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Success Stories

Haworth Continuous Improvement

2013 Brandon Hall Silver Award, Excellence in Learning Best Use of Blended Learning

Haworth, Inc. is a global leader in the design and manufacturing of office furniture and Organic Workspaces . Family owned and privately held, Haworth is headquartered in Holland, Michigan, and serves markets in more than 170 countries through a global network of 600 dealers.


Haworth drives for continuous improvement and encourages all members (employees) to engage in problem solving and innovation. The company started strong on this journey but later lost its way and struggled to re-engage its workforce. Haworth turned an eye toward making Lean part of the organization. The Haworth Management System (HMS) was created in 2006 as a set of Lean management processes and tools designed to engage all members in continuous improvement and innovation. 

A Corporate HMS team was formed to champion HMS, and over the next several years, the team tried unsuccessfully to instill an HMS culture. Corporate HMS approached the executive leadership team and made a strong business case for Lean. Together, they identified the rationale for HMS. It became known as the Haworth Way: We are a global company that requires one common proven business system to deliver break-through performance.


With executive approval of the plan for HMS, Corporate HMS moved immediately to identify the type of learning that would best support the plan, then to design and develop it. The goal of the HMS program was to reinvigorate Lean manufacturing practices and ultimately build a sustainable culture of continuous improvement

Over 11 months, Corporate HMS worked with several internal departments and engaged Innovative Learning Group (ILG) to partner with them on designing and developing the curriculum to ensure the HMS program would be ready for roll out in a year.

The team created a high-level design that included an overview, objectives, and strategy for each component of the program (Figure 1). ILG s detailed designs ensured that objectives were achieved, and that content was relatable to all salaried members, referenced executive leadership support and expectations, and demonstrated the link between all materials in the program. Development of the modules, tools, and workbook were completed by ILG in a rolling manner.

The components of the HMS program are:

  • An HMS Leadership video which introduces the HMS program and captures the executive leadership team s vision and passion for HMS. It specifically speaks to the importance of following and completing the HMS program
  • Eight, 30-minute or less online training modules which introduce HMS foundational concepts and allow members to take the modules at their own pace. The conclusion orients members to next steps in the program, which include the opportunity to put concepts and tools into practice during continuous improvement events. This connection and reminder is critical to keeping focus on HMS and moving toward a continuous improvement culture.
  • Continuous improvement Instructor-led Training (ILT) events that addresses an area needing improvement and last one day to a week or longer. HMS Champions facilitate the events using the HMS process outlined in the workbook, which is a practical, hands-on approach to the continuous improvement process. It allows members, under the guidance of a Champion, to apply the HMS foundational concepts introduced in the e-learning modules to an actual process improvement opportunity for their team or department.
  • Twenty-one online HMS performance support tools (Figure 3), which were built in Flash, to ensure members have on-the-job just-in-time support.

The video, all ILT materials, and the performance support tools are available on the HMS website. The blended learning solution is used both proactively and reactively to start building a culture of continuous improvement.


Since the rollout of the HMS program began, Haworth has seen the following results:

  • 88% of salaried employees in North America and 24% in Asia Pacific have completed the Foundational Concept modules.
  • More than 92 continuous improvement events have been facilitated by Corporate HMS using the blended learning solution materials. 
  • Haworth s 18 HMS Champions have praised the effectiveness of the HMS program in guiding members by providing a common continuous improvement language and framework.
  • The response to the program has been overwhelmingly positive. Corporate HMS hears directly from members about the improvements they have made based on the learning. Many members have become early adopters by contacting Corporate HMS directly to find out about scheduling continuous improvement events and using the other materials. 
  • The engagement survey that Haworth conducts has identified a strong positive correlation between engagement and the number of continuous improvement events in which members have participated.
  • Since the cost of the program was covered by the Michigan New Jobs Training Program, the return on investment is almost infinite as Haworth moves toward a culture of continuous improvement. 
  • Metrics have improved within all manufacturing facilities, including quality, productivity, and overhead costs as HMS engagement has increased.

Important lessons learned from the success of this blended solution versus past solutions include: 

  • When members can relate to the content, the transfer of HMS knowledge is much more effective. 
  • Demonstrating leadership support and expectations is a crucial component to ensuring success of a program. 
  • Members need delivery methods that give them both autonomy and support in putting the learning into practice.

The HMS blended learning solution is the driver putting Haworth back on track to creating a culture in which members engage in a never-ending cycle of improvement and innovation.

To learn more about how Innovative Learning Group can create custom learning solutions to help improve business results, contact us at

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