Professor M.L. “Bob” Emiliani is an engineer, researcher, author, historian of progressive management, educational reformer, and executive coach. He is a long-time TPS/Lean practitioner and was the first to focus on so-called "Lean leadership" as an area of scholarly study. Prior joining academia, Dr. Emiliani worked in industry for 15 years and had management responsibility in engineering (R&D, new product development) and operations (manufacturing and supply chain). He had responsibility for implementing TPS in his manufacturing ($5M) and purchasing ($110M) business units at Pratt & Whitney. He also created the Lean Teaching pedagogy (personalized learning) as a professor in higher education.
Dr. Emiliani is a versatile author whose work spans three disciplines: engineering, social sciences, and humanities. He has authored or co-authored 45 peer-reviewed papers in six different subject areas (leadership, management, management history, supply chain management, higher education, and materials engineering) and is the author or co-author of 22 books. Dr. Emiliani earned a Ph.D. in Engineering from Brown University, an M.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Rhode Island, and a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Miami.
- Creator of Speed Leadership
- 15 years of industry work experience plus 20 years of academic experience
- Experienced engineering, operations, and supply chain leader
- Author or co-author of 24 books and 45 papers
- 20 years of executive training and corporate speaking experience
- Creator of the Lean Teaching pedagogy in higher education
"Nobody else has your combination of management experience in industry and academic experience as a tenured professor. That's what makes your work so good."
– Steve Bohlman, Executive Director, Ace, United Technologies
"Dr. Emiliani is an unusual academic in the following way. He worked for 15 years in management and technical areas in industry before leaving industry for the academic world AND he has excellent scholarly skills. Most people are successful at one or the other but not both. Bob was successful in industry and had the opportunity to be at the center of a serious effort to implement the Toyota Production System in a unique environment – that of defense contracting and large customized products namely aircraft engines. Among other things he was taught the state of the art in Lean directly by Shingijutsu, the premier consulting firm of former Toyota managers."
– Jeffrey Liker, author of The Toyota Way.
"Bob is the embodiment of the consummate professional who displays quiet confidence and demonstrates integrity at all times. He is secure in his own abilities and always looking to improve, himself, situations, and helping others who are interested in doing the same. I had the privilege of working with Bob when we were both first learning from the Shingijutsu Company. If you have the opportunity to talk with or work with Bob, take advantage of the opportunity to collaborate with him, as opportunities like that do not present themselves very often in life."
– Joe Muraca, Senior Corporate Manager, Global Supply Chain, Canberra Industries
Frequently Asked Questions
What is your focus?
To understand how organizations that adopted Toyota Production System (a.k.a. Lean management) were led. I focused intensely on this from 1994 until 2007. I then turned my attention to studying why so few leaders adopted TPS or Lean and why most of those that did always struggled and often failed. I wanted to understand the antithesis of progressive management, status quo oriented classical management. In between these two efforts I created something called "Speed Leadership," which is a much simpler way to understand leadership and develop leadership skills and capabilities. It intersects with strategy, decision-making, and leadership behaviors.
I was the first researcher to focus exclusively on TPS (Lean) leadership beginning in the the mid-1990s. It was completely new at the time and little was known about it. Lean leadership was widely seen as a mysterious art that olny a few could master. After many years of work, the most important questions about Lean leadership have now been answered. This work was a pathway to re-imagining leadership and led to the creation of Speed Leadership.
Is your research practical or theoretical?
My research is practical. I am not a career academic and I do not focus on theory. I come from industry and have a hands-on practitioner background. As a result, I always make sure that my work connects to the interests of practitioners. All my books and research papers are practical in their orientation.
Why have you written so many books?
Curiosity. I want to thoroughly understand things to the best of my abilities and share what I have learned with others. I have been called a "one-man think tank."
Who trained you in TPS?
Consultants from the world-famous Shingijutsu Co., Ltd, between 1994 and 1997, and periodically thereafter. I have never been a "Lean tools" or a "manufacturing guy." From the beginning, my interest has always been leaders' minds -- how they think, how they make decisions, why they succeed, and how they fail.
Why do you study leadership failures?
Because it often leads to catastrophic results. I also have a research project, started in 2005, to study leadership failures; specifically failures in corporate strategy and leadership decision-making. This work is complimentary to Speed Leadership.
Who pays for your research?
My work is self-funded through book sales and related services. All research is conducted as free and independent works, and I have no conflicts of interest.
Are you a consultant?
No, I am a teacher. Teachers helps people acquire knowledge that they can put into practice. Teaching is one of the "helping professions." A consultant is a different type of professional, one who provides "expert advice" on a particular subject -- deeper levels of knowledge than their client has, but (typically) not as deep a level of knowledge as what professors have. Consultants have industry experience but usually have no teaching experience. I have both industry work experience and full-time teaching (and research) experience. This is a rare combination of experience. Professors conduct research that is formally vetted through the peer-review process. Consultants may do research, but in most cases it is not subjected to the peer-review process.