No, not THAT “Lean” or THAT John Shook…


If you search the web or Twitter for common terms like Lean or thought leaders like John Shook or James P. Womack, you might shake your head a bit at what you find.

No, John Shook is not an outspoken atheist and “Lean” (at least as we're discussing it here) is not an illegal drug, comments about people getting addicted to continuous improvement aside…

Over the past 20 years, the word “lean”, at times, has hampered the spread of Toyota-inspired management methods, as people associate the everyday use of the term to mean things like cutting to the bone, not having enough resources, or just being “lean and mean.”

Now, there's an illegal street drug craze that's grown over the past few years, using the term “lean” (a.k.a “purple drank” and other names). I hope visitors to my Lean Blog aren't expected to read about drugs…

From this ABC report (in 2006) titled “Lean,” A New Hip High,” Brian Ross reports:

It's more than a drug; it's a culture. It's what's known on the street as “Lean,” a highly addictive cocktail of cough syrup, cold medicine, alcohol and candy — so potent it makes you “lean” over when high.

Yes, that's the illegal mixture that former NFL quarterback JaMarcus Russell was caught with earlier this year. No, the Lean Enterprise Institute is NOT a group that teaches people how to make and sell drugs. If you hear about a rap song called something like “Just Lean,” no it's not about TPS (link to lyrics, WARNING – bad/offensive words).

If you search Twitter for the hashtag #Lean – you get a strange mix of people tweeting about the Toyota Production System as well as people trying to find drugs. At times, it's about a 50/50 mix of TPS and codeine-filled cough syrup references.

Is this going to be a problem for the “Lean” (Toyota Production System) community? Do we have a “drug problem” developing? Do the people talking about drugs on Twitter wonder why us squares are talking about Toyota so much???

Also on Twitter, searches for John Shook bring up things that you might not expect the CEO of the Lean Enterprise Institute to be saying (like this tweet about atheism, safe for work). You might find references to a “Dr. John Shook”  – meaning this John Robert Shook, not the LEI's John Y. Shook. John Robert Shook is apparently a prolific lecturer and public speaker, being the author of books such as The God Debates: A 21st Century Guide for Atheists and Believers (and Everyone in Between).

Our LEI John Y. Shook is the author of less controversial books, such as Managing to Learn: Using the A3 Management Process.

Finally, twitter searches for James Womack will often bring up an inspirational quote that does NOT come the book Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation.

The quote you often see is:

“Commitment unlocks the doors of imagination, allows vision, and gives us the ‘right stuff' to turn our dreams into reality.” James Womack

Those words are from James E. Womack, a professor at Texas A&M University. LEI's James P. Womack might be inspirational, but he's not a biologist and he's known for other quotes.

On a more personal note, there *is* another Mark Graban – a guy in Los Angeles who is a teacher, I believe.

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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. And for those who are confused I am not the 18th century “Scottish surgeon regarded as one of the most distinguished scientists and surgeons of his day. He was an early advocate of careful observation and scientific method in medicine.” :-)


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