Tauber Leadership Advantage: Powering Future Leaders with Lean Methodology

The Tauber Institute for Global Operations at the University of Michigan strives to provide its students with cutting-edge training and methodologies that are imperative in the dynamic world of operations and supply chain management. Living up to this mission, the Institute recently hosted an invigorating and highly interactive Leadership Advantage Workshop, “Intro to Lean”, facilitated by College of Engineering Lecturer Debra Levantrosser, known by students for her engaging teaching style and deep expertise in lean principles.

Second-year Tauber student Rachael White, MBA 2024, was inspired to bring this idea forward.

“I took Debra's Lean Manufacturing course this past fall and loved the course. I walked away from the course with concrete skills that I could and do use professionally and personally,” said White. “I realized during and after the course that not many MBA students or Tauber students had the opportunity to dive into lean methodologies at a deeper level and so many of the skills are incredibly transferable to work and school life, from summer internships to club management to post-graduation careers.”

White then took the initiative to bring forward the idea for an interactive workshop with Debra Levantrosser, with the support of the Tauber Institute. The focus of the workshop was multifold, with the core objective of demystifying lean concepts and equipping attendees with practical techniques and tools that can be applied not just in professional settings, such as internships, their Tauber team projects, and full-time roles, but also in personal life to foster continuous improvement.

Defining Lean for a New Generation

Lean methodology has evolved over the years to benefit a wide array of industries and disciplines. Levantrosser opened the workshop by defining lean in the context of today’s environment, reflecting this with an interactive team activity involving “bridging a gap” (literally).

Participants were then introduced to the concept of 'The 8 Wastes' which typify the non-value-adding activities in any process. The interactive segment encouraged students to identify and challenge these wastes within familiar systems and introduced “visual workplace” as a tool for tackling this waste. This led to organizing for efficiency with 5S. 5S, a systematic framework for organizing and optimizing the physical workspace, was explained and practiced. The workshop presented 5S as not just a methodology but as a mindset, ingraining principles of standardization and discipline in future operations leaders.

A Culture of Experimentation

The workshop underscored the importance of experimentation in the lean approach. Levantrosser facilitated interactive sessions on running small-scale experiments to test changes, framing these trials as opportunities for learning and innovation—critical components for continuous improvement.

As lean thinking stresses the significance of innovation in process improvement, the participants were encouraged to brainstorm and share ideas in a supportive environment. They discovered the power of teamwork in fostering a culture of innovation by leveraging the diverse perspectives and experiences of their peers.

The enthusiasm during the workshop was palpable, with students actively engaging in the sessions, sharing insights, and applying the concepts in real time. Their feedback was overwhelmingly positive, appreciating the blend of theory with hands-on activities, which not only reinforced their learning but also prepared them for practical implementation.

As the Leadership Advantage Workshop concluded, the participants walked away with a reinforced understanding of lean principles, and practical processes and workflows through creative exercises.

“At the heart of lean methodology is people, who, by coming together, build value through continuous improvement,” added Anne Partington, managing director of the Tauber Institute. “This evening's event, initiated by Tauber 2nd year student Rachael White and led by Debra Levantrosser demonstrates the magic of leadership development through engaged and experiential learning through our Tauber multidisciplinary learning model.”

By fostering a collaborative and experimental learning environment, Levantrosser ensured that Tauber students were now well-equipped to implement lean thinking in any operational challenge they encounter, carving a path for efficiency and innovation in their future endeavors.

About the Tauber Institute for Global Operations:

The Tauber Institute for Global Operations is a collaborative fellowship program between the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and the College of Engineering, partnered with industry leaders to provide multidisciplinary education and leadership training in global operations and supply chain management. For more information, please visit www.tauber.umich.edu.