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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Very few companies in the United States use Lean manufacturing or service methods. Because of this, most people in business don't know much about Lean operations. Most especially, they don't know how accounting has to change in order to support and strengthen Lean operations. Who's Counting takes the fundamental messages about Lean operations and translates them into an easier to understand format for adjusting accounting to fit.
In many companies that have started Lean operations, the effort was later abandoned because no one understood the accounting and earnings implications of a Lean transition until it was started.
These challenges include going from measuring and "controlling" after-the-fact with statistics that operating people don't find very helpful to real time measurements created and used by the operators, dealing with write-offs as obsolete inventory is discovered as inventory levels are reduced, absorbing an unusual amount of overhead costs as production drops along with inventory, and finding enough work for operating people to do after their productivity goes up by 50 plus percent. Along the way, the company has to run its old accounting methods while it adjusts to the new ones. There's a terrific amount of work involved for the accountants, and it doesn't go away. At the same time, they need to learn about Lean operating methods so that they can play a role in finding better process methods.
Who's Counting? exposes almost all of the issues that can affect accounting in the first two years of a Lean transition. From that point of view, this is a five-star book.
I found, however, that the book was a little light on explaining how the Lean transition would take place in operations. Most accounting people will need to read another book about Lean operations to fully understand the concepts.
The situation in the book will strike some as far-fetched, but it works well to expose the relevant subjects. Many companies start Lean transitions without understanding the implications for how operations will have to be adjusted. That's about the same as in the book where the Lean expert, Mike Rogers, fails to provide enough advance warning about accounting and earnings issues.
I especially liked the ways that Mr. Solomon showed how denial can play a role in slowing down progress . . . and that the motives of those encouraging Lean operations may not be totally pure (as shown here by Joe Reynolds, a member of the board).
As I finished the book, I wondered how companies could get a more realistic understanding of what the Lean development process is like for all of their people before starting. I suspect that many more Lean transitions would succeed if the decision-makers and essential implementers could do so.
Good luck with getting rid of "muda" ("waste" in English).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a pretty lousy novel, having weak dialog and lacking any meaningful character development. However, it is a decent business book telling us the fictional story of one company's quest to become lean. Saying that it is "a lean accounting novel" is somewhat of a misnomer since it doesn't tell us much about lean accounting. Rather the book tells us more about accounting in a lean environment.

The book has a fault common in many business books. Rather than compare two different business techniques done well, it compares a new technique with a well-established technique done poorly. When the company's problems with MRP are discussed, MRP is blamed for the problems, not the company's inept use of MRP. In the story, when the company lies to its MRP system, the MRP system is blamed, not the poor management of the system.

Not enough time was spent on what lean is, and the theories and techniques of lean.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"Who's Counting" and "Practical Lean Accounting" are two great books on lean accounting. I wondered some time ago, which one to read and I am glad that I could not decide, so I bought and read them both. They complement each other extremely well and each one conveys the lessons of lean accounting from a different angle.

"Practical Lean Accounting" is a well structured textbook, approaching lean accounting in a systemized way. Starting from straight-forward shop-floor measurements, like the day-by-the-hour report, it gradually immerses the reader into more demanding topics, like value stream costing or lean performance measurement, culminating in the thorough description of the Sales, Operations and Financial Planning (SOFP) process, which is the way, how an entire lean enterprise is planned, controlled and measured. Lean practitioners looking for specific answers to particular questions will find it easy to navigate through the book. People with the luxury of time for reading it cover to cover will also like it, due to the gradual increase in the complexity of the topics and the many references to other chapters.

"Who's Counting" focuses more on the human side of turning the vision of lean accounting into reality. The novel format is the best way to illustrate, how strong the resistance against change will be and from how many corners of the organization it will attack back. Knowing what to do and knowing why is not enough, the issue is not capturing people's brains. The real challenge is conquering their hearts, while tearing down decades worth of wrong beliefs, bad trade-offs and political game-playing. Mike, the hero of the book teaches us through his own mistakes, that patience, tactfulness and respect for people is more helpful, then acting like a bull in a china shop. The reward is the enthusiastic desire of fellows to go his way and take ownership of the new processes. He even manages to turn Fred, a CFO who has to recognize, that most of what he built during his career was wrong, to use the 3 years until his retirement for becoming the most enthusiastic advocate of change!

Both books provide the reader with insight and incite self-reflection about "the way, we do things". There is hardly any chapter without a sacred cow being slaughtered, however this will strike the reader as plain common sense, due to the thorough description of the reasons. Deeply engrained management practices, such as approval routings, full absorption overhead allocation, standard costing or departmental budgeting will seem ridiculous, once the reader starts to open the eyes to see their fundamentally wrong assumptions.

These books will make You hate many of Your current processes!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I'd just like to say that the book was hard to put down. As I was reading it I could find some areas that related. The reactions of people when they find out what they have been doing is "Muda". But what really captures my interest is that it shows how Lean Accounting can evlove with transforming the organization into a lean enterprise.

It gets quick to the point and shows how the character "Mike" approaches each of the meetings. Mike approaches with good questions and interesting answers. But he himself had some flaws (as in ticking off Fred a lot), but he came to terms with the people he was dealing with. We get frustrated when we are in an organization where everything starts all over. The conversations by each of the characters shows the frustuations each department can endure in the complexities of day to day operations.

It gives a good picture of how situations could be handled at a high level such as with Peter (CEO), Mike, & Fred (CFO). I enjoy how Mike pursuades Fred (& Fred's conversations with his wife Shiela)and the various departments (IT, Purchasing, Planning, Acctg, Production) into working together. I shows how important of a roll they play when they depend on each other to make things happen. Teamwork, just like a lean transformation itself. The characters are energized for change. They show such enthusiasm.

No journey of change is an easy one. It takes patience, learning, understanding, perserverance, and believing. I find the book well articulated, covers issues and points in a clear manner, as well as provide good humor. I give it 5 stars.

Steven K.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"Let's not rely on seventy year old accounting practices to compete in today's global market". - From the author's introduction.

It seems strange to be recommending a novel to normally intelligent and sensible accountants - particularly one which reads like a cheesy TV melodrama !. But it is a business novel on an accounting topic which, I believe, will be crucial for management accountants in future.

"Who's Counting" provides a simple and easily digestible introduction to lean accounting. The book focuses, particularly, on the marginal costing versus absorption costing debate; but other accounting issues and lean techniques are also covered, including stock valuation issues; the impact on earnings per share; and a tantalising glimpse of what a kaizen event might comprise in the accounts department !.

You're not expecting Jane Austen, and you certainly don't get her. The plot is virtually non-existent; the characters one-dimensional; and the writing style juvenile ("Can we take a freakin' bio break first, or isn't that allowed in Lean ?".). But I am being unfair. The book is a very easy read, and it covers the key issues in lean accounting well. It makes the language and ideas of lean understandable; and to my mind that is an achievement that forgives poor dialogue and uninteresting characters.

As a simple introduction to lean accounting this book is worthwhile. It covers all the bases and you'll whiz through it. You couldn't implement a lean accounting system from this book, but for students and accountants wishing to learn more about the field, it is a good place to start. I do recommend this for beginners in the subject. It is fun in a cheesy way, and it has spurred me on to the next stage - reading something more substantial on the topic.

As Tom Cruise almost said in one of his films "Show me the muda !". To find out what muda is, you'll need to read the book. And, as the book tells us near the end, "Accounting is beginning to operate on a different level because of some of the improvement efforts you've led. They're excited about really affecting results not just keeping score". Creaky prose aside, isn't that what management accounting should be ?.

I think lean accounting is a massively important for management accountants in the future. I want to be in there, and this book is a good place to start learning about it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
I am a student of finance and bought the book to learn more about lean accounting. I had never heard of the subject before but Solomon does an effective job of explaining a dry and complicated subject through a bright and simple narrative. As with a lot of business novels the story starts with the hero facing serious problems at work and his job on the line. Next comes a suggested, controversial solution and lots of conflict before everything is resolved and the business becomes a world beater.

The only area of the story that put me at unease was reference to operating efficiencies of sub-units. This seemed to be a contradiction of Eli Goldratt's theory (see 'the Goal') which states that efficiencies should only be attempted of a whole production system based on the rate of the slowest step within that system; separate optimisation of sub-systems will result in higher work-in-progress inventories.

This critiscism should not detract from the overall quality of Solomon's work, but it does illustrate the value of a wider scope of reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A thoroughly enjoyable and interesting book. Solomon has created a new way of thinking about Lean manufacturing. I refer to it often and recommend it strongly.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Who's Counting,
Wow, what a great book. It allows non-accountants to challenge the status quo. For year's accountants didn't show up for improvement events and challenged Lean projects with bogus overhead calculations, economy of scale, anti inventory reduction, and machine utilization reports. This book untangles these wasteful accounting practices and much more. The story brings accounting employees to the action and allows them to use their skills and eyes to "See Waste", account for it, while improving operations. (As close to Value-Add as possible) It's written, as an easy read similar to the "The Goal". What I found oozes out of the story is the author's background. It is obvious he made radical changes in accounting departments and did more then dreamed about continuous improvement in his office he must have paved the way for improving the whole organization.
I have read it more then once and have found every time I read it, I got more out of it.
Eddie Conklin
Lean Coordinator
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2006
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I work in Finance for a Fortune 200 company that is 100% committed to the Lean Journey. This book has been distributed, read and re-read throughout the company's leadership, both in Finance and in other areas, to help frame the issue of why Finance can be a barrier or an enabler to Lean. It does a great job of explaining not only the technical issues but really demonstrates the cultural obstacles and why they exist, all in an easy-to-read story. I would highly recommend this book to anyone and in particular Finance leaders who are wondering where they fit in with Lean.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A very entertaining business novel done in the style of Goldratt (The Goal). It chronicles a lean implementation in which the accounting department is a key element. It was refreshing to get more than the common advice on eliminating poor measurements that suboptimize the business system. This book details an improved cost accounting approach that simplifies and makes more transparent actual business results. In addition some lean implementation practices that the accounting shop can do themselves is also spelled out. Worthwhile, it will help you improve your operation.
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