Posted by: Knightbird | May 19, 2010

Welcome to Lean in Alaska

My worldview of business management changed dramatically in May of 2004. At a board meeting for a joint venture between Sealaska Corporation and Nypro Precision Plastics in Clinton, MA, I had lunch with Brian Jones, then president of Nypro. He shared the details of Nypro’s High Velocity System (HVS) with me and 2 other Sealaska board members. I was mesmerized. HVS was based upon the Toyota Production System and I had seen first hand the results of its application at Sealaska’s Guadalajara based plastics plant. I needed to know more, so I attended the Shingo Prize Conference, an annual conference sponsored by Utah State University’s Huntsman School of Business. The conference was held in Lexington, KY that year.

I was sold. As the chief executive of a small Alaska Native non profit tribal consortium (, I returned home and talked with my staff about implementing Lean Management at Chugachmiut. They agreed, and we started our Lean Management journey that day. This is my story about that journey.

Along the way, I began to realize that Lean Management would benefit Chugachmiut if we could encourage our partners to adopt it as their management system as well. Since then, I have been relentless in encouraging them to explore and hopefully adopt Lean Management. We are making progress.

Please feel free to look at Chugachmiut’s web page for more information about our Lean journey. It’s located at “” And welcome to this blog. I hope you enjoy it.


  1. Thanks for the post Patrick!

    I’m always impressed when people successfully implement Lean Thinking principles and am pleased to find examples outside of manufacturing. The tools and concepts work everywhere!

    Best success on your journey!


  2. Welcome to the blog world, Patrick! I’m looking forward to you sharing your learning and continued improvement with all of us.

  3. I am confident that Toyota will do just fine after they respond to their most recent issues. Most informed observers believe that Toyota’s rapid growth did not allow for them to deploy their culture to many new employees. I am used to skeptics. When they see the results of Kaizen, most come over from the dark side to become believers. Ford President Alan Mulally was hired for his Lean Management expertise gained at Boeing, which also uses Lean Management. GM partnered with Toyota at NUMMI to gain their management expertise, and either would or could not execute properly. The growing body of evidence speaks to the value of Lean Thinking.

  4. I have just had the pleasure of a wonderful 5 days attending the Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Celebration 2010, and haven’t been paying attention to the blog for a few days. I am back. I have never been afraid of the Kitchen, or heat. What I have learned is that people are the important link to transforming an organization, and that we will always be imperfect. We can chase continuous improvement and attempt to deliver ever increasing value to our tribal members. We are achieving in our small corner of the work because of our vision, hard work and having fun together.

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