Brent Wahba began his performance improvement career over 20 years ago at Delphi, an early adopter of Lean management. While there, he led global systems businesses, strategy creation, product development organizations, operations optimization, and a comprehensive Lean enterprise transformation. For the past 10 years, Brent has consulted and served as an executive coach to global organizations from startups to Fortune 50 firms in nearly every industry sector. He is one of the leaders in advancing Lean thinking in R&D, Sales & Marketing, Purchasing and other non-manufacturing areas.
Dedicated to “improving continuous improvement,” Brent is on the faculty of the Lean Enterprise Institute and is a regular contributor to The Lean Post with articles about value, strategy and leadership. He is also the author of The Fluff Cycle which describes an easier, more holistic approach to business improvement that combines systems problem solving with organizational behavior and customer psychology. Brent holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Rochester, an MS in Materials Science and Engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology, and an MBA from the University of Rochester. He has also authored 10 patents and serves as a volunteer startup business mentor through SCORE.
Articles by Brent Wahba
And Now For Something Completely...Lean
Lean practice is no joke, argues Brent Wahba. And yet he draws lessons from great comedy to help address this key challenge: What is your organization doing to keep lean easy to understand and simple to implement? More »
Lean Was a Lot Simpler Back in the Day...
Lean transformations aren't easy. But, according to Brent Wahba, they weren't always that way. In his newest Post, Brent discusses his thoughts on what has made transformation efforts so complicated since lean's early years. More »
Faster than a Speeding Kanban...
"All of us living in Leanworld are well-trained to look for problems, identify gaps, and cure root causes," writes Brent Wahba. But if that's true, why does lean so often fail? Could it be that we often undermine our efforts by trying to be superheroes, trying to fix all our problems in one go? Brent explores. More »
Bringing Lean to Your Sales Team
LEI faculty member Brent Wahba discusses the importance of bringing lean into your sales department as well as where to start. More »
Just Trying “Stuff” Is Not A Real Experiment
"Today it seems like you can’t throw a stick of butter without hitting someone who is “running a lean experiment” on one thing or another," writes Brent Wahba. The problem with all that experimentation? Many of these experiments are not real experiments at all. Read more. More »
Is Lean Getting "Fat?"
"Yes, lean has successfully spread around the world and gone from manufacturing to nearly every other type of value stream," writes Brent Wahba. But on the flip side of the coin, that isn't necessarily an indicator of success. In fact, Brent believes that the rapid spread of lean has made us overconfident, "bloated," and blind. Read more More »
Problem? What Problem?
"Whether using A3s, the 5 Whys, DMAIC, Value Stream Mapping, or any other problem-solving methodology, many organizations don’t spend the effort necessary to prove all their hypotheses, and either under-solve the real problem or erroneously solve a non-existent issue," write Brent Wahba. How can an organization problem-solve the right way, you ask? Read more to find out. More »
Just a Fish Stick: The Perils of Forcing Your Change Agenda onto Others
Change agendas may look good on paper, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're foolproof. Brent Wahba shares his thoughts on an oft-overlooked hurdle to change agendas that can save your next one from failure. More »
Coaches Need Improvement Too
"Whether you are a coaching client or a coach yourself," writes Brent Wahba, "you both have decided to pursue the world of continuous improvement, so why wouldn’t continuous improvement apply to continuous improvement itself? Just like everyone else, coaches need improvement too. " More »
The Chief Cause of Problems is Solutions
"In complex organizations, we [oversimplify] problems, try to fix them as painlessly as possible, cross our fingers, and move on to the next fire," writes Brent Wahba. "Unfortunately, things rarely turn out quite as perfectly as we had hoped. " Learn how to avoid this trap and plan better as you lead your team in continuous improvement. More »
Make Broccoli (Or Lean) Taste Better Through Experiments
"Whether it’s eating healthy, saving for retirement, or pursuing Lean, we are all biased towards maximizing the here and now as opposed to working towards a better future payout," writes Brent Wahba. "We’ve got a lot work to do to make Lean simpler, easier, and more successful for the masses. " More »
What Should Lean Mean to Us?
Brent Wahba offers lean beginners a few tips for how to be most impactful. "If you are working on how to begin your situational Lean journey," he writes, "what is the gap between your current mental model of Lean and what Lean needs to be to deliver success in your specific circumstances?" More »
The Biggest Waste of All
"We can fix [problem symptoms] with basic lean thinking and tools, but unless our strategy is good, we will still create tremendous amounts of waste for our customers, employees, suppliers, and investors," says Brent Wahba. Why? "Because everyone is running faster and faster… in the wrong direction. " More »
Are We "Doing Lean" All Wrong?
"Somewhere in Ohio is a small healthcare management company that is the best Lean company, EVER," says Brent Wahba. Why? "Because they seemed highly unlikely to succeed," he writes, and "followed a path that would make nearly any traditional sensei convulse. " More »
Lean Alone is Never Enough
Lean can help any organization become more efficient and effective, but there is much more to being successful than just being lean, says Brent Wahba. "There is a core, company-specific science beyond Lean that is necessary for any business to thrive. " More »
Taiichi Ohno Was a Hairdresser
"In the lean community, we talk about 'gaps' – the difference between where we are now and where we either should be or want to be. Ironically, however, we rarely talk about Lean’s gaps," writes lean coach Brent Wahba. What gaps do you think we need to solve to make Lean more valuable and more likely to stick around? More »
What's Your Company's Bottleneck?
"A bottleneck is the weak link in the system, the one constraint that prevents us from manufacturing that next toaster or frothing that next latte with our current resources," writes Brent Wahba. "Somewhere in that great big system is one TRUE bottleneck, and I have yet to meet a company that really understands what theirs is. " Read more. More »
A Real S&OP Opera
Have you been implementing Lean but are still losing money due to inconsistent customer demand? Well, don't blame the customer. Brent Wahba suggests a different approach. More »
Reason #27 Why Your CEO Is Just Not That Into Lean
You know the value of Lean, but maybe your boss or a key member of the senior leadership team doesn't. To get more traction and support, Brent Wahba suggests framing your lean efforts in terms of strategies for creating more value. More »
Thousands of people have spent decades trying to disseminate lean management concepts. Many lean proponents can point to results showing lean’s advantages over traditional modern management. Yet the business world isn’t about to abandon traditional management. The problem, according to author and lean practitioner Brent Wahba, is often how Lean Thinkers “sell” lean concepts. He suggests you ask yourself these eight questions before pitching a lean transformation to co-workers or the boss. More »
Lean in Sales and Marketing
“Half my advertising budget is wasted – trouble is, I don’t know which half,” department store magnate and marketing pioneer, John Wanamaker, famously said. That estimate of waste is wildly optimistic, according to lean practitioner Brent Wahba, author of The Fluff Cycle. In the following excerpt he explains why much of what sales and marketing does is waste. More »
Workshops Taught by Brent Wahba
Finding North (at the 2019 Lean Summit)
Approximately 10% of companies achieve their business plans, which either signals chronic, wide-spread strategic optimism, or much more likely a deeper complexity. Investigating the root causes, we find that all organizations are confronted with different elements of “relevancy” - including direction, connection, and prioritization. From improving sales or attracting talent, to engaging everyone in a full-blown lean transformation, organizations and their work must consistently remain relevant to customers, employees, investors, and suppliers. If not, these stakeholders will all quickly change their focus to better-perceived uses of their attention, effort, and funds. Increasing relevancy starts with strategy, because More »
Lean Fundamentals for Sales Organizations
This workshop is an expansion of lean concepts and tools for Sales practitioners, as well as the organizational leadership responsible for creating and implementing strategies. By discussing real problems and how to apply new concepts, participants will become better prepared to assess when, where, and how to leverage learning and problem solving techniques in their own specific circumstances. More »