We are saddened to hear of the news about the death of Norman Bodek, known as the “Godfather of Lean.”

Norman had an amazing influence on the process improvement community, translating and publishing many of the Japanese improvement books into English.

You can read more about Norman Bodek’s work and life here >>>

He has been a long-time resident in the Portland area. He has also been a great supporter of Lean Portland.

Here is our first interview with him in December 2017, where he shares some of his experiences and advice with Kjell van Zoen.

In the summer of 2020, Norman shared his Productivity newsletters with Lean Portland while preparing for a move to Japan, and we have scanned in many of the past newsletters from 1980 through the early 1990’s.

View the PRODUCTIVITY newsletter archive >>>

In September 2020, Norman moved to Japan, and he spoke to the Lean Portland community during our September Happy Hour while under quarantine.

On December 9th, Norman passed away in Japan.

If you have some comments and memories you’d like to share, please email to us, and we’ll add them to this page.

Other Norman Bodek tribute pages:


“I was young in my career and life when I met Norman. I didn’t know him or his history. My boss hired him for a 3-day training about how to deploy idea generation systems. It was serendipity that he lived just across the river. So, for 3 days Norman meandered all through his passions to explain how to set up a Quick and Easy Kaizen system. I left with the passion he showed for helping people make their own improvements. Norman humbly shared all of his secrets. We met a dozen times since then, and I felt like he was always surprised that people respected him. I introduced him at one of our Lean Portland gatherings, and afterwards he told me it was the nicest intro anyone has ever given to him. So, I thank you Norman. You let me touch you in a way that you have touched so many others.”
– Matt Horvat

“I had the privilege to talk with Norman multiple times over the last few years, but was even more fortunate this fall. Norman contacted us to see if we wanted some of his old books and publications (didn’t want to move them to Japan with him), and I jumped at the chance to go get them from him at his home in Vancouver, Washington. I was nervous and cautious during the pandemic, as I didn’t want to risk getting him sick. I found his energy and drive impressive. He seemed to be in great health, and I had to stop him from trying to carry heavy boxes of books to my car. That’s why his death was such a shock to me, even at his age (almost 90).

During our short visits this year, he would share lots of advice and wisdom with me about my consulting business, and I soaked it up like a sponge. But it wasn’t just me, he was also willing to share his knowledge with anyone that would listen, which is amazing for someone as connected and accomplished as Norman. The improvement community has lost a great advocate, so we all should commit to continuing his work and keep his legacy going. Luckily his career and work is captured in books and videos.” – Brion Hurley