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The Lean Mindset: Ask the Right Questions 1st Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0321896902
ISBN-10: 0321896904
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Mary Poppendieckhas led teams implementing solutions in everything from enterprise supply-chain management to digital media.


Tom Poppendieckhas been an enterprise analyst, architect, and agile process mentor. Their company, Poppendieck LLC, specializes in bringing lean techniques to product development.


The Poppendiecks are the authors of Lean Software Development, winner of the 2004 Jolt Software Development Productivity Award; Implementing Lean Software Development; and Leading Lean Software Development (all from Addison-Wesley).



Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (October 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321896904
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321896902
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #502,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The Lean Mindset is the 4th book of Mary and Tom Poppendieck in the Lean Software series. The book is in a similar format as the previous books. It contains lots of different stories (mostly referring to others work) and ties those together in one consistent message. The Lean Mindset is a bit different as the previous books in the series as it is less software focused, but also much less 'lean' focused (Lean in the Womack/Jones definition). In that sense, the title Lean Mindset is a bit off, yet it is still a useful book.

The book five chapters, each of about 30 pages or so, making the total page count around 170 (smaller than previous books, as far as I remember). The chapters are 1) The Purpose of Business, 2) Energized Workers, 3) Delighted Customers, 4) Genuine Efficiency, and 5) Breakthrough Innovation.

The first chapter "The Purpose of Business" challenges the concept of companies existing purely for maximizing shareholder benefits. Instead they ought to serve a larger purpose, which also brings us to the second chapter "Energized Workers" challenges that people should just be workers and instead should continuously grow and develop themselves. When they do that, they can chapter 3 "Delight Customers" by not just implementing requirements but by using design thinking to actually solve a problem for the customers. They'll need to do that in a chapter 4 "Genuine Efficiency" way. Efficiency not measured in the utilization of resources but in the flow of value throughout the organization. This usually requires some Chapter 5 "Breakthrough Innovation".

The book contains lots of stories (mostly taken from history) and a couple of case studies in which the Poppendiecks have been in contact with.
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Format: Kindle Edition
The Lean Mindset is the latest book by two of my favourite authors, Mary and Tom Poppendieck. As expected from a continuation of their Lean series, the book tackles a topic much wider than just software delivery, but with great case studies that help put those things into a software delivery perspective.

One of the central concepts of the book is the move from process efficiency to product management and product delivery, which is probably the most important topic for organisations that have successfully adopted Scrum, Kanban or any of the related processes. Pushing software out of the door in a reliable and predictable manner is pretty much a solved problem now, and the next big improvement for many teams will have to come from somewhere else - and in my mind this is clearly by using that process effectiveness to remove bottlenecks in product management. Quoting one of the contributors to the book, "Our agile projects were consistently producing affordable, high-quality software with almost every customer priority included. [...] Stakeholders might have been satisfied with project performance, but rarely was the audience delighted, wowed, or blown away by novel innovation or creative design.". If you recognised your team or organisation in the previous sentence, then this is absolutely the book you have to read next.

The FBI case management story was particularly interesting as it shows one of the pitfalls of iterative delivery - that the pressure to show constant progress causes people to constantly select easy tasks until wicked problems requiring serious engineering surface. This is often caused by a disconnect between business objectives and technical delivery, and the authors list several tools and models that can help avoid that "Air Sandwich".
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Format: Paperback
Going in I was expecting this book to be prescriptive, more of a "how to think lean" book, and instead found it to be more inspirational.

The authors quickly challenge the idea that the purpose of a company is to create shareholder value. They suggest that since trends in the marketplace started focusing on shareholder value (around 1975), shareholder value has decreased. If companies create long term customer value rather than thinking about short-term shareholder value, improved stock prices will be a by-product.

They use the rest of the book to inspire leaders to create a different kind of work environment. They are concerned with bringing out the best in employees, shifting focus to customers, improving cooperation, and creating workplaces that are just a whole lot more pleasant.

They provide some interesting numbers: that 30% of the workforce is selfish, 50% is reliably unselfish, and 20% could go either way. They imply that the selfish 30% are making the marketplace worse for everyone. There's a "feel good" undercurrent that runs through the book, as the authors clearly believe that smart business practices aren't driven by greed.

In the title, the authors use the name "Lean" and their perspective is consistent with Lean development but the book feels more expansive than what I think of as traditionally Lean. The book is a quick read and well written. It has an impressive list of case studies as well. While the ideas aren't that new, they start conversations that are very relevant today. The marketplace is changing dramatically. The core issues addressed by this book should be evaluated by every company as it moves forward.
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