Home > About Us> People> Tom Ehrenfeld
Tom Ehrenfeld

Tom Ehrenfeld

Senior Editor

Tom Ehrenfeld is a writer and editor living in Cambridge, MA. A former writer/editor with Inc. Magazine and Harvard Business Review, he is the author of The Startup Garden: How Growing A Business Grows You. He works as a consulting editor for LEI and with many other lean authors. Seven of his edited books have won the Shingo Research Award.

Articles by Tom Ehrenfeld
Imagining A World Without Email: A Transcript of the WLEI Podcast with Guest Cal Newport
A typical work day is already packed, but is there waste that can be removed? Catch this transcript of the conversation between WLEI host Tom Ehrenfeld and guest Cal Newport where they talk about ways to challenge email's presence at work, and how to rethink our communication strategies. More »
Why You Need to Understand The Purpose of Purposeful Enterprise
Work with your team to articulate your purpose, as this shared statement will align the many aspects of your pragmatic lean improvement work, says Tom Ehrenfeld in this roundup about the purpose of purposeful work. More »
Creating Better Jobs and Better Work: A WLEI Podcast with Josh Howell and Sarah Kalloch
As we slowly emerge from the long pandemic, LEI and colleagues like the Good Jobs Institute are deeply committed to helping produce decent jobs. In this conversation LEI LEI President Josh Howell spoke with Executive Director Sarah Kalloch of the Good Jobs Institute about ways they are both working to help foster good work. WLEI Host Tom Ehrenfeld moderated this conversation. More »
Lean Roundup: Hoshin Kanri As a Strategic Force
Hoshin kanri can support and vitalize your strategic vision as well as bolster your ongoing work, writes Tom Ehrenfeld in this Lean Roundup. More »
Exploring When More is Not Better with Roger Martin
Roger Martin’s terrific new book When More is Not Better proposes tangible suggestions for broadening the economic gains from democratic capitalism. He critiques the concentration of wealth and power that decades of what he calls America’s Obsession with Economic Efficiency have generated, proposing tangible measures for business leaders, politicians, educators and citizens to pursue. This transcript captures the conversation between Martin and WLEI Host Tom Ehrenfeld in which he explores lean-adjacent measures that complement his message. More »
What Problems Does The Gold Mine Challenge You to Address?
Learning begins with self-reflection, a process that can start with group reading and discussion of ideas from lean books. We are launching the LEI book club with a discussion of The Gold Mine, and sharing questions from the book for you to consider. More »
Lean Roundup: How Hoshin Kanri Creates a "Line of Sight"
"Like anything that is essential to lean, one must understand how hoshin kanri works from the very detailed, elemental levels of the work of the business.  " This article by Tom Ehrenfeld expands on this John Shook, drawing from LEI articles to show how hoshin kanri creates a "line of sight" between one's work and the broader company purpose. More »
6 Insights on How to Show Respect for People: A Lean Post Roundup
Practicing respect in a lean environment requires both a general mindset committed to the practice and constant daily actions grounded in the work. This roundup of recent articles from The Lean Post shares an overview of how lean thinkers translate this ideal into daily work. More »
How Lean is Apple?
Apple may not worship at the altar of lean, but a close look at its operations and strategy show clear resonance with established lean principles. More »
How Lean is Amazon?
Amazon has tapped lean principles and practices in its inexorable rise to becoming the world's largest retailer, notes Tom Ehrenfeld. What can be learned from this? More »
Boosting Organizational Resilience Through Jidoka
Jidoka enables operators to build in quality into the production process--and forms a foundation of stability helping a company respond to crisis with resilience. This roundup shares resources explaining jidoka and helping you get started with it. More »
Transcript of Podcast with Kim Barnas and John Toussaint about Becoming the Change
In this transcript of a recent WLEI podcast, Becoming the Change authors Kim Barnas and John Toussaint talk with LEI's Tom Ehrenfeld about the challenges of personal leadership regarding healthcare transformation. More »
How Respect for People Animates the Lean Spirit
Practicing respect is an animating force of lean leadership that colors how one coaches and develops people. This roundup of articles from our archives shares a range of voices on this essential practice. More »
Enduring Lessons from The Birth of Lean
Lean was never conceived as a new and comprehensive system designed to replace conventional enterprise. Rather, as shown in The Birth of Lean, it evolved over years, and then decades, to become what we know it as today. More »
Tapping Technology to Boost the Power of Lean: A Talk with Jeff Liker and Jim Morgan (Transcript)
Industry 4.  0 is not a disruptive force that makes TPS irrelevant, but rather can be an enabler that builds on lean culture and thinking. What principles should lean companies prioritize as they introduce digital tools into their work? Lean thinkers Jeff Liker and Jim Morgan start with the basics of people, processes, and purpose. Read a full transcript of their conversation about the TPS-Industry 4.  0 mashup with WLEI Host Tom Ehrenfeld.    More »
Lean Roundup: Hoshin Kanri
Hoshin Kanri, described as "a management system that allows the organization to quickly and effectively adjust its priorities while engaging the team," has been the subject of numerous articles and an upcoming online class. Tom Ehrenfeld compiles a roundup of some great articles which share the practice and promise of Hoshin. More »
How to A3: Resources for Developing Structured Problem-Solving and Leadership Skills
As LEI prepares its next course on Managing to Learn, here's a popular article rounding up a wealth of resources about practicing A3 Thinking by Tom Ehrenfeld More »
Talking Emotional Agility with Susan David
A transcript of the conversation between author Susan David and LEI's Tom Ehrenfeld on the topic of Emotional Agility. More »
Preventing Problems by Thinking Upstream: A Talk with Dan Heath
Tune in to the LEI podcast to catch a conversation with Dan Heath on his new book Upstream, which urges people to address problems before they happen rather than tackle them after the fact--in "fire fighting" mode. More »
Transcript of Dan Heath podcast
“We should shift more of our energies upstream personally, organizationally, nationally, and globally. We can and we should stop dealing with the symptoms of problems again and again, and start fixing them.  " So writes author Dan Heath in his terrific new book Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen, which has just been published.  This conversation between LEI editor Tom Ehrenfeld and Dan explores the practical applications of the upstream mindset, and; given the timing, explores how upstream thinking is all the more relevant in our current pandemic. Download the transcript of the conversation here, and be More »
Lean in the Time of Coronavirus
While lean offers no direct countermeasure to tackling the current coronavirus health challenge, Jim Womack points out in this podcast that key lean practices such as just-in-time supply chains should not be mistakenly viewed as compromised practices that contribute to maladaptive responses. More »
Lean in the Time of Coronavirus, A Chat With Jim Womack
In times of crisis, lean offers a stable approach to healthy work. Furthermore, as Jim Womack notes in this podcast with Tom Ehrenfeld, foundational lean practices such as just-in-time supply chains are not—and have never been—liabilities in a time such as today’s coronavirus outbreak. Misguided stories about the woes of JIT are as misguided today as they were when they appeared during avian flu, SARS, and other legitimate medical events that required large supplies of emergency goods. Womack also talks about the lessons to be found in Karen Gaudet’s book Steady Work as they relate to having a stable work environment that More »
How Well Can Lean Principles Fuel New Ventures Like Tesla and Rivian?
How well do lean principles apply to the grueling challenge of launching a company—let alone launching a brand new automotive company? More »
Book Review: The Toyota Engagement Equation by Tracey and Ernie Richardson
In their book The Toyota Engagement Equation, authors Tracey and Ernie Richardson don’t hit you over the head telling you what to do or how to think per se; instead they share how they learned what they know, and in so doing, invite you to think along the same lines. More »
Reflections From Ten Years of Michael Ballé's Gemba Coach
Since his first Gemba Coach column of ten years ago, Michael Balle has consistently tied his advice to a faithful application of core Toyota Production System (TPS) principles, without demanding a mindless conformity to established practices or to commercialized frameworks, models, or any other packaging of the TPS dynamics as a product. More »
Did Red Sox Lean on Lean for World Series Victory?
For starters (and for that matter, for relievers), this World-Series-winning Red Sox team was simply an outstanding and absurdly talented team from top to bottom. And yet talent only gets you so far. Great teams make one another better, and I think this applied to this group of athletes whose success underscore a few simple Lean principles More »
Lean Lessons from Tesla
This piece throws no shade at Tesla, a company that serves as a highly-charged conduit for many a heated debate about the future of manufacturing, mobility, innovation, modern business models, and, what, space travel. Rather, here are a few lean principles that Tesla's tale calls to mind. More »
Lean Roundup: Respect for People
Respect for People is one of the most abstract and yet most concrete tenets of lean, a guiding principle that informs how people work, coach, and lead. This roundup of writings reveals a wealth of perspectives on how lean thinkers convert this ideal into tangible ways of thinking and acting. More »
Is there a crack in the model of continuous improvement?
Is this a case of déjà vu all over again? The Wall Street Journal says the sterling reputation of “Japanese manufacturing” or kaizen, is tarnished in the wake of several quality inspection scandals. But is this a kaizen crisis or a kaizen kerfuffle that we’ve experienced before? Editor Tom Ehrenfeld sorts it out. More »
Lean Roundup: Lean in the News
"While few business leaders seem to be discussing lean explicitly these days, there are certainly a great deal of tangentially lean conversations happening wherever you look," writes LEI Senior Editor Tom Ehrenfeld. Particularly in the news - read more. More »
Lean Roundup: Pull
A pull system links all production activity to actual customer demand--and creates what one lean thinker calls "an architecture for kaizen.  " Read more about this key lean principle. More »
Lean Roundup: 5S
LEI's Senior Editor Tom Ehrenfeld provides an engaging insight into the web's best resources on 5S, a fundamental lean tool that was the first many of us ever used when we started our lean journeys. More »
Lean Roundup: Continuous Problem-Solving
Continuing his popular Lean Roundup series, LEI Senior Editor Tom Ehrenfeld covers a key topic in lean circles that also happens to be a key theme at the 2017 Lean Transformation Summit: continuous problem solving. More »
Lean Books Roundup
"Several years back, LEI CEO John Shook discussed the need to explore the “frontiers and fundamentals” of lean.  ..  " writes Tom Ehrenfeld. "Three recent books reveal surprising and satisfying ways that these new boundaries are emerging.  " Read more. More »
Lean Roundup: Jidoka
"Jidoka captures the principle of building quality into the production process—of designing work so that the people making the product have the means and mindset to be constantly vigilant for what is okay and what is not. By attacking waste at the source, jidoka starkly contrasts with an unfortunately-too-common approach of hiding flaws, passing them down the line, and relying on someone else to fix problems far from their source.  " More »
Lean Thinking: A Roundup
In honor of the 20th anniversary of the publishing of Lean Thinking, by Jim Womack and Dan Jones, Lean Post Senior Editor Tom Ehrenfeld presents a roundup of the book, its history and its impact on the lean community. More »
A3 Thinking Roundup
Following last week's immensely popular Posts on the origins of A3 thinking, LEI Senior Editor Tom Ehrenfeld compiles a collection of the very best reads on A3 thinking, from the Lean Post and beyond. More »
Standard Work Roundup
Several terrific articles have appeared recently, emphasizing the importance and complexity of a key lean practice: standard (or standardized) work, which we’ll call SW. So we decided to bundle them into a broader roundup of key pieces about this essential practice. More »
What the Best Lean Leaders All Have in Common
What characterizes a truly exceptional lean leader? With years of first-hand observations behind him, Tom Ehrenfeld weighs in with his thoughts. More »
The Secrets of Lean
"The key to Lean is that it creates understanding, not knowledge," write John Ehrenfeld (Executive Director of the International Society for Industrial Ecology) and LEI Senior Editor Tom Ehrenfeld. "One difficulty in successful implementation of lean systems is that managers conflate these two important concepts.  " Read more. More »
Highlights from the Lean Transformation Summit 2015, Day 2
On Wednesday and Thursday this week, we'll be live blogging the 2015 Lean Transformation Summit in New Orleans. Visit lean.  org for the complete agenda and check back here periodically for updates from Summit talks and learning sessions. More »
Highlights from the Lean Transformation Summit 2015
On Wednesday and Thursday this week, we'll be live blogging the 2015 Lean Transformation Summit in New Orleans. Visit lean.  org for the complete agenda and check back here periodically for updates from Summit talks and learning sessions. More »
Book Value: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Is clutter at work or at home getting you down? LEI Senior Editor Tom Ehrenfeld reviews Marie Kondo's new book, "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" and reflects on what it can teach us about lean practice. "The point is not to be tidy as endgame," he writes. "The point is to tidy up in order to get to where you want to go.  " More »
Summer Reading
LEI Senior Editor Tom Ehrenfeld picks his favorite lean books you might want to take to the beach with you this summer. More »
Live Blogging the Lean Transformation Summit, Day 2
LEI Senior Editor Tom Ehrenfeld continues his live blog of the Lean Transformation Summit, happening now in Orlando! More »
Live Blogging the Lean Transformation Summit, Day 1
Unable to join us in Orlando? Check back here periodically throughout the day to follow Summit content here on The Lean Post. More »
Super Bowl 2014: It's All About the Coaching
LEI Senior Editor Tom Ehrenfeld gets ready for the super bowl the only way he knows how: looking for lean metaphors and lessons from sports. More »
What's Your Lean Elevator Pitch?
How do you describe Lean to others? To beginners, your team members, your boss? What's your quick definition or elevator pitch? More »
Lean Writing Has a Gemba
What makes for good (lean) writing? What kind of writing are we looking for on The Lean Post? LEI senior editor Tom Ehrenfeld chimes in. More »
Such a Fine Line Between Stupid and Clever
Lean thinking, principles, and experiments show up everywhere and make a real difference, sometimes in places you'd least expect. More »
Abbreviated Study Guide for The Gold Mine audiobook
This guide contains excerpts of A Leader's Study Guide to The Gold Mine. Thought-provoking discussion questions and resources for further reading are included for each chapter to help listeners of the audiobook better understand lean as a system and how they can implement to tools in their own organization. More »
Books by Tom Ehrenfeld
The Gold Mine Trilogy Study Guide The Gold Mine Trilogy Study Guide
A way for teams to improve their lean practice together through reflection on the Ballé novel trilogy: The Gold Mine, The Lean Manager, Lead With Respect More »