Organizational Learning Systems, Inc.

Applying Lean Thinking to Organizational Transformation

Research, analysis and remediation of complex workflows (production, service delivery, transactional support); continuous improvement methodologies; visioning; policy deployment (hoshin kanri); business process redesign; integrated project delivery; assessment of value stream interfaces with ancillary functions (product development, supply chain, distribution); accountable visual management systems; design of lean systems training and education programs from the executive suite to the clinic, service point, shop floor or office; development of lean champions; personal mentoring and executive coaching.


Joachim Knuf, DPhil

Lean Philosopher and Principal

Lean philosophy is the systematic study of lean thinking and its disciplined application by individuals and teams in lean systems practice, across industries, cultures and organizational roles. It is comprised of a theory of existence (the general nature of the lean system), a theory of knowledge (the dimensions and rules of lean thinking and the principles of its application), and a theory of ethics (the moral and social rules guiding everyday lean behavior). As a social anthropologist Dr. Knuf has investigated alternative modes of thought for over 40 years and taught at the Universities of Bonn, the Ohio State University and the University of Kentucky, where, from 1994 on, he dedicated his research and teaching to the advocacy of the lean philosophy for organizational transformation.


After first teaching the principles and practices of Japanese management at UK in 1989 and developing a comprehensive curriculum in organizational culture and leadership, he became one of the original architects of the model lean systems research and education program created at the invitation, and with financial and individual mentoring support, of Toyota Motor Manufacturing between 1994 and 2006, adding the position of Director of Lean Enterprise Development at the UK Center for Manufacturing to his duties. He left the University in 2006 and during the following decade served in corporate directorships leading three healthcare organizations in their lean transformation. He also gained global experience as an Operational Excellence practitioner in a leading global manufacturer. Today he is training and consulting full time as Principal of Organizational Learning Systems, a boutique consultancy he founded in 1998.


Dr. Knuf received his doctorate in social anthropology from the University of Oxford in 1986. His work focuses on the formulation of a comprehensive ideal model of the lean enterprise system, especially the contribution of human, structural, and strategic factors to value delivery and competitive differentiation. He promotes an integrated set of practical strategies that help businesses transform themselves through self-sustaining learning into dynamic customer- and performance-oriented organizations. Continuous improvement cultures grow from effective communication, strong relationships, respect, and trust grounded in clear governance structures and standards for operational and management work. 

Dr. Knuf shares his findings through training and advising leading domestic and international businesses, as well as industrial groups. He is a regular speaker at conferences and corporate retreats. During his tenure at the University of Kentucky, Dr. Knuf was recognized repeatedly as a Master Teacher and also received its highest teaching award.



November 4-7, 2019

Leading on the Edge

AME International Conference

Chicago, IL

"Lean Thinking: The Human Mind at Work"

Half-Day Workshop


October 29-31, 2019

Iowa Lean Consortium Fall Conference

West Des Moines, IA


May 21-23, 2019

2019 Lean Network Meeting

Ft. Wayne, IN

"Lean Fundamentals: Identification and Reduction of Waste"

Half-Day Workshop


"The Lean Office: Maximizing Value in the Transactional and Support Domains"


April 9-11, 2019

Leading through Excellence Summit 2019

Center for Operational Excellence, The Ohio State University

Columbus, OH

"The Role of 'Culture' in Lean Transformation"

Breakout Session

October 23-25, 2018

Iowa Lean Consortium Fall Conference

West Des Moines, IA

"Grow Value, Fight Waste! An Integrated Operational and Managerial Action Plan"

Half-Day Workshop

October 1-4, 2018

Lean Product and Process Development Exchange

Columbus, OH

"Standardization and Framing. Lean Thinking in Development Teams"


May 5-7, 2018

2018 Lean Network Meeting

Chattanooga, TN

"Lean Fundamentals: Identification and Reduction of Waste"

Half-Day Workshop

April 11-13, 2017

Leading Through Excellence Summit 2017

Center for Operational Excellence, The Ohio State University

Columbus, OH

"Understanding Lean Thinking: The Human Mind at Work"

Half-Day Workshop

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© 2019 by Organizational Learning Systems, Inc.

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