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Eric Ethington

Eric Ethington

Eric Ethington has passion for lean, and over 30 years of work experience feeding that 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. In 1998 Eric began a lean implementation leadership position with Delphi’s Energy division in Flint, Michigan.

During this same time, Eric coached cross-functional teams and met one of his most influential mentors, Yoshinobu Yamada. From 1998 to 2002 Eric spent over 50% of his time learning from Mr. Yamada in a variety of plants and situations throughout Delphi. This experience helped him to understand that lean transformations are very case-by-case; success is not achieved and sustained from a check-list.

In 2001 Eric moved to Delphi’s World Headquarters as the manager of the corporate lean support team. He piloted the Lean Enterprise College where he was introduced to the A3 process as it was a featured segment in the training with the support of John Shook.

After Delphi, Eric worked at Textron before founding Lean Shift Consulting in 2009, focusing on developing others to be lean leaders and transform their own organizations. Since 2009 he has also supported the LEI Lean Enterprise Partners Program. Eric holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Kettering University (formerly GMI), an MBA in Operations from the University of Michigan, Flint campus, and is a certified Six Sigma Black Belt in Design. He and his family call Grand Blanc, Michigan home; although if you cannot find him there, Eric is probably hiding in the woods in northern Michigan.

Articles by Eric Ethington
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 »
Tough Empathy
"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
An Introduction to the A3 Process (at the 2018 Designing the Future Summit) The fundamental purpose of any organization is to solve its customers’ problems. That, in turn, involves solving many more problems along the way. Successful enterprises understand the importance of developing problem solving as a core competency at all levels of the organization. But how does one really make this happen?  The answer can be found in the A3. Often understood as a tool, a succinct story on a single piece of paper, the A3 is actually much more.   You will learn to:Develop a clear understanding of the true purpose of the A3 as a process to solve problems, but just 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 »