Lean Boot Camp is a far cry from the traditional conference-in-hotel-meeting-room learning environment. Gone are the suits and ties, coffee and donuts, and cell phones interrupting speakers. Welcome to a world in which registration takes place at least an hour's drive from all major airports and orientation is when you're given a T-shirt, backpack and water bottle.

Orientation also includes a one-on-one meeting with a drill sergeant followed by a survival session that includes basic first aid tips and, should you become lost, how to find your way back to camp. Morning sessions for the next five days begin with reveille at 0600 and the hour-long morning hike begins at 0615. Then it's off to breakfast and at 0800 begins 12 hours of learning the basics of lean manufacturing.

The motto for Lean Boot Camp is the rebel cry, "Lean is not an option," meaning that lean manufacturing is the inevitable next evolution of business.

Elena Johnson, recruiting officer for Lean Boot Camp (Austin, TX), says a secluded environment is used because too often with traditional training sessions, participants leave for the day, go home and watch "Frasier" on the tube, and put the baby to sleep. Boot camp is a way to eliminate the familiar and move a participant's mindset away from mass production and into lean thinking. Johnson says that it takes 24 hours to settle into a routine, an important aspect of what lean manufacturing is all about.

All participants are required to fill out an extensive survey and profile before arriving at camp. The results help assess any areas of weakness that individuals or the group may have, including a belief in the myths and misconceptions surrounding lean manufacturing.

Johnson explains that boot camp is a place where participants learn the basics of lean manufacturing and start changing their philosophy to make those basics a reality. "We don't scream in your face, but we let you know that our standards are not negotiable," says Johnson.

Every morning, participants take an exam to see how well they comprehend the previous day's information. Because Lean Boot Camp guarantees the results of the class, any potential problems are immediately dealt with on a one-on-one basis. Failure is not acceptable.

Once camp is completed, participants have access to instructors 24 hours a day "for eternity," says Johnson. She also mentions that, "Lean is a quiet revolution that happens in a series of small changes."

Johnson stresses that boot camp is not a country club, but it's not all work either. Although everyone has to make his own bed and is assigned KP duty, every evening is spent watching a military movie.

Johnson says she hears one of three things when boot camp concludes.

  • Participants had a great experience, are devoted to their learning and want others to attend.
  • Participants thought they knew what lean manufacturing was when they started boot camp, but now they really know what it is and isn't.
  • Participants capture the vision of lean and are a little apprehensive about implementing it because they're afraid preconceived attitudes, based on doing something one way for 20 years, will get in the way.

For more information on Lean Boot Camp, contact a recruiting officer at (800) 924-2517