Eric Ethington is the coach and program manager of the Lean Product and Process Development (LPPD) Initiative. Eric has a passion for lean with over 30 years of work experience feeding his passion. Starting as an industrial engineer with General Motors’ AC Spark Plug Division, Eric learned early that continuous improvement required a balance of technical knowledge and interpersonal skills. Rounding experiences in operations, planning, marketing, engineering, and strategy helped to prepare Eric for a lean implementation leadership position with Delphi’s Energy & Engine Management division in Flint, Michigan.
Beginning in 1998 and coaching engaged cross-functional teams, several brown-field plants in the Flint area underwent significant transformations. Initially on a list to be either sold or closed, now they were on a path to competitiveness.
In 2001 Eric moved to Delphi’s World Headquarters as the manager of the corporate lean team responsible for supporting Delphi’s six divisions with their lean transformations. Additionally, this team was tasked with the development, launch and operation of a “lean boot camp” for Delphi’s 650 executives worldwide. In 2005 Eric started the next phase of his career. Taking a position at Textron, Eric earned his six sigma black belt in design while mentoring multiple Green Belts and Black Belts. Afterward, as part of the internal lean consulting organization, he gained experience implementing lean in defense, aerospace, consumer products, and financial industries.
In 2009 Eric founded Lean Shift Consulting, focusing on developing others to be lean leaders and transform their own organizations. In doing so, Eric has expanded his industry experience to include medical equipment, healthcare, software, and distribution. Likewise in 2009, Eric began to support LEI’s Lean Enterprise Partners program by offering coaching services to the companies who were members of the partnership.
In February of 2016, Eric’s role at LEI shifted to managing and growing its Lean Product & Process Development initiative. This initiative is expanding the under explored science of using product and process development to truly transform the extended enterprise, with the ultimate goal of developing successful value streams.
Eric holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Kettering University (formerly GMI) and an MBA in Operations from the University of Michigan, Flint campus. He serves on the Board of Directors at Goodwill Industries of Mid-Michigan as well as the Alumni Advisory Board for the Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering department at Kettering University. He and his family call Grand Blanc, Michigan home.
Articles by Eric Ethington
Process Excellence Means Developing New Processes Along with New Products
The traditional way of developing new products or services in isolation from the processes that must deliver them almost guarantees problem launches. In contrast, the lean product and process development methodology creates products customers love as well as profitable delivery processes in a far more integrated and simultaneous way. Eric Ethington, an experienced lean product and process coach, explains. More »
After three years of working with learning partner companies, LEI’s Lean Product and Process Development group observed that the companies most successful in starting and sustaining lean principles in product development all had one thing in common – an effective steering team. Program Manager Eric Ethington reports on four foundational elements your steering team must have. More »
How Do You REALLY Put Yourself in Your Customers’ Shoes? A Q&A with Eric Ethington
The customer is king in lean. That's why it's critical to know their values, needs, interests, etc. in order to ensure your product has its niche. Some companies go further than others on this, often spending tens of millions of dollars to learn about their customers. Eric Ethington has a simpler way of getting to the root of your customer experience, and best of all, it doesn't have to break the bank. More »
The Snowstorm on Your Server
When looking for a place to implement 5S, your company's server or shared drive might not be the first to come to mind. And yet it's a major cause of waste for so many professionals who spend hours clicking through the sea of similar-looking files. This was the challenge that Eric Ethington faced at a previous job - 5S his company's SharePoint site and eliminate the waste. Here's how he did it. More »
"When grasping the situation we always focus in on the process. .. What about grasping the situation as it relates to the people?" writes Eric Ethington. "I’m talking about truly 'engaging the stakeholders' to the point where they WANT to be part of the improvement process. " More »
Let the Work Define the Process
We’re all short on time, but think for a moment with your team about the real work to be done in any process you’re working on or design you’re creating. Are you building from past experience or actual customer needs? Are you building from past experience or building to solve problems? More »
Training as a Crutch
Your organization has a problem. Something has gone wrong. A process that was previously working fine is no longer working. You know this because of your inbox is full and you're getting tons of pages/calls. What do you do next? Lean coach Eric Ethington offers advice you may not expect. More »
Gather the Facts: How Does Your Organization View Lean?
It’s worth asking, what's your organization's REAL, honest perception of Lean? Do you hear words and phrases like engagement, problem solving, learning, "making my job better than now", and "empowered to bring forth ideas"? If not, Eric Ethington has some good advice on how to you may want to proceed. More »
Leader Standard Work: Where to Start
Striving to be an effective lean leader or manager is well and good, but without the discipline of leader standard work, you're not likely to achieve it. Eric Ethington breaks leader standard work down into 8 steps. More »
No Do, No Learn
Developing new skills and capabilities at work requires regular, ongoing practice. But despite our good intentions, many of us struggle practicing new skills and behaviors. Lean coach Eric Ethington reflects on why. More »
Observe Without Expectations
What does it really mean to go to the gemba and closely observe the work that takes place there? Are you aware of your own biases when it comes to "going and seeing"? More »
Reading the Signs
How often does your organization settle for an inferior process design or process fix, bandaged together with labels and signs? Lean coach Eric Ethington tells us why this is pretty much always a bad idea. More »
How to Develop Lean Leaders and Still Get Work Done
Three years ago the leadership team at Cardinal Health asked LEI to help them create a program specifically designed to develop lean leaders within the company. Coach Eric Ethington shares a bit about how the program works. More »
The Problem with the US Open
What do Roger Federer, ESPN, and the US Open have to do with problem solving? More »
A Good Night’s Sleep
How often do you find yourself jumping to a solution without understanding the problem? If we're really interested in solving problem, we have to slow down. More »
Don't Present Your A3: Share Your A3
A3 Coach Eric Ethington explains why he encourages people to share rather than present their A3s--and explains the reasons why this distinction helps foster productive teamwork and learning. More »
Let Your A3s Lead
Coach Eric Ethington shares how simply getting started with A3s as a means of engaging others in this process is a tactical approach that works. More »
Why A3s Won’t Work in My Organization (Part One)
Coach Eric Ethington shares obstacles you may be encountering as you implement A3 thinking--and suggests ways to proceed. More »
Tools Are Not the Purpose
Coach Eric Ethington shares his experience about learning how A3 thinking must always be the guiding principle when using A3 (and related) tools More »
Workshops Taught by Eric Ethington
How to Develop New Value with the A3 Process (at the 2019 Designing the Future Summit)
Constantly developing new value for your customer is a necessity for long-term business survival. But it’s not easy. Companies must define and solve many problems while simultaneously engaging stakeholders throughout the organization, prompting the most successful organizations to realize that problem solving must be a core competency at all levels. But how?The answer is the A3. Often used as a tool that puts problem, analysis, and corrective action plan on a single piece of paper, the A3 is actually much more. In this session, you’ll learn:What is an A3’s purpose – not only as a problem-solving tool -- but as More »
Managing to Learn: The Use of the A3 Management Process
This workshop introduces the A3 management process and the way of thinking represented in the A3 format that capture the heart of lean management. Participants will be provided an overview of various forms and uses of the A3 format and will have an opportunity to create their own A3. Working in small groups, they will be able to read, discuss, and evaluate each another’s A3s. More »