An illustration of puzzle pieces coming together to form a cohesive whole.
Lean (leen) n. 1. A business management approach for problem solving and process improvement. This is accomplished by creating groups of people who have expert status in various methods and carrying out projects through specific processes to reach financial milestones.

Student Jeffrey Hines learns Lean from the pros.

Lean Management is a term you’ve likely heard before. Though its principles are often considered a common sense approach, major auto manufacturers made it famous with their need to drive efficiency into complex processes on the shop floor. Once considered industry buzz in manufacturing, it blossomed into an approach that drives small, incremental changes in processes to improve efficiency and quality at any institution. Recent estimates indicate around 70 percent of companies are finding ways to “lean it out.“ 

Student Jeffery Hines, a senior accounting and finance major, received a faculty/student scholarship from the Lean Education Advanced Foundation to attend the Lean Summit. Professor of Practice Joel Tuoriniemi, J.D. accompanied Hines. A solid community of professionals from all over the country have been contributing to the implementation of lean principles in accounting for two decades and have built a very attractive depth of knowledge–a depth of knowledge Jeffrey was eager to tap into.

2nd and 3rd from left, Jeffery Hines and Joel Tuoriniemi with representatives from the Lean Summit.
2nd and 3rd from left, Jeffery Hines and Joel Tuoriniemi with representatives from the Lean Summit.  

According to Lean Enterprise Institute, the Lean Summit programs were launched to bring organizational leaders from human resources, sales, IT, research and development, and accounting, to work in concert with one another to “flow value across the organization.” We all know square pegs don’t fit well into round holes, and these summits have championed ways to make organizations fit together more like a laser-cut puzzle. Keynote speakers included Brian Decker, Player Strategist for the Cleveland Browns; Michael Ballé, author of Lead with Respect; and Jamie Flinchbaugh, author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean. 

Attending the Lean Summit, engaging, and networking is where it all came together for Hines, where he learned the value of lean methods and how they can be implemented not just in manufacturing, but in accounting as well. He learned about the challenges of implementing lean processes— especially within companies that are doing well. Industry leaders shared some of the struggles they had experienced incorporating lean practices and what successful implementation looked like.

When asked what spurred his interest in lean processes, Hines says, “I learned a lot about lean manufacturing in high school and how it works in a factory sense, but not in an accounting or by-the-books sense, so I was curious to see how it all ties into what I have been learning in college. I also read The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt—which is the major book about lean processes—and I found it quite fascinating.” 

"I think Lean processes will play a large role in my career, and I hope to be part of a team that can implement Lean across the company. "Jeffery Hines

Hines says, “Overall, it was an interesting experience. I met a lot of industry personnel who were trying to implement lean in their workplaces, and I learned about the trials they encountered.”

It is clear that Hines acts with vision and purpose. After completing his undergraduate degree next May, he plans to pursue graduate school and earn his CPA. He is confident his experiences attending the Lean Summit will contribute to his future career in accounting and, according to 70 percent of companies, he is exactly right. The skills and techniques he learned during that short week will be immediately implementable at the majority of companies he might work for all over the world. It’s a universal language at this point, one that Hines can feel proud to share with those he professionally encounters throughout his career. 

“I think lean processes will play a large role in my career, and I hope to be part of a team that can implement lean across the company.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.