited resources to pay and to work with organizations looking to use Lean thinking for social good.              

Prior to joining LEI, John completed 30 years of public service with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA).  His responsibilities ranged from a Research Analyst to Project Manager to Division Chief and, ultimately, an Office Director. 

Within RITA, John ran a fee-for-service organization leading a staff of 160 transportation professionals overseeing a $50 million research portfolio.  Typical programs involved evaluating the socio-economic and market issues related to the adoption of new transportation technologies and innovative operating practices, assessing the safety of transportation programs and systems, and developing effective public policies and regulations.  John also served as the Acting Associate Administrator of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics towards the end of his DOT career. 

John was one of the federal government’s lead analysts in the Chrysler loan guarantee deliberations and was a principal author of the landmark Department of Transportation Report to the President on the U.S. Automobile Industry, 1980 which publicly introduced the “$1,500 comparative cost advantage of the Japanese automakers”.  This significant finding pointed to the fundamental differences between the Japanese and western production and management processes and served as the launching point for many of the industrialized nations’ investigations into the Toyota production and management system, including MIT’s International Motor Vehicle Program

From 1987-90, John served as Program Coordinator and Research Affiliate for Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s International Motor Vehicle Program.  The program produced the critically acclaimed book, The Machine That Changed the World. John contributed innovative research into the impact changes in motor vehicle product and production plans would have on auto company strategies, employment and the industrial bases across the globe. 

John holds degrees in Economics and Management from Boston College and the University of New Hampshire and was a member of the federal government’s Senior Executive Service for over seven years during which he completed several courses in leadership at the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Articles by John P. O'Donnell
Public Service: Lean's Next Frontier?
John O'Donnell and Lex Schroeder share the thinking behind LEI's new Public Service Value Network and invite you to contribute to a new and fast-growing community of practice. More »
Developing Lean Skills for Future Transformations
State money and, more recently, federal Economic Recovery dollars might be available for you to fund lean training. A good place to start looking for what’s available locally is the U.  S. Department of Labor’s “One-Stop Career Center System.  ” More »