North Forest Office Space 
Beginner level
Intermediate level

A non-manufacturing story: Starting and growing a CI culture

Tips on what worked, what didn't work and what's next


Practitioner Presentation
Wednesday, Oct. 20 Location Code
11:30am-12:30pm Virtual WS/13

Times listed in EDT.


In this practitioner presentation, hear about a non-manufacturing lean journey and take away tips on what to try and what to avoid as you build your own sustained culture of continuous improvement (CI). The session will offer concise examples with results the company has achieved.


In 2015, North Forest Office Space began to explore how CI/lean thinking could help the company grow. Six years later, it has learned some great lessons about how to integrate CI into a company. From the start, the company found plenty of information and training available on technical skills with manufacturing-oriented examples. As a non-manufacturing company, it was challenged to:

  • Apply CI/lean thinking and techniques in a non-manufacturing environment, particularly standardizing its highly variable processes.
  • Evolve from doing one-off CI projects to more lasting and meaningful efforts.
  • Engage team members to integrate CI into their daily work.
  • Productively (and rapidly) apply technology to enhance (not define!) its CI efforts.
  • Achieve the company’s business goals and demonstrate the value of lean back to the company’s ownership.


North Forest Office Space is a leading provider of small business-friendly commercial office space. A family-owned business started more than 40 years ago, the company founder used lean thinking to evolve a business model that has helped thousands of small businesses create their home base. The real estate development, construction and property management company navigates through a volatile project environment with many external variables to deliver our high-quality offices to customers on time and within budget. Over the last decade, the company has been expanding from its home base in Western New York to Colorado and Texas - more than doubling the occupied square footage we have built and currently manage.


Chris Kozlowski joined North Forest Office Space as its IT manager in 2009. He spent several years developing custom software and systems that have helped the company double in size. Since 2015, he has been leading the adoption of Lean thinking at North Forest from strategic planning down to day-to-day operations. His combination of skills and experience in IT/software development and lean management has been instrumental in leading this change.