Lean Leadership

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When I founded the Lean Enterprise Institute nine years ago this summer I wanted to make the core lean knowledge available in easy to understand forms. My hope was that everyone could make faster progress toward creating organizations that create more value with less waste.

Looking back, I think we have done pretty well, although we've realized in the spirit of hansei (self-reflection) that nothing is ever good enough. We've produced a highly successful series of workbooks and an equally successful series of workshops on lean methods at the operating level. We've even produced a lean novel and we've run some very successful conferences in which we tried to rally the troops and build a sense of Lean Community. Perhaps most amazing because the technical capability for doing so arrived just as LEI was founded -- we have created a global Lean Community via the web that now has more than 88,000 members from 89 countries.

That's the good news, along with the financial health of LEI that the Lean Community has created through purchase of our products. But after some additional hansei this past year, we concluded that we need to do more. We've therefore decided to take a big leap in both the activities and the objectives of LEI that we are announcing today.

  • We will expand our range of publications to include the entire Lean Enterprise -- extending to product development, supplier management, customer touch, policy management, and management of the extended value stream. To do this I've asked Michael Brassard to join us as President of Lean Learning Materials. This is the new publishing arm of LEI where we hope to create workbooks, leader guides, videos, CDs, software, and anything else you may need to support the leaning of your entire enterprise. Michael has many years of experience developing learning materials in the quality movement and I'm sure we are now going to move much more rapidly to introduce new products than we could in the first nine years of LEI when I was single-handedly redirecting publications.
  • We will expand our range of teaching to reach from the shop floor to the executive level in a range of companies and industries. To achieve this I've asked Dave LaHote to join us as President of Lean Education. This is the new educational arm of LEI where we hope to find ways to engage change agents, general managers, chief operating officers, and chief executives in learning exercises showing how to create lean enterprises in both brownfields and greenfields and in a wide range of industries. Dave has had a 30-year career in industry, much of it at the general manager level, and we have worked on a number of lean transformation initiatives in the past. He has had a special interest in management education and I'm certain you will soon see the results both in our traditional workshops and in new types of education.
  • We will expand our knowledge of what it really takes to create a Lean Enterprise -- from the CEO down -- by launching a series of high-level partnerships with a range of companies. To lead this effort I've asked Dave Logozzo to join us as President of Lean Enterprise Partners. Dave and I have worked together closely over the past six years on the LEI/Delphi partnership where Dave led the Delphi effort as Executive Director of Lean Enterprise.

    You might think of Lean Enterprise Partners as the research arm of LEI in which we try to go beyond the current situation in which there is still only one Toyota despite efforts by many members of the Lean Community to take a lean leap. We will be testing hypotheses about the critical changes in management, leadership, and organization that are required to equal Toyota's performance or to do even better. We will present our findings about lean leadership in future LEI publications and public events.
  • A final element of the new LEI is the appointment of Helen Zak, our Chief Operating Officer, to the additional role of Director of Lean Events. Helen will be organizing a series of conferences, some public and some private, where we will be sharing our mutual experiences about lean leadership and the lean journey as we bring all of the elements of the new LEI together.

I'm truly excited about our new adventure with a larger crew and in a new headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (As it happens we are across the street from the MIT building where I worked for nearly 20 years, so I feel like I've come home.) While I'm certain we will be doing a better job of providing leadership to the Lean Community, we will always depend on your frank feedback about how we are doing, in the spirit of hansei.

Best regards,

Jim Womack
Chairman and CEO
Lean Enterprise Institute

P.S.  Recently we've provided some practical advice on lean leadership in the form of our lean novel, The Gold Mine. On Thursday, May 11, authors Freddy and Michael Ballé and two senior executives with long records of lean leadership will discuss the leadership challenge in our second LEI webinar, "Making Lean Stick: What Do Lean Leaders Do?" This is a free service to members of the Lean Community and I hope you will be able to attend. [Editor's Note: You can find this and other webinars in our webinar archive.]

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