Lean Enterprise Institute Announces New CEO


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The Lean Enterprise Institute (a former employer of mine from 2009 to 2011) has announced a new CEO, the third in their history following founder James P. Womack and his successor, John Shook.

Their press release:

Lean Enterprise Institute Names Eric Buehrens New CEO

The start of the release:

“The nonprofit Lean Enterprise Institute, a global leader in lean thinking and practice, today announced the appointment of Eric Buehrens as its new CEO. The appointment took effect October 1, 2017.

A proven lean thinker and leader, Buehrens led lean transformations at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he served as COO and Interim CEO, and at Reliant Medical Group, a Massachusetts group medical practice, where he was COO.”

As for “Shookie,” as he's sometimes affectionately referred to as (not by me):

“Outgoing CEO John Shook will remain active as chairman of the LEI Board of Directors. He noted that “it made sense at this time” for LEI, which marks its 20th anniversary this year, to separate the chairman and CEO positions to give each executive time to do more work with Partner companies and in the lean community at large.”

Buehrens also introduced himself to the “Lean community” through this post:

How Are We Doing? And Other Questions for the Lean Community from LEI's New CEO, Eric Buehrens

He presents himself as a humble leader… and a learner:

“So, I approach my new role at LEI first and foremost as a learner. I've been a lean practitioner and leader — of modest impact. I've sat in the leadership seat for many years, charged with the responsibility of turning big, bureaucratic organizations into learning organizations that practice kaizen and respect the wisdom of the workers who create value for the customer.”

Running an organization like LEI doesn't necessarily require being a thought leader like Womack or Shook. I hope the transition goes well and that Shook has more time to share his reflections and thoughts with us through articles and other media.

I might have met Buehrens in passing, but don't claim to know him or know much about him. He has been on the LEI board, so he has familiarity with the organization. He also worked for Paul Levy, when Levy was CEO of Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Levy was a champion for their Lean transformation (as he had blogged about over the years).

I appreciate that he's asking for input and feedback… feel free to post a comment there on The Lean Post or share your comments below (probably better to share them directly to LEI).

“My questions to all will be: are we doing what you need us to do to help you advance on your lean journey? Where are we creating value for you? Where are we not? What should we grow and emphasize — and what should be left behind? In what ways are we on the right path, or need to change and evolve?”

I'll think about this question and might share some additional thoughts… in general, I'd like to see more thought leadership around issues of effective change. I'm going to blog about this separately, but I see people even like Jim Womack recently write articles that seem to blame people for not changing. That's not helpful and it's not state-of-the-art thinking on that subject.

It's encouraging that LEI has, for example, sponsored a webinar by Ron Oslin, a former Toyota leader, on the topic of “motivational interviewing” — an approach that's very compatible with Lean and “Respect for People.” As I learned in Ron's workshop, “MI” is also an unheralded part of the Toyota management approach. I'm going to be doing some podcasts with Ron and the authors of the book Motivational Interviewing for Leadership.

Learn more about MI on this page I've put together.

Here is the post about Shook becoming CEO, from 2010:

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

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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. Thanks for sharing this news, Mark. I hadn’t heard, but I’m excited and find it interesting that LEI’s two top leaders now are both long-time healthcare people. I wonder if it’s a sign of the times in some way, perhaps a signal that healthcare rather than manufacturing or other services is where we’ll find the most innovation in applying lean thinking for the next so many years.


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