The Debut of the “Lean Whiskey” Podcast


I've owned the domain names and for two years or so. That's not because I was going to get into the whiskey business like former Toyota guy David Meier.

I like Lean. I like Whiskey. I'll figure out what to do with the name, I thought. I wanted to call the 2018 event where we visited Toyota and Garrison Brothers distillery a “Lean Whiskey” gathering, but a “Symposium on Learning Organizations” was a more corporate-friendly name. had been pointing to that archive page.

Mark and Jamie

But, now Lean Whiskey is a podcast that Jamie Flinchbaugh and I have started. I've kicked this idea around with a few people… that it would be fun to do a podcast that more's friendly and more conversation (and a bit looser in format and tone) than the formal interviews I've been doing since 2006 in my “Lean Blog Interviews” podcast.

With my interviews, I'm sometimes talking with an old friend, but more often it's somebody I barely know. And that leads to interesting discussions. I'm going to keep doing these.

But, Jamie and I have known each other for 20+ years and we have a lot in common… we went to the same program at MIT (him one year before me), we love trying to help people learn and improve through the Lean approach, and we enjoy a nice whiskey.

So, “Lean Whiskey” is sort of like a one-on-one “Lean Coffee” if you're familiar with that format. We plan some topics… we each pour a whiskey, and we gab and shoot the breeze in a way that's meant to more fun than formal. Our goal is to do these every month or two. There are times when one of us will record Lean Whiskey with another old friend (even if they're drinking iced tea).

In each episode, we'll talk about something in the news, we'll answer a listener question (submit one here), and we'll share tales from the Lean consulting road, and more.

Oh, and each time, we'll each have a whiskey that we'll talk about for a minute. That's sort of an ice-breaker, even we are drinking our whiskey neat. We're enjoying a whiskey together and having fun… not getting drunk and rowdy :-) If you don't care about whiskey, we'll hope you listen anyway (and you can fast forward through the brief whiskey chat if you like).


Here is the first episode if you want to stream it:

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Episode #1 Show Notes

In the very first episode of Lean Whiskey, Mark Graban and Jamie Flinchbaugh, longtime friends, lean thinkers, and whiskey enthusiasts, join forces to enjoy a casual conversation — mostly about lean and a little bit about whiskey.

In Episode 1, which we labeled as a “wet run” instead of a “dry run”, we share some of our joint interests, explore our whiskey choices, react to an article about lean in the news, and take a listener question. What follows are some topics and relevant links:

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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. Love it Mark! I too own a couple of whiskey domain names, but am saving those for future business potential!

    You and Jamie are both Lean visionaries and I have really enjoyed your thoughts and insight. I really need to set aside more time to listen to your podcasts, but will for sure make time to catch your next Lean Whiskey podcast.

    I’ll do my best to fit in with your whiskey theme as well. For this time I have chosen High West Bourye. Although sourced and blended from MGP in Indiana, High West, from Park City Utah, has been one of my favorites for a few years.

    Your discussion around which Lean tools to implement first was spot on. Starting small and where the greatest need is present vs. just picking a tool or following a set script really sets you up for future success and building an overall culture.

    Thank you Mark and Jamie for all that you do!

    Cory Strong

    • Thanks, Cory!

      I generally like to support and drink whiskeys that are distilled rather than sourced by the end bottler. That said, I have really enjoyed some of the High West whiskeys (like Campfire) and I understand they’re starting to distill more and more of their own over time, so I can respect that. I try to avoid the places that ONLY buy MGP whiskey… those places are more about marketing than craft production, and I’d rather support real producers. Making things!!

      • I have really struggled with the sourced whiskey phenomenon myself, but as a consumer have a hard time not recognizing the value that companies like High West, Whistlepig, Barrell, etc. add by finding that right mixture of sourced product that has produced some absolutely amazing whiskey. The interesting part, as you note, is that it really appears that these companies have been using this as a stop gap until whiskey that they have distilled on their own has matured and reached a quality level that they can start selling.

        There are some examples out there though of companies that have really taken advantage of this though and are selling inferior whiskeys at outrageous prices – and people are buying it up like mad because of the hype alone.

        Anyway, great job of bringing two passions of mine together into one arena!!

        P.S. If you ever get a chance, try Solder Valley True American 6 Bourbon. Distilled locally here in Omaha, with a unique history and focus on honoring military veterans. They own the patent on the WWI canteen and their bottles are the same shape. A group of friends and I have worked with the owner on a couple of improvement projects and are on our 4th barrel of our own whiskey with them. Not sure why I didn’t call this out earlier – just happened that I was drinking Bourye at the moment!

        • I’ve had whiskeys from 32 states out of 50 so far. Maybe some of those weren’t distilled in state, but they’re “from” the state in some way. Here’s my list… nothing from Nebraska yet

          The latest scam in the whiskey world is the result of the popularity of Japanese Whisky. The Japanese laws say a bottle can be labeled “Product of Japan” even if it’s really just imported Canadian whiskey-flavored vodka. And it sells for an inflated price. It’s global whisky arbitrage. Buyer beware!


    • Just brainstorming publicly… since Jamie and I record these through a Zoom video conference, we could invite people to share a drink and listen / watch live while muted in the Zoom meeting… I don’t know, we can always experiment.


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