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In Memory of Chris Burnham

Posted by Jeff Roussel

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Aug 22, 2023 11:47:37 AM



Our friend and colleague Chris Burnham passed away peacefully on July 13 after a brief illness. His passing leaves an indelible hole in the hearts of his friends and family, our KaiNexus team members, the Lean community, the Memphis community, and all those who came to know and love him. 

KaiNexus met Chris in 2015 when he responded to one of our blog posts with the following haiku, which convinced Greg Jacobson and Mark Graban to join Chris’ Lean Leadership Podcast.

Chris stayed in touch with KaiNexus throughout the years. When he became the Continuous Improvement Program Manager at Wright Medical in 2018, he selected KaiNexus as the supporting CI platform, which expanded his relationships with KaiNexus that flourished until his passing. 

At that time, Chris and I became personal friends and communicated through calls and texts weekly about our shared love for cooking, BBQ, the Atlanta Braves, and the NBA. We kept up with each other’s teams to talk trash to each other (as friends do). When Chris’ time at Wright ended in early 2021, he joined KaiNexus to create a new Lean Strategy department, made up of people who are passionate about Lean and understand the role KaiNexus plays in making Lean more successful. 

KaiNexus believes in spreading continuous improvement, and from day one, Chris bought into our mission completely. He constantly made KaiNexus-branded items online, such as shoes, a custom letterman’s jacket patch, and a KaiNexus hat.

Screenshot 2023-07-18 at 11.51.11 PM

At his KaiNexus memorial service, it was awe-inspiring to hear from so many people who shared a connection with Chris and felt grateful to him for helping them navigate life's struggles. Chris connected with everyone. He scheduled one-on-ones with every person at KaiNexus and had a unique way of making people feel heard and valued. 

Chris loved KaiNexus, and he often exclaimed that he was “Doing something I love with people I love.” He signed off his meetings with me by always saying, “Love you, Brother,” and I wasn’t the only one to whom he expressed these feelings. Chris also loved corny dad jokes and old movies, although he never seemed to realize that the movie quotes were not common knowledge to the younger generation in our office. We have a tradition at KaiNexus where our mascot, “Ofie,” sends random gifts to coworkers to celebrate special occasions or simply to let them know they are valued. Chris led the way by sending more Ofie gifts than any other KaiNexian.

Chris also shared a love for the greater Lean community and loved attending conferences with “his people.” He led several of our internal book clubs, constantly promoting other Lean practitioners. I still remember his pride when he was chosen as one of the few honorary male members of the LinkedIn group called “Women of Lean.” Chris was generous with his time and always willing to listen, and he positively impacted so many people in our extended community.

The only thing that eclipsed Chris’ love for KaiNexus and Lean was his love of family. His love for his family was always on display, and he constantly talked about his wife Jennifer, his kids Jim and Kaleigh, and his dogs. Last year, I had the pleasure of sharing a wonderful meal with Chris and his dad, Steve, and his love for his dad shined through very brightly. 

We can best honor the memory of those who have passed by loving the people still in our lives more fiercely. Chris loved fiercely while he was with us, and while he may be gone too soon, I plan to honor his memory by living up to his standards of being helpful to others. So many people knew and loved Chris, and we will miss how he made us feel. He was one of the good ones, and I will miss my friend, as we all will.

Until we meet again,


Chris was a great supporter of St. Jude’s Research Hospital. His family has asked that, in honor of Chris, donations can be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

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