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Organizational Learning Systems, Inc.


Organizational Learning Systems, Inc. is a specialized practice offering lean systems education and organizational development support. In addition to manufacturing, the portfolio includes construction and healthcare, two areas requiring advanced, customized solutions grounded in their own, specific value propositions. On the basis of original research at Toyota and other leading companies conducted since 1994, OLS has created a lean systems model that leverages the four factors of lean enterprise competitiveness: superior value proposition, lean governance, coupled systems work flow, and discretionary employee contributions. 

In addition to education, training and coaching, special emphasis is given to lean transformation support in two areas: 

          • strategy design assistance for new transformations; 
          • diagnostic and regenerative interventions in underperforming or stalling transformations. 

With estimates that at least 70% of lean implementations are jeopardized, timely attention to obstacles and targeted remediation are essential to avoid costly financial implications and, perhaps even more consequential, distrust, cynicism and apathy across the workforce. Institutional memory threatens to perpetuate such effects for a generation. Over 30 years of research experience on organizational culture and systems support these areas of practice. 

The Principal
Joachim Knuf

joachim.knuf@leansystemsdesigncom | Phone: +1 (859) 559-5345

Dr. Knuf founded Organizational Learning Systems in 1998. He is a former Associate Professor for Organizational Communication at the University of Kentucky; prior to that, he served on the faculties of The Ohio State University and the University of Bonn.


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 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. He is now training and consulting full time.


Dr. Knuf received his doctorate in social anthropology from the University of Oxford. He maintains an active research program focusing 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. A series of ten unique three-hour programs on lean systems was broadcast internationally by the National Technological University. During his tenure at the University of Kentucky, Dr. Knuf was recognized repeatedly as a Master Teacher and also received its highest teaching award.

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