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Lean Enterprise Institute

Six Sigma

Lean Enterprise Institute Founder James P. Womack to Step Down

After 13 years, CEO will be succeeded by John Y. Shook.

Published: Thursday, August 26, 2010 - 05:00

(LEI: Cambridge, MA) -- The nonprofit Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) has announced a CEO succession plan in which James P. Womack, Ph.D., founder, chairman, and CEO, will step down on Sept. 27. Womack, who led the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) research team that coined the term “lean production,” founded LEI in 1997 to advance lean principles around the world and in all types of businesses.

LEI senior advisor John Y. Shook will become CEO and chairman of the board of directors. The management transition, which will occur at the regular September meeting of LEI’s board, concludes a two-year process of succession planning.

“I have always known that no leader should stay too long,” says Womack. “I believe that now is the right time to move forward with our transition plan as LEI prepares to launch the next phase of its life. There is no one better qualified than John Shook to implement that new phase. He combines deep lean expertise with management experience. He is the perfect combination of lean thinker and executive.”

Lean thought leadership

“I am honored that Jim and the board of directors are entrusting me to lead LEI in its next phase,” Shook says. “For 13 years Jim has set a high standard for all of us. His energy and thought leadership inspired LEI and the global lean community to do great things. I look forward to building on this strong foundation. LEI’s nonprofit mission will not change; we will continue to promote the application of lean thinking around the world to every type of service and industry, indeed, to every human endeavor. While the mission will remain the same, LEI will be flexible to adapt to meet the changing needs of the lean community.”

LEI board member Peter Ward, professor and department chair of the department of management sciences at The Ohio State University, confirms the suitability of LEI’s new CEO. “John Shook is the perfect successor to Jim Womack,” he says. “John has been a mentor to LEI since its launch, one of its most influential authors, and a champion of its nonprofit educational mission. The board looks forward to his leadership.”

John Shook

Shook was the first American manager at Toyota’s headquarters in Japan, general manager of planning and administration for Toyota’s engineering center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the senior American manager at the Toyota Supplier Support Center in Lexington, Kentucky. He helped Toyota transfer its management system to North America and around the world.

Shook has written or co-authored several important lean management books and articles. He is co-author of LEI’s classic Learning to See workbook (LEI, 1999) that established value-stream mapping as the tool used around the world for identifying and eliminating sources of nonvalue-adding activities and for system redesign. In Managing to Learn (LEI, 2008), Shook described for the first time the dynamics of lean management and leadership and how they are supported by the A3 management process.

He also co-authored Kaizen Express (LEI, 2009), a practical guide to the fundamental elements of the Toyota Production System (TPS), the first comprehensive lean business system. He helped translate into English The Birth of Lean, a compilation of first-person accounts by the Toyota executives who created TPS. He has written numerous articles and book chapters, is a frequent presenter at major conferences, and has authored the Lean Management column for LEI’s website. Shook is a lifetime member of the Shingo Academy and serves on the Shingo Prize board of governors. He is a member of the board of Adrian Steel Corp. in Adrian, Michigan, and the nonprofit International Student Conferences based in Washington, D.C.

James Womack

Ground-breaking books co-authored by Womack and Daniel Jones formed the intellectual basis of LEI. The best known are: The Machine That Changed the World with Daniel Roos (Harper Perennial, 1991),  Lean Thinking (Free Press, 2003), Seeing the Whole: Mapping the Extended Value Stream (LEI, 2002), and Lean Solutions (Free Press, 2005). Womack also wrote a popular monthly e-letter about lean management.

From 1975 to 1991, Womack was a full-time research scientist at MIT, directing a series of comparative studies of world manufacturing practices and he was the research director of MIT’s International Motor Vehicle Program. Womack also is a member of the Shingo Academy.

Although stepping down from his management role, Womack will remain at LEI, continuing to write and participate in research.

Ready for the future

Shook will build on LEI’s accomplishments of the past year, including:

• Launching the Healthcare Value Leaders Network, a nonprofit partnership with the ThedaCare Center for Healthcare Value to fundamentally improve health care through lean thinking

• Publishing two new books: On the Mend, about the application of lean concepts to health care delivery; and Building a Lean Fulfillment Stream, on how to apply lean concepts to logistics

• Organizing two popular conferences: the Lean Transformation Summit and Lean Healthcare Transformation Summit

• Introducing the Transformational Leadership Program and several new workshops, including programs for executives and senior managers


About The Author

Lean Enterprise Institute’s picture

Lean Enterprise Institute

Lean Enterprise Institute Inc. (LEI) was founded in 1997 by management expert James P. Womack, Ph.D., as a nonprofit research, education, publishing, and conference company with a mission to advance lean thinking around the world. The LEI associates teach courses, hold management seminars, write and publish books and workbooks, and organize public and private conferences. They use the surplus revenues from these activities to conduct research projects and to support other lean initiatives such as the Lean Education Academic Network, the Lean Global Network, and the Healthcare Value Leaders Network. Any company, organization, executive, or manager wishing to join the transformation to a lean way of creating value is welcome in LEI’s Lean Community.