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The Gold Mine: A Novel of Lean Turnaround Paperback – May 30, 2005

51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The Gold Mine is the first book to comprehensively introduce all the lean tools by means of a vivid personal story showing how hearts and minds are won over, said publisher James Womack, LEI president and founder. "It will spark ah-ha’s from everyone who has been there and provide profound insight for those who are just getting started."

"Reading The Gold Mine is like eavesdropping on a sensei dispensing gems to a client," says co-publisher Daniel Jones, founder of the Lean Academy in the UK. "Readers, especially those individuals working on the shop floor, will gain revelation and inspiration by living through the experiences of the hero. Managers and executives just beginning a lean transformation will learn valuable insights about how to sidestep the technical and people problems that lay ahead. And experienced lean thinkers will discover fresh insights about overcoming resistance to change."

From the Author

Our novelistic approach addresses one of the reasons that it's so hard to find any workable lean "recipe," which is that the tools, or at least their level of implementation, must be linked to the management's lean maturity. For instance, we would argue that lean is fundamentally about rigorous problem solving and involving operators in kaizen. Fine. But in most working environments, if you start there, as most TQM or six sigma programs do, you will end up with disappointing results. People will get confused about which problems to solve, how to go about change, and what kind of attitude to adopt when dealing with resistance or recurring problems. In a factory it's usually easier to start a lean program with the basics, such as seven wastes, 5S, red bins for quality, reducing batch sizes by increasing tool changeover, and moving progressively to eliminating variation in the operators' work cycle.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Lean Enterprises Inst Inc (May 30, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0974322563
  • ISBN-13: 978-0974322568
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #190,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Balle, Ph.D., has been studying the link betwen individual reasoning and large-scale change for the past fifteen years; This has led him to experiment and research on various aspects of change in organizations, and, in particular the practice of lean management. Michael works with senior executives on the shop floor improving processes and then writes it up - which is the fun part.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Arthur T. Smalley on June 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
Two Thumbs Up for "The Gold Mine"! This is by far the most insightful tale I have read about what it is like to try and drive lean manufacturing principles in the real world. Most books about Lean/TPS are dry technical "how to" guides that give you a tool and then dogmatically tell to go apply it and drive improvement. Or they are general overview books that describe what lean is, why it is so great, why you need to do it, but then of course give you no clue as to how to do it...(I won't directly offend any authors by mentioning titles this is after all just my opinion).

This novel strikes a unique balance that is both insightful and fun to read for those of us interested in lean manufacturing methods (a.k.a. Toyota Production System) or for anyone just interested in a good business story. The book uses a fictional (but very real sounding) plant backdrop and describes the struggle of how a management team embarks upon learning about lean from a reluctant and wise old sensei. It covers how they struggle to implement the methods with some human drama, and eventually how they find a way to make improvements for their respective situation.

In fairness I must admit that I am a somewhat biased reviewer. I was fortunate enough early in my life to lived in Japan for nine and a half years and a great part of this time I worked for Toyota Motor Corporation as a manufacturing engineer in an old engine plant. My boss, my boss's boss, and his boss, etc. were all first hand disciples of Taiichi Ono in the 1960's and 70's (I claim no such lineage I just happened to work there long after Mr. Ohno had left). What I find amazing in this book however is that the teachings are remarkably similar to what my Japanese superiors taught me back in Toyota over 15 years ago.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Clark A. Harrison on July 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
I read "The Gold Mine" when it came out, and immediately had it added to our company Lean Library, and my own "read again" list.

It is definitely a must read for those that want to get into the depths of Lean, not just the tools. To get beyond and behind the mechanics of the tools, I group this book along with the outstanding Harvard Business Review articles: "The DNA of the Toyota Production System" by Spear & Bowen, and "Learning to Lead at Toyota" by Spear.

Understanding the mechanics of the Lean tools is necessary but not sufficient. Understanding the power behind the tools and the real challenge implementing them is critical. Tool books and true-life but superficial turnaround stories are helpful, but cannot reach the levels that a fictional story like this can (especially when told by authors who clearly "get it").

Here are specific thoughts on the book itself:

On the positives:

1) the descriptions of the dad character's interations with his sensei's were so realistic, I could picture myself with my own sensei's years ago (Hiyashi-san and Oba-san from Toyota and Matsubara-san from Tokai Rika). I found myself learning as much from remembering and rethinking what they said as I did from the book itself.

2) I was thoroughly impressed with the depth of understanding of Lean conveyed by the Balle's. The dad character hits on some real subtleties of Lean that it took me years of doing to even appreciate the power. I encourage readers to go over the 5S, 5 Why and TPM sections several times - the sections are brief, but there is some hard won wisdom in those passages.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Meyer on June 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
Just in time for summer, the Lean Enterprise Institute has published The Gold Mine by Freddy and Michael Balle, an excellent novel on executing a lean manufacturing turnaround. Here's a great way to relax on the beach with an entertaining book while also getting some great ideas on how to improve your operations... without having to slog through yet another mind-numbing business best seller. Coming from the organization spawned by Womack and Jones (the authors of the definitive text on Lean, Lean Thinking), I had great expectations for this book.

Goldratt's The Goal has been required reading for many years. It provides a good introduction to theory of constraints, also in the format of an entertaining novel. However it falls a little short on explaining how to implement the concept in the real world.

The Gold Mine goes several steps further. The novel begins with a real-life business situation that many of us have experienced... strong sales, a backlog, great products... but still a cash flow problem. By using all of the core Lean tools such as 5S, kanban, pull, heijunka, jidoka, value stream mapping, and kaizen, the novel's characters turn the business around. Real life roadblocks are encountered, and the implementation of each concept is detailed.

Perhaps the most valuable insight is with the people side of Lean... something that many lean implementations forget about. The novel spends quite a bit of time on the emotional and leadership growth of the characters, and how they inspired their team to greatness. As Jim Womack says, "Mastery of the technical details of lean thinking is never enough. A transformation will fail without the most important element: the engagement of the people doing the work."

After reading this novel you may want to escape the beach and get back to work!
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