Keith A. Leitner, a faculty member within the Graduate & Executive Education (College of Business), is the faculty director for the Air Force AFSO21 Level II Certification Program. He has been involved with the Air Force for over 4 years and has assisted with Process Improvement Projects and Education at numerous bases and locations. Prior to joining the University of Tennessee, Keith began his career in retail and held many key leadership positions with two large grocery chains including General Manager and Operations Specialist. Following his 10 years in retail, Keith was introduced to lean by United Technologies where he designed and implemented Lean Cells.

Keith's work led to that facility being considered the 'showcase facility' within the organization; soon, United Technologies hosted plant tours to assist other organizations around the world. Following his work with United Technologies, Keith began the Continuous Improvement Program for Marley Electric Heating (Appliance OEM), and again quickly created a showcase facility. Recruited back into automotive, Keith accepted a position as the Continuous Improvement Director for the North American Division at BTR Automotive. In that position, he trained, developed and mentored lean experts charged with improving all aspects of the business. During his time with BTR, Keith created a 3-week Lean Certification program and trained over 100 key leaders throughout all of BTR's global organizations. Adding global responsibility, Keith held the position of Vice President of Continuous Improvement and Quality Systems.

Following his work at BTR, Keith joined Optiprise Consulting (a firm lead by Jeffrey Liker - writer of Toyota Way and Becoming Lean). During his time with Optiprise, Keith specialized in assisting new and different industries understand how to apply philosophies, principles and tools that were born in the automotive industry to meet their needs. Beginning with shipbuilding, Keith quickly moved into ship repair, aircraft repair, and manufacturing of both one-off products (tool and die) and short takt manufacturing.

A frequent speaker at lean conferences, Keith is especially known for application expertise and developing the Lean Organization and Culture to support these philosophies. Keith began his own consulting firm in 2004, moving into service industries such as healthcare.

Throughout his consulting career, Keith has worked with numerous organizations, including military and defense organizations (Air Force and Navy), large private sector organizations such as Northrop Grumman and United Technologies, and small private companies such as Southern Steel & Wire, Marley Electric Heating and Peerless Pump. Keith has also been instrumental in the creation of the Graduate & Executive Education's Lean Healthcare public course, working with healthcare organizations such as the U.T. Medical Center, Mary Washington Hospital, Montreal Children's Hospital and Nemours. He also serves as the faculty director for the Air Force Lean Healthcare Program. As a faculty member within the Graduate & Executive Education, he teaches several public courses pertaining to lean and designs custom courses to meet the specific needs of individual organizations. Keith received his B.A. in Psychology from Appalachian State University and his M.S. in Organizational Leadership and Management from the University of North Carolina, Pembroke.

Research Focus

Organizational Leadership and Management