John Shook to Replace Jim Womack as CEO of Lean Enterprise Institute


By now, you may have read the news release and/or e-letter (scroll way down) from the Lean Enterprise Institute that announces founder and chairman James P. Womack is stepping down as CEO of LEI, to be replaced by longtime LEI senior advisor, and former Toyota manager, John Shook.

It's an understatement to say that Jim has played an important role in helping share and promote lean thinking around the world – shifting from “lean production” to the lean enterprise and lean healthcare.

Thinking back, I first met Jim in 1998 as LEI was being formed. I was a graduate student at MIT and Jim came to his former stomping grounds to give a guest lecture. In 2006, I recorded a few podcasts with Jim via phone and, upon seeing him in person in 2008, he made the droll comment that it was good to see that “that blogger” was indeed a real person who took up physical space. I've worked for LEI since June 2009 and my very first day there was memorable, as it was the day GM declared bankruptcy and we were able to chat about that over lunch.

Jim books have taught me a lot and have inspired me to lead change and to think creatively to move beyond “the way things have always been done. The Machine that Changed the World opened my eyes to what was possible in the auto industry, Lean Thinking helped me understand more general concepts and thinking that could be used in other settings, and Lean Solutions (I book I think is unappreciated) helped me see how Lean thinking could help more broadly in services and healthcare.

I'm waiting for someone to call me a brown-noser, but I'm excited that John Shook is taking over, as he knows LEI well and has a deep understanding of the Toyota management system from his time working there. I've learned a lot from John about the Toyota culture and management styles, as well as methods like A3 thinking.

It's time to recognize Jim's role but to also look forward to continually improving LEI that serves the needs of the lean community — as well as the needs of those who still haven't taken “the lean leap.”

You can read the LEI e-letter and press release here.

What are your thoughts and reflections during this transition? Your hopes for the future of LEI?

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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. Hi Mark,

    Jim Womack’s seminal books (Machine that Changed the Word and Lean Thinking) as well as the many excellent LEI reference books (Learning to See, Making Materials Flow, etc.) helped me to put lean within the “proper” context. Like many, when I first started applying lean I was nothing but a tool guy with a hazy perspective on the whole. Womack and LEI, along with my sensei and gemba-based experience, of course, have been invaluable.

    I trust and hope that John Shook will carry the “torch,” while infusing LEI’s considerable offerings and coaching with his deep knowledge and real world experience. I, for one, still have much to learn.

  2. I too find it deeply satisfying to see an “original” Lean researcher (Jim W.) succeeded by an “original” shop floor/organizational development kind of guy (John S.). Both have taught me and many much of what we know about Lean. Go John!
    /Dr. Pete

  3. Jim is leaving big shoes to fill. Some of his many accomplishments that I admire and appreciate are 1) his emphasis on leadership over tools; 2) his inclusiveness of all industries and functions into the lean community (not just manufacturing, and specifically auto manufacturing); and 3) his provocative questions to encourage deep thinking. I love his sense of humor too! As someone who works outside traditional lean (lean communications!), I’ve always felt welcome by Jim at the LEI leadership summits. I hope John is willing to set up a big tent.


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