North Forest Office Space 
Beginner level
Intermediate level

We're not manufacturing!

Developing lean thinking in high variability environments


Practitioner Presentation



Discover how North Forest Office Space used leader standard work, visual management and other lean tools to achieve rapid results in a small company with limited resources. Hear what worked well and what did not, and learn from both experiences.


Highly variable working environments are often seen as an obstacle to lean thinking rather than an opportunity to use it. During its three-year effort to develop lean thinking, North Forest Office Space frequently heard: “Lean assumes we have a controlled environment - we aren’t a manufacturer.” “Things happens differently every time - it will be very difficult to standardize.” “These Lean projects are great but how are we going to devote enough time to them?” Hear how the company has been able to overcome these objections and build momentum behind its cultural transformation.


North Forest Office Space is a leading provider of small business-friendly commercial office space. A family-owned business, its founder used lean thinking to evolve a business model that has helped thousands of small businesses create their home base. A real estate development, construction and property management company, North Forest navigates through a volatile project environment with many external variables to deliver high quality offices to customers on time and on budget. North Forest has been expanding from its home base in Western New York to Colorado and Texas - more than doubling the occupied square footage it has built and manages. With years of uninterrupted growth and a bright future ahead, the company is deepening its understanding of lean to develop a management system to sustain its growth.

Presenter: Chris Kozlowski

Chris Kozlowski joined North Forest Office Space as IT manager in 2009. He spent several years developing custom software and systems that helped the company double in size. Since 2017, he has been leading the adoption of lean thinking at North Forest from strategic planning down to day-to-day operations. Kozlowski's combination of skills and experience in IT/software development and lean management have been instrumental in leading this change.