John O’Donnell

John O’Donnell joined the Lean Enterprise Institute in November, 2007 to serve as the first Executive Director of the Lean Global Network (LGN).  At LGN John oversees a network of 16 institutes whose mission it is to advance lean thinking and practice throughout the world in order to make things better for individuals, organizations and society.  As Executive Director, John’s role is to encourage LGN institutes and partners to work together to develop and strengthen their lean thinking capabilities in order to create value for customers and ensure the success of our institutes.

John joined LEI in after 30 years of service with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA).  Within RITA, John ran a fee-for-service organization leading a staff of 160 transportation professionals overseeing a $50 million research portfolio.  John also served as the Acting Associate Administrator of the Bureau of Transportation Statistics towards the end of his DOT career.

John was one of the federal government’s lead analysts in the Chrysler loan guarantee deliberations and was a principal author of the landmark Department of Transportation Report to the President on the U.S. Automobile Industry, 1980 which publicly introduced the “$1,500 comparative cost advantage of the Japanese automakers”.  This significant finding pointed to the fundamental differences between the Japanese and western production process and served as the launching point for many of the industrialized nations’ investigations into the Toyota production system, including MIT’s International Motor Vehicle Program.


From 1987-90, John served as Program Coordinator and Research Affiliate for Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s International Motor Vehicle Program.  The program produced the critically acclaimed book, The Machine That Changed the World.



John holds degrees in Economics and Management from Boston College and the University of New Hampshire and was a member of the federal government’s Senior Executive Service for over seven years during which he completed several courses in leadership at the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia.