Josh Howell's eLettersJosh Howell is president and executive team leader at the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI). Howell was an architect and implementer of a lean operating system for retail stores at Starbucks Coffee Company, where he also created a team of lean coaches who helped facilitate and sustain the transformation globally.
Encountering Problems and Resistance
October 13, 2020
The doctor entered with a comforting bedside manner. We small talked. She asked about my work and I answered, in short. “Lean? You mean that Toyota thing?” In spite of the mask, I could read ‘Oh Brother’ on her face. “Yeah, we tried that here.” read more »
The Hidden Value of Filling Out the Paperwork
September 8, 2020
Battle Creek, MI, where Toyota’s largest supplier Denso is located, was just added to my list of places to “go see” when the pandemic subsides. Why? Because I read about their use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) in creating standardized work. Jeffrey Liker reports on this example of Industry 4.0 in his upcoming revised edition of The Toyota Way (due out October 2020), an excerpt of which was published recently on the Lean Post. read more »
August 11, 2020
Living through a pandemic is giving me a new appreciation for the value of routines and how they come to be. On the one hand, while sheltering-at-home, I’ve developed and keep tweaking an extensive morning routine: wake up, pour a glass of homemade cold brew, read something and/or go for a run, clean myself up, plan out my workday, shoot off a few emails and messages on Slack, fire up Zoom, huddle up with my colleagues, and eat lunch with my family. I have never had this much consistency in my day-to-day. I’ve been a high-volume business traveler for the past decade or so. read more »
Being ‘Right’ is Not Enough
July 14, 2020
All of us have problem-solving experiences to reflect on and learn from. And what better time to draw out that learning than now, when we as a society are tackling massive problems like the coronavirus pandemic and racism. In my case, I keep thinking about one experience when I failed. read more »
Searching for a Path Toward Healing
June 9, 2020
Dr. Kiame Mahaniah, the CEO of Lynn Community Health Center, shares the message he wrote to his staff about finding a path toward healing after the recent spate of racial violence and resulting civil unrest. read more »
Solutions from Afar
May 12, 2020
The pandemic exposes the problems with problem-solving using traditional management thinking--and offers an opportunity to apply lean thinking to address the most critical issue of the day: how to keep employees and customers safe as we re-open for business. read more »
The Lab is Open
April 14, 2020
Why it's important to create a way to challenge assumptions and develop know-how, solve problems, and continuously improve--even during a crisis. read more »
In Lean We Trust; Especially in a Crisis
March 17, 2020
When phone calls and cancellations started coming in, the COVID-19 crisis became more than a news report about somewhere else. We knew we had our own situation to deal with. read more »
What is the value to be created here and now?
February 25, 2020
Karen Gaudet has written Steady Work (!), a wonderful new book about her experience as a regional director of operations for Starbucks Coffee Company. read more »
My Personal Turning Point: Reflecting on a Decade as a Lean Coach
January 14, 2020
Last year I sat in the offices of several "lean champions" at their companies, agents of change who are trying to instill lean thinking throughout their organizations. Each had been in the role for years. A hallmark of their offices was a corner filled with rolled up flip chart papers - artifacts of past lean activities like value-stream maps. And a hallmark of our conversations were expressions of frustration with others who were not sustaining changes or choosing to make any in the first place. I could relate. read more »
Grit, PDCA, Lean and other four-letter words
December 10, 2019
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of what author Angela Duckworth calls Grit. She defines grit as a sort of mash-up between passion and perseverance. What I’ve been thinking about is the way that grit overlaps with lean thinking and the sustained work of applying PDCA over many cycles over a sustained period of time. read more »
The Challenges of Coaching
November 12, 2019
I’ve stepped into a new role recently, assuming responsibility for a variety of new-to-me jobs. One of my new jobs is writing this monthly e-letter. For this job, and many others, I have a lot to learn about the work, leaving me wanting for some semblance of routine, however small. As a team leader (i.e. player-coach), I’m also responsible for supporting others who find themselves in similar situations. read more »
October 15, 2019
A few weeks ago, during a day-long meeting with an executive management team, the topic of standardized work came up … again. It’s been popping up in conversations rather frequently of late. read more »
A Revelation at the Gemba
September 5, 2019
During my travels this summer, both personal and for LEI, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the Institute’s 20+ year history while thinking about my role in shaping its future. I’ve also been talking to many of you, the members of the Lean Community, taking advantage of community gatherings like the annual Designing the Future and Lean Coaching Summits, to better understand your current challenges. I’m also meeting with potential collaborators who can help further LEI’s mission of advancing lean thinking via thought-leading content, experimentation, coaching, and training. read more »
Reflections from LEI’s New President, Josh Howell
June 3, 2019
Josh Howell, an experienced manager and lean management coach, is LEI’s new president and executive team leader. Read his note to the lean community and share your thoughts. read more »
Who, or What, Is Your Company Investing In?
After reviewing the stellar work by a frontline supervisor who improved the problem of rotisserie chicken running out of stock, Josh Howell asked: will technology work for your people, or the other way around?
Reach for Your Mind Before Your Wallet
Josh Howell shares how the lean principle of reaching for your mind before your wallet can mitigate risk through careful planning and a willingness to conduct experiments, noting that this kaizen mindset is particularly relevant when tackling today's most pressing challenges.
What's Your Lean Origin Story? And Why Does It Matter?
"I’m wondering, as a leader and a coach, how can I help others develop similar routines, propagating, for example, the principle of 'work/er first' or 'work/er-back,'" says LEI's Josh Howell. "Reflecting on that has taken me all the way back to my 'lean origin story.'"