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My company have recently announced that they're looking to implement Lean.  I was wondering if anyone could recommend any books or other resources to help me get a handle on it?

I've done some Google searching myself but would value any personal recommendations from anyone who has already trod this path.  So far as I know I will not be involved in the implementation.  I'll be one of the 'done to' rather than one of the 'doers to'.

I've already bought "Lean for Dummies" (about half way down page 19 so far) and "Lean Thinking" (will start that when I've finished "Lean for Dummies").  I already use Ishikara (Fish-Bone) diagrams and know a little of Kaizen.

Thank you

Stephen

regas14's picture

Stephen,

Best of luck in this process.  It can be a long and arduous journey for a company and it requires a great deal of commitment across the entire organization.  At the same time from a personal and organizational development standpoint, it is an interesting and valuable perspective to know and understand.  

Here are a few of the books that I've most enjoyed on the topic:

  • The Machine that Changed the World - While this was not the first book I read on the subject, I felt like it did the best job of illustrating how the entire organization (sales, engineering, supply chain, manufacturing) contributes to truly operating with the principles of Lean.  
  • The Toyota Way - To me this is more of a historical story of how the system has been created and evolved out of the Toyoda family's experiences and vision.  The first time I read it, I wasn't too moved, but I re-read it earlier this year with a more focused lens and now my book is filled with notes and highlights that I refer back to.
  • The Goal - This is not really a Lean book per se, it is a book about the Theory of Constraints, but there are two things I like about it: First, it is a story and so it's quick and easy to read and visualize.  Second, while it's dealing with a lot of the same issues as Lean and actually using very similar tactics, it does not try to make process improvement into a religious experience.  What I mean by that is you will find that a lot of people who write/consult on Lean topics are almost like religious zealots for the system.  There is a language, a set of values and beliefs, and with some (in my experience mostly those with more of a text-book experience with the system) a dismissal of other tools and techniques that might also be used to solve the problem.  This book simply approaches it differently and has an almost tactile connection to the "real world" where the others are based more on theory and illustrative cases.

Good Luck!

G.R.

stephenbooth_uk's picture

 Regas14,

thank you, I'll certainly look into those books.

A couple of things I've found in my searching so far, one a bit negative, the other very positive.

 The negative is that the massive preponderance of examples I've seen so far apply Lean to a manufacturing environment.  We are a service company.  I've seen mention that it can be applied to service environments, and already have some ideas about how 5S could be applied to our core businesses (IT Service Desk and public facing Customer Contact and Customer Relationship Management Centre), but I'm a High-C so I crave data and will keep looking till I find some!  :-)

The very positive came from a short video I saw of James Womack doing a Q&A about Lean.  He said that to goal of Lean, in terms of the organisation to which lean is being applied, is not to reduce head count.  It is to allow you to do more with the same headcount, so if applying lean means that you only need half the resource to deliver the same result you should treat this an an opportunity to deliver twice the result, not to get rid of half your people.  I like that.  It's quite refreshing to see a business process improvement be about growing your outputs more than cutting your inputs.

Stephen

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Skype: stephenbooth_uk  | DiSC: 6137

"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack

 

regas14's picture

 Stephen,

You're absolutely right.  Most of the Lean work relates to manufacturing.  There are challenges involved in translating that to a service environment.  There is significant work being done in applying Lean principles to the healthcare industry as well.  From time to time I find some of those insights trigger new ways to apply the tools and techniques to my own work.

Please share if you find other helpful resources as well.

G.R.

dad2jnk's picture

I completely agree with G.R. in that I got more from The Goal than I have from other Lean-ish texts.  I also agree that Lean converts can be a bit zealous.

  Implementation of Lean concepts such as load leveling and "inventory control" are the low hanging fruit of Lean.  In my experience, Lean works best in single site, manufacturing context.  Multiple research or service sites interacting are where most Lean consultants and projects fail. 

Final piece of advice...Managers often look at Lean to cover management deficiencies by trying to "improve the process".  Upper management should understand the difference between the cyclical nature of a process, and the inability of the management team to be effective managing the people that own the process.  There is a big difference.

Good luck!

Ken

stephenbooth_uk's picture

 G.R.,

the examples I've found so far that aren't manufacturing have been healthcare.  Avoiding medication errors seems to be a major focus alongside the general reducing cost through eliminating waste.

The only resource I've really found so far is the Lean Enterprise Institute (lean.org), and some very academic papers.  If I find anything else I'll add it to this thread.

The main thing that has struck me so far is how much is common sense yet requires turning accepted 'western management wisdom' on it's head.

Stephen

 

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Skype: stephenbooth_uk  | DiSC: 6137

"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack

 

jhack's picture

Stephen,

I really like "Scaling Lean & Agile Development" by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde.   It's really insightful and smart, and it is focused on software development, not manufacturing.  

I'll "third" the recommendation for the "The Goal."  While not about software, it's a great book.  

If you want drive the conversation deeper, ask the folks enamored of manufacturers' use of Lean about how those firms have applied Lean to  their R&D groups.  Services is much more like Design or Research in manufacturing, and the lessons there are more relevant. 

John Hack

stephenbooth_uk's picture

 Ken,

thank you.  "The Goal" is now on my Amazon wish list.

I don't know where in the organisation the push to Lean has come but suspect it was the CEO.  I've met with him a few times, varying degrees of formality, and have found him to be very smart, very turned on and very open to introducing things that others haven't (our previous CEOs have all been very much "The bottom line is the alpha and omega, nothing else matters", the previous one always gave me the impression that if she could sell our organs she would).  He introduced Balanced Scorecard last year, I'm told, against some push back from most of the rest of the management team but won them over and now it's working.

 Stephen

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Skype: stephenbooth_uk  | DiSC: 6137

"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack

 

stephenbooth_uk's picture

 John,

thank you.  I'll bear that book in mind.  We're more support that development (what development we do tends to be more someone who isn't a developer full time will write a script or a short program to handle the interface of two systems that don't normally talk to each other).

Stephen

 

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Skype: stephenbooth_uk  | DiSC: 6137

"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack

 

Mark's picture

Stephen-

First, while these changes are always harder than whomever thinks them up says  they are, I really believe Lean, or at least many of its tenets, will inevitably creep into a lot of industries, service included.  I think you're right to be positive about the "more with the same" concept (though some use it poorly for different reasons).

And, please do read The Goal.  I didn't read it as a Lean text, but as a systems planning model, and it was brilliant.  Goldratt's other books aren't bad either...but The Goal is transcendent.  The novel part of it really got to me!

Enjoy!

stephenbooth_uk's picture

 Mark,

thank you.  I'll get "The Goal" in the new year.

I hope you have a great time with your family and a wonderful Christmas.

Stephen

 

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Skype: stephenbooth_uk  | DiSC: 6137

"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack

 

mcain's picture

Hello Stephen,

I don't know how many times I've thought about making "The Goal" required reading for all my department managers.  So far I've stuck to recommending it.

Do you know what "Lean" means to your company yet?  It's funny how different it ends up being for different organizations.

 

-Matt

stephenbooth_uk's picture

 Matt,

I'm not 100% sure what Lean will mean in the company.  Apparently right now it's at the stage where some managers are periodically going into a meeting room to talk about it but that's all anyone knows.  Our resource managers (the area of the business I work in is a projects/consultancy area so we have two resource managers rather than a line manager) know Lean is something I'm interested in and have been reading up on it.  Fortunately I have a reputation for being able to pick up on things quickly and then deliver so there's a chance I might get the opportunity to get involved.  Unfortunately i have a reputation for being able to quickly pick up on things and then deliver so if I do get involved it's likely to be a very short deadline and they'll expect something good.

 I have now finished "The Goal".  I'm not sure I understand it, I have loaned it to my sister and will read it again when she has finished it.  That way I'll have someone to discuss it with who might understand it or at least come at it from a different angle(I'm High-C/High-D, she's High-I; my background is science and technology hers is finance and team leadership; my area of work right now is very service oriented, hers is very much production (albeit web content) oriented).  I'm currently reading the sequel, "It's not luck", in the hope of insight but it so far eludes me.  I think the best way I can put it is that I understand the words and concepts, I just don't seem to be able see the underlying functionality and therefore how to apply it.  If anything it seems too much like plain common sense.

Stephen

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Skype: stephenbooth_uk  | DiSC: 6137

"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack

 

peterddw's picture

I can recommend

The Goal by Goldratt

Lean Thinking by Womack and Jones

The Toyota Way by Jeffrey Liker

The important aspect whether you are in a service sector or manufacturing is that you want to fill your mind with all of these concepts and tools and then see what makes sense for your application. I have recently stumbled upon an excellent lecture series from the MIT open courseware inventory with some top ranking contributors. Search for MIT open courseware then search on that site for Lean Six sigma.

http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/aeronautics-and-astronautics/16-660-introduct...

The sooner you get your brain wrapped around these concepts the sooner you will begin the journey and start to reap the rewards.

Peter

stephenbooth_uk's picture

 Peter,

as noted I have read "The Goal".  I am reading 'Lean Thinking' and 'Lean for Dummies' (both currently on hiatus whilst I read "It's Not Luck' and revise for an exam).

Thanks for the MIT link.

Stephen

 

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Skype: stephenbooth_uk  | DiSC: 6137

"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack

 

mcain's picture

Stephen,

If you found "The Goal" to be basically common sense, you probably understand it very well.  The revelations tend to come when you realize the number of things in business apparantly not governed by common sense.  I know that after I read it I immediately began examining how we measured our business, both formally and informally.

Critical Chain by Goldratt is a book focused on the use of The Theory of Constraints in project management.  It's my second favorite Goldratt book.  It's a short one, less than 250 pages.  Since it works more with time than inventory, it may fall closer to your current body of knowledge.

Good luck on getting involved with your company's Lean effort.  Given what you've already said about your CEO and your proclivity for getting things done you will likely have an interesting story to tell in the not-so-distant future.  How very cool!  I know I'll stay tuned in for updates.

-Matt

timr's picture

I consumed 'The Goal' on Audible: 

http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B002V08DRY&qid=1298050707&sr=1-1

They chose to record this one with a full cast, and it brought a lot of life to an already great book. With some technical books, audio versions have a disadvantage because of the need to re-read concepts to 'get it'. The Goal worked wonderfully in audio format, the theory of constraints has never sounded so good!

Tim

On a non-business note, another 'production' audio book for your next long drive to a clients, World War Z: http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B002V8DH36&qid=1298051014&sr=1-1

 

Tom Green's picture

For those that like the "novel" approach to learning, "The Goldmine, a novel of Lean Turnaround" by Freddy & Michael Ballé is in a similar vein to "The Goal" but focused on lean concepts, and while a much "lighter" read, it may fit you better given your comments about "The Goal."  

For a great book on process improvement in a service or support environment, I recommend "The Change Agent's Guide to Radical Improvement" by Ken Miller.  It is not a "lean" book, but has many good practical examples of how to work within a team environement to make change happen. 

My own experience with Lean is similar to my experience with TQM, Six Sigma, ISO 9000, and many other intiatives over the years:  it is what your organization, and your team, make of it.  There is a lot of benefit that can come from focusing an organization on an improvement initiative, regardless of the program, they all have merits.  Unfortunately, there is a lot of harm that can come when an organization is not engaged in the intiative, especially when managment expectations are aligned with what they have been sold, and not on the realistic deliverables from the project they've actually created.  

Good luck! 

kgroat's picture

Hi Stephen,

Our organization is a service organization and we have been on the lean journey for three years now.  The one book I would recommend is the Toyota Way Fieldbook.  It has been interesting as we have mapped out our different processes and start to see how they relate to each other.  Our company is around 160 employees and this year we are targeting having the equivalent of 7 full time equivalents involved in various lean events and process improvements.

 

Kevin

danrivera's picture

Hi Stephen:

One resource that you might be interested in is DIYLean.  It is a free on-line site that focuses on providing free lean tools and templates (A3 templates, etc.), lean book reviews and general advice for individuals/companies taking on the lean challenge.

The website is: www.diylean.com

Another resource is the Lean Enterprise Institute.  This is a great all around resource focused on lean.  It was established by one of the thought leaders in lean -- Jim Womack (author of "The Machine That Changed The World" and other lean titles).  They also have a DVD available called "Toast Kaizen," which is a highly recommended introduction to a lot of the core lean concepts (NVA, continuous improvement, setup reduction, muda, etc.) that is acted out in the presenter's kitchen.  I have used this very often in university level lean courses to get across the basic concepts for individuals working in service, software, etc.

Their website is: www.lean.org

Finally, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (I know, this sounds too manufacturing-centric, but it also has some great lean materials), SME, has a number of very good lean resources like DVDs, books, and a very complete lean certification program which can serve as a good overall guideline for becoming acquainted with lean.  If you aren't put off by the manufacturing aspect you can find a lot of generally applicable materials that apply to any industry.

SME's website is: http://www.sme.org/cgi-bin/getsmepg.pl?/cert/lean_certification.htm&&SME&

I hope that some of these resources can be of assistance.

Dan

stephenbooth_uk's picture

 Dan,

I'm already signed up with LEI, looks like a useful site.  I'll give SME and DIYLean a look when I have time.

Kevin,

I bought "Toyota Way Fieldbook" from amazon, it arrived yesterday and is in the to read pile.

 

I had to put the Lean reading on the back burner for a few weeks due to revising for an exam that I had on Wednesday and some family issues but shuld be able to return to it soon.  I'm currently reading 'Late Night Discussions...' and 'Lean for Dummies', when I finish 'Late Night Discussions...' I'l probably start 'Lean Thinking'.

Thanks

 

Stephen

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Skype: stephenbooth_uk  | DiSC: 6137

"Start with the customer and work backwards, not with the tools and work forwards" - James Womack

 

santoshmarar's picture

Dear Stephen

One more recommendation. The Lean Toolbox for Service Systems by John Bicheno is what you would be looking for.

ISBN for the book is 978 0 9547244 4 1

Hope this helps.

Warm regards
Santosh