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Linking Lean Thinking to Education – Conference Notes

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Last week I attended the joint meeting of LEAN (Lean Education Academic Network) and EdNet (Lean Aerospace Initiative Education Network) in Worcester Massachusetts. Here's a link to the conference website:

There were about 75 participants at the meeting and I had the opportunity to meet and share ideas with lean practitioners from both academia and the aerospace industry from across the country. (there were also participants from Cardiff University in the U.K.). The conference was very thoughtfully organized and included keynote addresses by Dr. Jodi Hoffer Gittell, author of “The Southwest Airlines Way”; Bob Emiliani, author of “Better Thinking, Better Results” and Jim Womack.

There are several items from the conference that I want to share and expand on through the blog over the next few weeks, starting with some general observations and comments.

Discussion topics at the conference all centered around 2 major themes:

1. The need to incorporate the topics of lean, Six Sigma and related
theories into the curriculum for business and engineering students

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2. Improving the quality of education by applying lean theories and
principles to the administration, organization and delivery of course
work.

Surrounding these themes were several discussions on, among many other matters, how to affect change in curriculums; the importance of having educators who have industry and lean application experience; and how academia can learn from and work more closely with industry to provide opportunities for students to have learning experiences in real-world environments.

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For me, the major take-away is that a genuine Pull for graduates with an understanding of lean is starting to develop. Each of the industry organizations represented expressed frustration with the low level of knowledge and understanding and application experience new hires have in lean. To be sure these attendees represented organizations that are more advanced in lean thinking and practice than most, however their need for lean talent in new hires is very real, and very encouraging.

Look for more posts in the coming weeks on:
Lean Certification
– Improving Universities through lean
Applying lean tools to courses
Womack's vision of a ‘Gemba University'
– Teaching Vs. Providing an Educational Experience
– Notes from Raytheon tour
Interview with Bob Emiliani

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Luke Van Dongen

Luke, an auto industry engineering veteran, blogged here from 2005 to 2006.

3 Comments
  1. KMackenzie says

    Lean education should not stop with Business and Engineering students. I am pursuing my MS in Information Science and was also recently transferred to the Lean Office team at my company. My (manufacturing) company has embraced Six Sigma for many years – over 90% of the 500 employees have completed basic Continuous Improvement training. Each time I share continuous improvement fundamentals with my fellow students (and some instructors), they are blown away by the simple and effective concepts. I would posit that any advanced professional degree needs to include some sort of training along the Lean lines.
    I can’t wait for the upcoming columns!

  2. Ralf Lippold says

    I am also looking forward to upcoming information. Lean Thinking is still at the beginning in Germany (or should I say everywhere besides Toyota;-) and it would be a perfect way to get the initiative going by making the future employees, leaders and managers already aware of what LEAN right in their study time.

    The study field shouldn’t matter as LEAN principles can be used and accomplished in any field from service to production.

    Best regards from Leipzig

    Ralf

  3. Luke Van Dongen says

    Thanks for your comments. It’s somewhat logical that lean in education begins with engineering as lean itself began as a production system. However, I agree it’s when lean thinking is applied as an entire management system that true benefits to companies, shareholders, employees and society are realized. To get here, lean in education must evolve to the point where it’s application is universally applied to all subjects and disciplines.

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