This comprehensive guide introduces you to the leading minds and experts who can help you achieve overall business and organizational excellence. From renowned authors, speakers and researchers to seasoned CI practitioners, Lean thought leaders and Lean consultants, this collection will equip you with the knowledge and strategies you need to transform your organization. Get ready to gain insights from the best of the best in world-class thought leadership right here.

1. Sam Smolik

lss thought leaders

Sam Smolik served as the Sr. Vice President of Manufacturing (retired) at LyondellBasell and Vice President of Global Health, Safety, Environment and Operational Excellence (Nov. 2009 – Feb 2015). Currently, he is the director of Axalta Coating Systems and Ducks Unlimited Inc. Sam Smolik has positively contributed on the board of directors of numerous non-profit and business entities. He released two groundbreaking books, “The Power of Goal Zero” and “The Daily Pursuit of Excellence” to impart the lessons he learned from his extensive experience as a board member and senior leader in multinational petrochemical, oil, gas, and energy manufacturing enterprises.

Sam’s experience includes working in the field of supply chain management, manufacturing, sustainable development, ESG, change management, people development, motivation, and culture change. As per the words of long-time business partner and friend, Craig Crawford, Sam’s “leadership and intelligence are beyond comparison. This is a person you should know and if you have the opportunity working with him is a pleasure. Sam is to be commended for his sterling career and is highly recommended for being the extraordinary person he is.”

Sam is highly regarded in the environmental and corporate community in light of his executive leadership abilities in combination with his knowledge of global issues – in addition to his ability to connect diverse interests around shared objectives. According to many; Sam is the ultimate “go-to” individual when you need solid consultation.

Connect with Sam on LinkedIn

2. Donald Kuk

LSS thought leaders

Donald Kuk has served as a senior leader alongside noteworthy names in the field for results verification, including and not limited to BNY Mellon, AIG, Ca, JP Morgan Chase and Lockheed Martin. As the current Chief Transformation Officer & President of Enterprise Transformation Excellence, Donald is regarded as one of the very best consultants in the field of operational and business improvement. Some of his widely published successes encompass advanced metrics, analytics, strategy, mission, vision, program and roadmap development. In addition, Donald is a leading force behind multi-tiered communication, transformation and program management, quality improvement, training, change, as well as project management.

Donald’s strengths encompass achievements and advancements in strategy, goal-setting, resources, budget and milestones establishment and direction, program creation, innovation, turnaround, and 24 X 7 global support. Additionally, Donald excels in customer, cross-business, and corporate internal and external consulting. He is passionate about all types of consultation; face-to-face and worldwide multiple site teambuilding and direction. Moreover, you can get with Donald for solid baselining and assistance with benchmarking; process control, technology mapping, architecture development and management.

Connect with Donald on LinkedIn


3. Philip Holt

LSS thought leaders

Philip Holt is a noteworthy Operational Excellence Leader, COO, and globally recognised as one of the very best lean thought leaders. As the Managing Director (Interim Management, Consultancy) of Leading with Lean Ltd, Philip delivers world-class performance through the development of People, Processes and Technology.

Philip boasts a healthy track-record in senior Leadership roles across market leading, global organizations, including Royal Philips, Gillette, Travelport. Beyond this, he also holds the role as Senior Vice President and Head of Operational Excellence at the world’s foremost  multi-technology tier 1 Aerospace supplier: GKN Aerospace. 

Philip serves as the main architect and implementation leader of both the Philips and GKN Aerospace Lean Operating Models, leading globally distributed teams of large capacity across Europe, APAC and the Americas. Together, they manage annual budgets of up to €50M. He is also the author of three Lean Leadership books: Leading with Lean: An Experience-based guide to Leading a Lean Transformation and Leading Lean by Living Lean: Changing how you Lead, not who you are.

As a matter of achievement, Philip was the winner of the 2020 Axiom Business Book Awards Bronze Medal Winner for his book “The Simplicity of Lean: Defeating Complexity; Delivering Excellence”. If you would like world-class guidance from this top-notch Business Transformation Leader, simply reach out to him.

Connect with Philip on LinkedIn

4. Dr Keith Clinkscales

LSS thought leaders

As the Director of Performance Management  and Strategic Planning at Palm Beach County, Dr. Clinkscales is the main man behind all activities related to long-term strategic planning. In assisting the Board of County Commissioners (BCC), Dr. Clinkscales takes responsibility for Department Directors, the Executive Team and entire team of staff. Aiding with the development of objectives, strategies and goals, Keith is one of the most renowned lean thought leaders when it comes to supporting County-Wide strategic planning, continuous improvement, process improvement, and performance management efforts.

Keith’s PTSTAT embraces data and statistics, and is an outstanding effort to collect performance information and analyze it in a holistic, collaborative manner. Keith is proud to specialize in business-and-cultural transformation through engagement and is also the author of the best-selling book “Your Attitude Is Your Breakthrough”; based around the concept of maximizing the potential of people.

Connect with Dr. Clinkscales on LinkedIn 

5. Joseph Paris

LSS thought leaders

Born and bred in New York and currently situated in Germany; Joseph Paris is well-versed in adjusting to change and instilling a culture of transformation. He established the XONITEK in 1985 as a systems integrator, then as a consultancy implementing ERP solutions.  In the early 2000’s, he decided to rethink and rebrand his company once more; placing an emphasis on people first.  With this renewed focus, Joseph changed XONITEK’s USP to become an outstanding operations and business consultancy, where he enjoys engagements across industries and around the world.

Paris is currently a sought-after speaker and consultant for C-suite executives, offering expert advice on operational excellence and continuous improvement, thanks to his thirty + years of experience. Established in 2011, he owns the Operational Excellence Society – a think tank that brings together educators, end users, and other Lean professionals who offer coaching and training within their enterprises.

Originally born out of a LinkedIn community, the OpEx group is the single largest group of its kind on the planet. Joseph is passionate about helping companies around the world become high-performance organizations, backed by his extensive achievements in Organizational Design, Continuous Improvement, Strategy Development and Deployment.

With a motto that rings “Time is the enemy of the 21st century”, Joseph is the author of the groundbreaking book “State of Readiness– Becoming a High Performance Organization.

6. Kevin Clay

lean thought leadersOne of our personal favorite lean thought leaders, Kevin Clay, President & CEO of Six Sigma Development Solutions, Inc., brings 25 years+ experience to the table. A Six Sigma Master Black Belt and Lean Master Practitioner, he has a proven track record of deploying these methodologies across the globe.

Leading a team of more than 50 Master Black Belts, Kevin’s organization plays a pivotal role in transforming businesses worldwide. His passion lies in applying best practices from Lean, Lean Six Sigma, System Redesign, and High Reliability Organization (HRO) principles. These approaches empower organizations to achieve impressive results, exceptional customer experiences, and high employee satisfaction.

Connect with Kevin Clay on LinkedIn

7. Gwendolyn Galsworth

LSS thought leaders

Gwendolyn Galsworth is the president and founder of Visual Thinking Inc. & the Visual-Lean Institute, established in 2005. These consulting companies were founded with the intention to further the research and teaching of visual workplace solutions and their integration with lean thinking and operational excellence. Beyond this, she is a renowned author, researcher, teacher, consultant, publisher and established thought leader in the field of visual management in the workplace.

Focused on conceptualizing workplace visuality into a single, comprehensive framework, Dr. Galsworth was one of the initial original members of the Productivity Inc. team. This inititiave served as a prime resource for informative intelligence from Japan that was then called The Japanese Manufacturing Miracle, richly inspired by the Toyota Production System. To this day, she continues to teach and consult, lead visual conversions, write books, create videos and online training systems on the inner workings of the visual workplace.

Dr. Galsworth is also a frequent keynote speaker on the topic of  business improvement and acted as the host of a weekly web-based radio show for many years. If you and/or your company needs advice from lead thought leaders on advanced visual management systems and techniques as a driving force behind achieving operational excellence, Dr. Galsworth is undoubtedly the go-to woman.

Connect with Dr. Galsworth on LinkedIn

8. Michael Asbury

Michael Asbury specializes in the rapid improvement of organizations with minimal investment –  offering an exceptional ROI with a short payback time. If you are in the field of durable & non-durable goods, manufacturing of essential goods, sustainable energy, or environmentally friendly manufacturing and need more capacity – Michael will come to the rescue.

In Michael’s view, many organizations face various obstacles and struggle to determine which one to focus on in order to deliver the greatest impact. Michael’s consulting company – Elevate Coaching & Consulting – can help you rapidly improve your team’s ability to achieve desired results while also reducing stress and anxiety in the workplace.

Let Michael quickly assess your current situation and identify quick wins that will drive significant results, all with typically simple and inexpensive changes. If you’re seeking a catalyst for rapid improvement on ROI, Michale’s systematic approach to pinpoint key features of waste, stress and frustrations are guaranteed to provide real results.

Connect with Michael on LinkedIn.

9. Adam L Bowden

Adam L Bowden is on of those lean thought leaders that are well known for helping you assess, improve and grow. Adam skillfully uses a unique intervention style approach to ignite rapid change management. His passion lies in working with your team to create a culture of empowerment, innovation and growth across the entire organization, which yields significant culture-and-business improvements and advances in personal growth. Adam enjoys working with people at all levels and making the impossible possible. In his own words, “Limitations are in the mind and I have never been constrained by being in the “box”. Adam is more than happy to coach entire companies, leaders, teams and individuals to achieve great things.

Connect with Adam on LinkedIn.

10. Crystal Y Davis

Our list of Lean thought leaders would not be complete without Crystal Y Davis. As a graduate of industrial engineering, Crystal has worked across multiple sectors including automotive, packaging, healthcare and engineering. Specializing in process improvement and supply chain optimization, her career in these traditionally male-dominated sectors has catapulted over the last decade and has led her to become an outstanding mentor for women in relative industries. In 2014, she was bold enough to establish her own consultancy firm, The Lean Coach. Followingly, in 2019, she went on to co-found an online community providing peer support and visibility to women in the field, entitled Women in Lean.

On mentoring, her personal opinion on LinkedIn reads: “Studies show that good mentoring can lead to greater career success, including promotions, raises, and increased opportunities. Organizations that embrace mentoring are rewarded with higher levels of employee engagement, retention and knowledge sharing.”

  • Listen to Crystal Y Davis’ podcast here

Lean Thought Leaders – Additional Resources

PEX Top 50 Thought Leaders in Operational Excellence