Renowned #Lean Practitioner and Author of Four Types of Problems, Art Smalley Will Keynote the 2019 Northeast Lean Conference

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In his Oct. 24th presentation, Smalley will show that most business problems fall into four categories and why grasping this key insight will help leaders and team members change culture, improve daily work, develop employee’s skills, and sustain continuous improvement gains.

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Author and lean practitioner Art Smalley keynotes the 2019 Northeast Lean Conference on Oct. 24.

Organizations and individuals at all levels fall into this trap of having one primary or standard way of solving every problem ...

Managers and teams tend to settle on a favorite problem-solving technique or two from among all available - whether it’s brainstorming, fishbone diagraming, failure mode effects analysis, value-stream mapping, kaizen events, design of experiments, A3s, 5 whys, 6 sigma, or the 8Ds – that are often mismatched for the problem at hand.

“Organizations and individuals at all levels fall into this trap of having one primary or standard way of solving every problem,” said Art Smalley, a continuous improvement expert and author most recently of the insightful management book "Four Types of Problems."

When published last year by the nonprofit Lean Enterprise Institute, the book broke new ground by showing that most business problems fall into four main categories, each requiring different thought processes, improvement methods, and management cadences.

A Better Problem-Solving Framework
Smalley explained that the danger in settling for a favorite problem-solving approach is that “it’s akin to the hammer-and-nail syndrome. If my only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Managers need a better framework for thinking about problem- solving situations and what approach to use,” he said.

Smalley will offer a better framework Thursday, Oct. 24th, 2019, in his keynote at the 15th annual Northeast Lean Conference (#NELEAN). Sponsored by the nonprofit GBMP, the event is expected to draw more than 600 executives, managers, and continuous improvement professionals to the Connecticut Convention Center, Hartford, Oct. 23-24.

The conference theme is Total Employee Involvement. Registration is open now at:

In his keynote, Smalley will reveal:

  • The four main types of problem approaches that cover virtually every business challenge, plus real-world examples;
  • The strengths and limitations of each problem-solving type;
  • The types of triggers and time frames for using each type;
  • Guidelines for assessing personal and company capabilities at progressively higher levels of proficiency;
  • How to advance from treating “abnormal conditions” to more robust problem-solving routines that develop people and create a corporate culture of continuous improvement.

About Art Smalley
Smalley was one of the first Americans to work for Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan, learning the principles of its vaunted Toyota Production System (TPS) and thorough problem-solving methods at the Kamigo engine plant, where TPS architect Taiichi Ohno was the founding plant manager. Previously, Smalley authored Creating Level Pull and co-authored with Durward Sobek Understanding A3 Thinking. He co-authored with Isao Kato Toyota Kaizen Methods. Smalley shares his expertise in lean management and problem solving through Art of Lean at

About Lean Enterprise Institute
Lean Enterprise Institute Inc. (LEI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Cambridge, MA, with a mission to make things better through lean thinking and practice by helping companies create more value and prosperity while consuming the fewest possible resources. Founded in 1997 by management expert James Womack, PhD, LEI conducts research through co-learning partnerships with companies, teaches on-site and public workshops, publishes books and ebooks, organizes conferences, and shares practical information about lean thinking and practice. Visit

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Chet Marchwinski
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