Hyundai has a "Lean CEO"


Exec Shuffle: Hyundai Motor America Names Lean-Production Expert to Top Post

I wonder how other automakers would do having process thinkers instead of finance people in top posts?

John Krafcik, one of the foremost U.S. experts on lean manufacturing, has been named the new acting president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America. The unexpected announcement was made Monday.

Krafcik, 47, an American who worked on the International Motor Vehicle Program at MIT (immortalized in The Machine That Changed the World), replaces Korean Jong Eun Kim.

Krafcik is actually the one (not Womack or Jones) who coined the term “Lean,” during the IMVP research effort, describing the outputs of a process (Toyota's) that could produce in half the space, with half the labor, half the defects, etc.

Maybe the closest thing we had to a “Lean CEO” was Chrysler's Tom LaSorda, and that hasn't really worked out too well (maybe through no fault of his own).

It will be interesting to see how this works out.

In a somewhat related note — in all of the discussion and analysis of the Detroit Three bailout proposals, has ANY news article mentioned the role of Lean and the Toyota Production System in Toyota's success? I don't see any discussion (other than the blog world) about Toyota's management system being different… just the usual littany of excuses that explain away Toyota's success.

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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. I would argue that Alan Mulally is something of a “lean CEO.” His focus at Ford has been on improving quality and developing products people want to buy. First quarter was profitable for Ford, before the financial collapse. Mulally is also the only of the little three CEOs to say before Congress that he’s accelerating product development instead of cutting it, and that he only needs the loan as a hedge against things getting worse.
    Of course, he’s shown little ‘respect for people’ in layoffs at Boeing or Ford, or in his own salary.

  2. I don’t have the exact reference, but I thought the prologue in TMTCTW gives credit to Krafcik and I think I’ve heard Womack give him credit verbally.

    I saw Roos speak at an MIT event in Dallas back in late 2005. He was a good speaker with historical perspective on Lean, but it seemed like he hasn’t done anything since, as Womack and Jones have done.

  3. So Krafcik is the guy who’s to blame for calling it “lean manufacturing”. He couldn’t have come up with a worse name for a corporate initiative if he’d put his mind to it. #2 worst name -self directed work teams. #3 worst name – six sigma.


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