Congratulations to Jeff Liker on his Retirement from the University of Michigan

Mark’s Note: Last month, I was notified about Prof. Jeff Liker’s retirement from the University of Michigan after 35 years. I wasn’t able to attend the reception for him, unfortunately. But, my friend and former J&J colleague Debra Levantrosser was able to attend and sent this report. 

Check out Debra’s Lean radio show on the Michigan Business Network. She also has a very cool food truck in Michigan – the all-vegan Shimmy Shack. As she says, it’s vegan, it’s American… It’s “Veg-American.” Check it out!


By Debra Levantrosser:

On May 15, 2017, Dr. Jeffrey Liker’s retirement from academic life at the University of Michigan (U of M) was celebrated and I was fortunate enough to be there and say a few words to my mentor.  The ceremony took place in the Lurie Engineering Building on a beautiful day on the campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan where snacks (even vegan ones!) and cake were served. The room was full of colleagues, students, industry friends, admirers and fellow researchers.

Photo by Debra Levantrosser — Jeff cutting his cake, the Lean way — or the Toyota Way?

For 35 years, Dr. Liker has been bringing his research, knowledge, learnings and networking to the students of U of M, but also to the depths of industries around the world.  I have seen his 15 books and 65 peer-reviewed articles on plant floors, hospital units, government offices, law enforcement vehicles and countless other locales.  Not many professors can say they have books for sale in airports across the world!

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Each speaker brought a unique twist to their relationship with Jeff. Tanja Fessell, Lean consultant at Michigan Medicine (formerly the University of Michigan Health System), spoke to Jeff’s love of guitar playing and singing James Taylor songs. She suggested that his next book could be “Singing James Taylor The Toyota Way.”

Photo by Debra Levantrosser — Jeff and his wife, Deb

Mark Daskin, Chair of the Industrial and Operations Engineering Department, spoke of Jeff’s research and his twist on industrial engineering from the cultural and people perspective.

I spoke of Jeff’s impact on industry. It was no joke when I said his books had made it to plant floors and government offices – I saw this first hand over the last two decades.

The crowd had a belly laugh when we said there were so many admirers that we should call them the “Likerettes,” as shown below.

Photo courtesy of Debra Levantrosser, second Likerette from left. In the middle is Mike Rother, not kicking, to the right are Jeff Liker and Rich Sheridan, CEO of Menlo Innovations.

Jeff makes some remarks…

Jeff has done so much for me personally that I had to end with an appropriate analogy. If the optimist says the glass is half full and the pessimist says it is half empty, Jeff Liker says the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

I was honored to be a part of the celebration of a man whose work has touched so many of us.

Here’s the program from the reception:


This is Mark again… thanks to Debra for her report. I want to also express my thanks and gratitude to Jeff for his work, including his books, over the years. I trust he will remain busy doing things that he enjoys professionally.

Here are some links to previous podcasts he has done with me (maybe I can get him to join me again to share some reflections and future plans):

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LeanBlog Podcast #3 — Dr. Jeffrey Liker

LeanBlog Podcast #4 — Dr. Jeff Liker, Part 2, Lean Healthcare

LeanBlog Podcast #37 – Jeff Liker, Toyota Culture, Part 1 of 3

LeanBlog Podcast #39 – Jeff Liker, Toyota Culture, Part 2

LeanBlog Podcast #41 – Jeff Liker, Toyota Culture, Part 3

Podcast #111, Jeffrey Liker on Toyota’s Challenges and His New Books

Thanks for sharing your time and thoughts with me, Jeff!

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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