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Why We Are a Nonprofit (And How You Can Benefit)

Jim Womack
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Every month I get calls and emails from folks thinking the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) is a consulting business and wanting to hire a sensei. And I get other calls and emails asking if we have a certification program for lean practitioners. (Lean Belts?) And I get still more calls and emails from Lean Thinkers searching for jobs and from firms seeking to employ lean experts, with both thinking we are some sort of executive search firm.

These are all fine tasks for other organizations, most of them operating for profit, but it's not who we are. So I thought I should clarify our purpose: We're a nonprofit research and education organization. We search for lean knowledge. We write the knowledge down in our workbooks. We teach the knowledge in our workshops and at conferences. And, most important, we network, network, network to raise consciousness and share the knowledge across the world.

The prime mechanism for knowledge sharing is our website atwww.lean.org. Recent inquiries make me wonder if most Lean Thinkers have ever explored this free material. So I thought I should describe its seven sections:

Forums provides a discussion space for Lean Thinkers to share knowledge on a wide range of topics. Currently 184 topics are open, with more than 1,100 postings, and you can configure the Forum to automatically send you emails informing you of new postings on topics of special interest. (Please remember that if you can't find an answer to your question in the Forum, Chet Marchwinski, our communications director, will try to get you an answer from the Toyota-trained experts in our network. Contact Chet at cmarchwinski@lean.org.)

Case Studies, written by Chet, describe in detail the methods recently used by Lean Thinkers to achieve breakthrough successes.

Jim Womack's Letters provides all of my monthly emails over the past years. (Just in case you misplaced one!)

Knowledge Center includes:

  • Articles and Columns
  • Our value-stream mapping icons.
  • Videos and Webinars
  • Forms & Templates
  • and much more!

The site includes an impressive body of information and it is all free. However the amount of material we can add in the future depends on you as well as LEI: We can't answer questions you don't take the time to ask and we can't widely share information that members of the Lean Community fail to share with us.

So let me conclude by expressing my high hopes for open sharing of all lean knowledge across our community. That's what a nonprofit is supposed to facilitate and that's how you can benefit. It's also how you need to help.

Best regards,


Jim Womack
President and Founder
Lean Enterprise Institute

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