Video Interview with LEI’s Jim Womack


Jim Womack visited  Lantech, a manufacturer of stretch wrappers and other packaging equipment. While there and visiting the “gemba,” Jim was interviewed about Lean, what he saw at Lantech, and Toyota's recent problems.

You can see the interview  here, in five separate parts, or you can see the whole interview below, via YouTube.

In the coming week, I'll blog about Jim's keynote at the LEI Lean Transformation Summit, where he challenged the audience to focus more on “Lean management” (as opposed to Lean tools). He also challenged the Lean world to quit “floating in the wake of Toyota” – focusing more on experimental  PDCA; figuring out what works from your own experience  instead of just copying Toyota or doing things because Toyota says so. You may have read a similar message in his latest “e-letter.”

Here is the full video, via YouTube:


What do you think, of the video comments or his e-letter?

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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 think Jim is right. Many of the tools have been out there forever, yet the improvement, particularly in the healthcare sector where I work, has come very slowly. The difference, according to Mr. Womack and others (and from what I’ve seen) is how the relationship between management and the workers evolves from boss-worker to mentor-problem solver. In my humble opintion, Toyota’s secret has little to do with tools and much to do with enabling the worker to be successful.

  2. I completely agree with what Dr. Womack said, but frankly, I don’t think he was saying anything new that Dr. Deming hadn’t already said decades ago (although the style was different). Deming always emphasized as well the need for knowledge (especially profound knowledge), with knowledge being more important than tools. I remember hearing him roar something along the lines of: “A control chart is no substitute for brains.”

    One humorous side note: When Womack said near the end of the video that the management system needs to be “diffused,” someone listening with me got confused and thought he said “defused.” My response was: “We don’t need a good argument for lean management…” :)

  3. Hi Dean… This is what Jim said literally: “Tools only work in a management system that has the same logic as the tools.” I hear :”The tools were made to be used in flow production, and we need management to change to flow production first.”
    In my communications lately I have been emphasizing the fact that 13 years of using the tools in a “batch & queue” system gave us very marginal results. Only when we shifted to flow treatment did we see real benefits from Lean. Or am I using my “selective hearing aid”, because my experience made me biased toward that idea?

  4. Dear Sami Bahri, DDS: I think you are being overly specific by focusing on flow. First of all, I see “flow” itself as a tool, and in any case, Jim’s statement applies to it as well. Attempting to establish flow won’t work in a management system whose logic doesn’t permit flow, such as one, for instance, that relies on quotas or piecework, or in which individual departments are rated on production and thus push work out to the next department/process.

    But regardless as to whether or not you agree that flow is a tool, you are still being too specific. To see what I mean, consider a management system that includes as part of its logic: “People can’t be trusted.” Then using tools that rely on trusting employees won’t work in that system. Or suppose you have a management system in which the underlying logic includes the belief that every defect or mistake is to be corrected by finding the person who is to be blamed for it and taking corrective action against that person. You can’t reliably use root cause analysis and tools like the 5 Whys in such a system. Another example would be a system of management that relies on controlling people by attempting to motivate them with contingent performance awards and evaluates them via individual performance appraisals. The logic of such a system would promote competition at the expense of cooperation, thus inhibiting tools that rely on teamwork and collaboration (including flow). Job instruction training won’t work in a management system that moves people around to different functions to expedite work, but doesn’t leave time to train the employees first. And so on.

  5. Womack is bull sh***er extraordinaire! His consultant version of Leanis NOTHING like the Lean inside Toyota. He and his fellow bs consulting artists who were manufacturing expert/senseis and wrote books and most of them ‘deployed’ lean at companies NOW BANKRUPT, have invented consulting lean which takes parts of Toyota Production System and modifies it to their understanding. That is what an unbelieving world finds unbelievable.

  6. To Jon E. – Mr. You’re Going to Help Spend our Stimulus Money, what’s wrong with you, are you 12 years old? Bring some intelligence to the discussion, man. Mark’s blog normally has much more refined discourse than this, if you dislike Womack great, but you look like a moron.

  7. John M,

    I don’t hate Womack. Because of consultants like him I have been very successful as have others, in cleaning up the rubbish they spew. We need collosal failures like Womack and others who wrote books because they cannot be successful doing lean. Yes the results are in, the internet archives all the companies they used as references as many now being bankrupt. In fact alot of healthcare experts with 5 years hospital lean experience can be found last year on the web at some auto supplier. hmmmm. Consultants in many cases are those who have failed at business themselves and are better at telling others how to do than they are doing it themselves. My company is assisting many hospitals and others in deploying TOYOTA lean, not a puffed up consultant version destined for failure. TPS and TPDS actually works when not modified by consultants. Besides guys like Womack and others who complicated lean tools and their limited understanding could be part of the cause for Toyota’s problems today. Besides the interview is nothing but sales puffery, anybody with a public school C- understanding can see the staged interview. Hang tight there is a book coming out that will expose all these lean ‘master sensei’s’ in their own minds. It will not be good for many of these industry ‘experts’. The truth will come out and it is now starting.

  8. Jon – Well, you don’t seem like the type of person I would want to do business with. You’re throwing bombs and smearing people. You might be right, but your posts here and your sketchy website aren’t building much confidence in who you really are or what your real intentions are.

    What is up with your website name or company name? You’re milking our tax “stimulus” dollars? You’re not just an opportunist trying to make some bucks off of healthcare? Your “truth” seems to have a selfish motivation, to tear down others and try to appoint yourself (whoever the hell you are) as the true voice here.

  9. Curious commentary by Jon E. Just curious as to where he acquired his TPS expertise? I believe every discussion can be argued with opinion, but we should focus on facts. Toyota sensei have not been much more successful in teaching other companies to do TPS. I worked at Toyota 10 years and don’t remember the belly laughs, but I know that the general consensus inside Toyota (amongst the Japanese) is that others outside Toyota just don’t get it.

    Just a question for Jon E. I would like to see a long-term history of “success” from the organizations you have worked with. It is relatively easy to achieve some level of “success” (like the junk drawer example on your web site) in the first few years. Once the low fruit has been picked most organizations lack the fortitude to continue the journey. So do you have “success” stories or organizations you have supported who have been on the journey for 10 years or more? If so I would like to know of them.

    Also it is important to understand that the Toyota Way is both a thinking process and a unique set of behaviors, both of which are often opposite of our human nature and instinct. It is challenging to recondition our though and behavior patterns which makes what Toyota has done even more unusual. BUT we can also see that there are weaknesses in these patterns as well. Alas, there is no perfection on this worldly plane. The mindset of Toyota is to STRIVE for perfection, and to relentlessly compress the processes so that any weak point is exposed, and then to utilize the power of kaizen to resolve the problem. Sounds easy, but in my experience there are many pitfalls that block the process. Interestingly, Toyota has build countermeasures into the process to minimize the natural blind spots and shortcomings in our thinking. Unfortunately most people do not understand these things, and if they do lack the discipline to actually change behavior.

    So this begs the question- is it poor consultants, or normal human shortcomings that create the challenge? Or some of both. As for Jon E. it is strange that there is no mention on your web site as to who you are and where you learned what you know. I am curious. Must not be Toyota, because if so you missed one of the important lessons. A core value of the company- to maintain a humble attitude.

    Rather than bash others why not try to contribute to the conversation in a meaningful and helpful way?

  10. David – thanks for chiming in as a level head and a former Toyota guy. I’ve had some private email exchanges with Jon E. and I’m going to try to learn more about who and what they are. I’ll stay out of it otherwise, I think.

  11. Dear All (except Jon E.),

    Thank you for adhering to the essence of TPS: respect for people and continuous improvement and learning. I would suggest that Jon E. does the same by handing his feedback directly, factual and respectfull to Jim Womack so Jim can work on the things he might have to learn. I none, at least it will be a great learning experience for Jon E.

    With this Check and Act for Jon E., I hope we can close this PDCA and get back to the real important this like saving lifes by creating lean healthcare

  12. To David Meier:

    According to your websites you have 10 years experiences at Toyota and one that says you were a Group Leader at Toyota for 10 years…Bull Shit???? Maybe???

    David Meier has supported pretty much EVERY INDUSTRY from what his websites state, I mean he has done it all! Wow and he basically list every industry around the world as an internationally recognized expert on Lean and TPS, again according to his websites. Wow 10 years experience at Toyoa makes you an expert? Bull shit. Dave Meier again sates he has worked with the largest companies and small privately held companies too. Just how many companies can a self proclaimed expert work with and write books? Well according to David Meier well use your imagination. He deflects his referenceabilitiy by questioning others. Oldest trick in consulting. Worked for Toyota as a whetever or palstics engineer??, and ended up as a Group Leader, quits and then off to help a bird feeder company according to his website. Has anyone contacted Toyota and verified David as a voluntary quit Group leader? Who is the international organization that recognizes David as an expert? Toyota? hahahahah now that is funny. You experts, many of you will be exposed when the book comes out and you can start explaining to your clients after your family and friends, and then those who look up to you. The Toyota Supplier Support Center doesn’t remember the expert and David would have went in two by two or more to visit his plastic suppliers. Somebody just might be fooling someobody and if there is some buddies and pals club thing going on(there is) then there might be a lot of dominos falling which might not be good fo rlean consultatns for quit a few months. Say what you want and cover up fo ryou buddies but the results are in or shall we say little results are evident. I will say it once more. As long as the likes of Womack, Meier, Liker and others are out there, it is the best thing for authentic lean practitioners. I toured the new Uof M Motts Hospital and with all the lean folks created in that orginazation it is far from lean. In fact UofM has created an entire department and dozens of people who are poorly trained. Liker is associated with UofM but UofM is one of the poorest lean examples I have ever witnessed. I must say after sepaking with doctors and nurses and other hospital folks(while visiting a family member) it is the biggest farse in lean healthcare. I still laugh with many of the people when I see them occasionally. Unbelievable. Maybe they could use some real lean facilitation for some real tangible results? Keep up your excuses and chatter out here, your websites and touts on the internet have been archived and they will be exposed if there is any puffery. Not by me or my organization, we need your sophisticated approach to lean and your staged interviews on Youtube. Keep it up it is entertaining and funny for sure. Say hi to Jeff and Jimmy the other experts you guys play with. Unbelieveable but funny the horse shit you guys do to get business. Just so you know people are begging us to engage because of phoney results and consultants. In that case, thanks again all you book writing self experts.

    • Jon – I am not going to delete your comments, but please go away if you are planning on continuing to shout at people here. Yeah, I fear “the truth” as you call it. I want this site to be a repspectful, intelligent community. John M., I’ll ask you to behave too.

    • Jon – I have never written such a book, speaking of “facts”.

      Actually instead of going away, please do tell us about YOUR experience an what makes you the world’s top expert in TPS. You are nothing but a name and a screamig voice – have a bio or LinkedIn profile??

  13. Sorry about the grammatical incongruities. Typing on an iPhone quickly is fun but mistakes can manifest. But I am sure the point facts are evident. Now go back to writing another book blaming others or the companies on why your facilitation didn’t work.

  14. Mark,

    I, too, am very curious about Mr. Edwards and of the organization that he is listed as the president. No “About Us” page. No address. No phone number. Nothing shows up in web searches. A search for Jon Edwards & Lean shows only 1 hit – your blog! Nothing for Jon Edwards & Healthcare. It’s as if this company, or whatever or whomever they are, suddenly appeared out of nowhere.

    I also get a kick out of one “testimonial” from his/their single web page, the one from a “William D. Sloane” who, coincidentally enough, shares the very same name as William D. Sloane, benefactor of the Sloane Hospital for Women at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

    If he is truly “cleaning up the rubbish” of others then I would love to learn from his successes. Hopefully he’ll provide some.

  15. Tom – his site hides behind a proxy registration through GoDaddy. He has refused repeated attempts to answer anything about his background. I assume he is a fraud or somebody’s idea of a prank.

    That said, I’m going to give a call on Monday to the name and phone number given to me by Jon.

  16. Well I am not one to debate foolishness with fools, but Mr. Edwards should get facts before shouting off. I was hired at Toyota in Georgetown, KY on June 22, 1987 as a group leader in the Plastics department. I was a G/L in Plastics until I resigned on Jan 27, 1997 so not quite 10 years. I left Toyota voluntarily to do consulting with RWD Technologies and was working with Ford at the time.

    I have worked with all the companies and industried listed on my web site. Actually it is a rather short list. I have done training sessions with many other companies, but do not list them because it is not lean support really. So in 13 years it is not so many. Also I work with companies for a few years and taper off the support over time. In some cases I have other associates continue, in some cases my work is done to a point.

    I would say Mr. Edwards that at least my info is available and if you would like to visit any of the companies or talk to anyone I can happily provide references. I would love to talk to the successful companies you are supporting as I would like to learn lessons that may help me. But I am afraid that it is not possible to find out who you are. Also I would like to see this special book. I am always interested in others ideas. Can you arrange to send me an advance copy? Did you write it? If not, who did? It seems a great mystery. I personally have no worries about being exposed or whatever.

    Oh and if you did write the book may I suggest an editor. Your grammar is very poor. And I do not think they are typos from an Iphone. You used “seen” in a sentence which is pretty bad. As in “I seen”. I may not know much but I have better grammar!!

    p.s Both books I wrote took about a year while I was still working. It is amazing what one can accomplish when on an airplane and evenings when sitting in a hotel. I have a picture of me sitting in a bathtub on vacation doing the final edit. I had to find a place early in the morning while my family was sleeping. But really if you are so capable you should understand how to work and write at the same time. You seem to have plenty of time for your rants here, but less time to acquire facts. Next time you question my information I suggest you check the facts first. Or did you not learn that from Toyota? Did you even work for Toyota?

  17. The intial post was to declare it looked like the Womack inerview was staged. Thus making this site like so many others appear to look like an independent blog, but in all sincerity it is a staged wizard of oz like production/advertisement as are the HPP blogs adn others etc. Put upa web blog with all the contributors working for you. Gezz sounds anything but innovative. Anyhow I have to get to real work. Have a good week masquerading behind the blog, it gets more interesting as more posts suddenly pop up, cheering almost like Beatlemania all over again but for your own ‘experts’.

  18. One other thing. Sent the link to a friend of mine who is a forensic specialist who specializes in body language and facial expressions. He says Womack is weak in confidence and there might just be a little bit of BS in his interview. Really! No way…

  19. Jon, I’ll ask you again to please go away. I don’t think your comments here are helping your case or your professional reputation, but that’s up to you to live with.

    You’re free to start your own blog with whatever you content you want to share. This blog, by the way, is not and has never been a property of the LEI. I started it on my own in 2005 and it remains independent, although I work for LEI. I don’t receive one bit of direction from LEI about what to blog about or what comments to post or leave up. My regular readers know I’m just as likely to feature others from the lean world as I am to feature an LEI person.

    An anonymous man, Jon Edwards, who won’t reveal anything about his background, hiding behind an anonymous “expert”… interesting. I’ve shared your emails and posts with a communications expert who suggests you are weak in spelling and spell-check use.

    I am an open book. You can read about my background and history in my blog profile, on LinkedIn, etc. I’m not hiding behind anything, but you are, Jon. Come out from behind the curtain, or just go away.

  20. Tom – since you mentioned the Sloane name, I thought I’d check some other names that appear as references on Jon E’s site. Googling the “board member” doctor bring up zero google results (odd, since most doctors appear in some directory or some such):

    There is a 62-year old Victor R. Bernstein in NY, I guess he could be a hospital board member. There are two Victor Bernsteins who are both mental health physicians in CA and IL.

    Dr. Linda Johnson, MD (I don’t think you normally say both Dr. and MD) is too common of a name to be verifiable, as are the other names listed. I, too, would ask Jon to come out from behind the bushes and reveal more about who he is. What a pest.

  21. Tom and Peter – I’ll up the ante and call shenanigans on the “William D. Sloane” testimonial.

    Also, Dr. Bernstein supposedly says: “What is more interesting is that the manufacturing companies they touted as having ‘deployed’ lean tools enterprise wide in many cases, were bankrupt.”

    Jon Edwards cites the bankruptcies (I assume of companies like Delphi) in his comment above and his emails to me.

    It seems that the quote was either written by Jon or it’s a total fake. I would bet money on total fake.

    The full endorsement:

    “”I can not thank you enough for spending the time in giving our executives the high level presentation of Lean Health Care and the ad hoc ‘Problem Solving’ course that ensued. While researching other Lean Health Care companies, none of them had the experience and depth as yours. Although your costs were the most competitive, we noticed the other companies Lean Health Care Professionals, some who even wrote books, had more of a Lean Manufacturing backgrounds and appeared to overnight become Lean Health Care experts. What is more interesting is that the manufacturing companies they touted as having ‘deployed’ lean tools enterprise wide in many cases, were bankrupt. We do not have the time to waste in rolling out our system wide mandates for 2010-11. That is why after careful consideration, we decided to single source your services. We look forward to a healthy and profitable relationship in 2010 and 2011.” Best regards, Dr. Victor R. Bernstein, D.O., Board Member ”

    Jon complains too much about BS and things being “staged.” I think he’s projecting a bit based on his own behavior.


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