Lean Baby Names?


Our friend and sometimes blogger Bill Hanover posted a comment a few days ago about the arrival of a baby boy – congrats. He joked about “Lean” names, so I'll share a few suggestions (and feel free to submit some):

  • Henry Ford Hanover (would start off Lean, but would drift away after early-life success)
  • Frederick Taylor Hanover (would be great with efficiency, not so good with “respect for people”)
  • Edwards Deming Hanover (ah, the little baby guru)
  • Gary Convis Hanover (honoring a recent Toyota retiree)
  • Womack Jones Hanover (a “Lean Thinking” baby)

Any other suggestions would just get sillier…

I guess a good Lean principle to go by is to choose a name that is “clear and unambiguous”, avoiding complications and the waste that comes with it. Some problems to avoid:

  1. Risk of misspelling (cause the waste of rework)
  2. Risk of mispronunciation
  3. Being mistaken with other people (many parents are “googling” potential names to make sure there aren't embarrassing or overly common matches)
  4. Being hard to say (first and last name combination)
  5. Corny names (like “Wrigley Fields“) that will bring teasing
  6. Bad duplication like “Robert Roberts” (yes, I knew a Bob Roberts in high school)

On those criteria… my name is often misspelled (“Graben” or “Grayben”) or often mispronounced. There *is* another Mark Graban out there, but it's never caused confusion. The “k” in “Mark” sometimes blurs into the “G” in Graban, making my name sound like “Mark Rayben,” leading to errors with #1 and #2. This leads to a fair amount of rework and extra motion in my life.

Mom, Dad, I love you anyway :-)

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. A lean name should be quick, to the point, and solves the problems that lots of people have with remembering, spelling, and pronouncing names. I suggest “Bob”. Nearly every language has a “B” sound. the “O” in the middle is unlikely to be replaced by another vowel. Poke yoke you ask? If you spell it backwards, it still works.

  2. Hi Folks,

    Thanks for having a little “Lean name fun” with us. You have helped us pick a great name…

    His name will be “Kaizen Kanban Hanover.”

    Ok, I have to admit, that may be a little over the top, and my wife vetoed it immediately ; – )

    Instead, we have chosen “Jason Benjamin Hanover” as his “less than Lean” name.

    Of course, in true Lean tradition, we will probably call him “J” or “Ben” so we don’t have all those extra syllables to mess with ; – )

    Since he is our 8th child, experience and taught us that you need to pick a name you can yell in a hurry so you can avoid tragedies; i.e., “J, get your butt away from the road”…”J, don’t touch that, it’s hot”…”J, don’t embrace the waste, improve… and so on.

    Thanks for playin’ with us!


  3. My wife is still 7 months from giving birth but we’re already playing the name game, so I was glad to see the lean principles for baby naming. The short-so-one-can-yell-principle has always been a key criterion.

    Living in China, I’m also keen to pick one that works in Mandarin. Unfortunately, ‘Bob’ doesn’t, can’t end a syllable with many consonant sounds we think would be easy.

    Congrats on your 8th!


  4. Here’s one Mark didn’t think of…but no fault of his since most people are just learning this name for the first time:

    Channing Dooley Hanover: honoring the director of the TWI service in WWII…will be born saying “If the baby hasn’t learned, the parent hasn’t taught”

    Fails the lean test on spelling and pronunciation though.

    Having a new baby myself, I actually believe that statement to be true, and have used my TWI JI experience already. Just this morning I “instructed” the little 8 month’er how to brush his teeth. He couldn’t decide whether to watch me directly or in the mirror. And I’m not sure if he got quite all the key points, but I’ll keep instructing until “I know the baby knows”. Priceless…



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