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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Executive Implementer, June 4, 2011
I have just finished my first read through of the latest offering in the Toyota Way series by Jeff Liker and James Franz. This book, in my opinion, is the best addition to the series and gives the original Toyota Way a run for its money when it comes to pure value.
The book is broken into three distinct sections beginning with the purpose of the book, which is dead on, the philosophical and theoretical constructs around PDCA. It continues with a tremendously diverse section of case studies from around the globe and finished up with a final novella about a company undergoing its own transformation and the lessons learned by all involved.
I'm glad to see the authors attribute to Shewhart/Deming the heavy lifting of developing the conceptual framework of P-D-C-A almost a century ago. Too often books on Toyota are superficial and miss this important part of their competitive DNA. I agree with a prior reviewer about the importance in Chapter 5 about the distinction between a typical `lean it out' approach and truly building what the authors call a `lean system.'
The case studies were a valuable addition to the book as they took real people in real industries that aren't automotive and allowed the reader to join them on their respective lean journeys. There were varying levels of successes in the stories, but all showed the power of developing people into problem solvers.
The final section starts with a `case study' of a company just starting on their journey and the successes and setback that they encounter. The last two chapters deal with the topics of leadership and sustaining the improved system, which haven't been emphasized enough in other publications, in my opinion. The typical narrow-minded thinking around what the authors call mechanistic hits very close to home.
It's a long book but definitely leaves the reader with an idea of `what now' that a lot of the other books lack. I'm going back over specific chapters again as it's a lot to take in with just a single read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CI beyond Toyota, May 17, 2011
This is a great book to go deeper into understanding the key process of Toyota's success, PDCA. What I like about the book is that it not only gives the perspective from Toyota's point of view, but also from others. Well over half of the book is made up of "Case Studies", from other organizations and industries that helps me to apply these principles in other settings than just making automobiles. I highly recommend this book to anyone going through their "lean transformation".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How and why the Toyota Way principles can achieve excellence in every part of almost any organization all the time, August 30, 2011
I have read and reviewed all of Jeffrey Liker's previously published books and think this one, his latest co-authored with James Franz, is his most valuable because it will have much wider and deeper impact than has any of the others, notably The Toyota Way, Toyota Talent, and Toyota Culture. As is also true of most other outstanding business books, the wealth of material in this one was driven by research and analysis to answer an especially important business question: "How to link strategy and operational performance to achieve and then sustain superior performance?" Once again, Liker draws heavily upon nearly three decades of his close association and central involvement with the Toyota Motor Corporation.

Others have their own reasons for thinking so highly of this book. Here are two of mine. First, as I correctly anticipated, Liker and Franz clear the air and set the record straight with regard to the facts concerning Toyota's widely-publicized, widely-perceived "problems" that led to the recall of more then 10 million vehicles between late-2009 and early-2010. I hasten to add that Liker and Franz in no way come across as apologists for Toyota. Rather, they address head-on the major issues to assess the legitimate claims while ensuring that the soundness of Toyota's management principles is reaffirmed.

I also appreciate the participation of six guest contributors who play major roles when Liker and Franz focus on a series of case studies of lean transformation in Section Two. They are world-class authorities who invest the narrative with an even richer texture of experience and, more importantly, of wisdom in combination with "street smarts." They include, in Chapters 6, 7 & 9, Robert Kucner ("When Organic Meets Mechanistic: Lean Overhaul and Repair of Ships"), Tony McNaughton ("An Australian Sensei Teaches a Proud Japanese Company New Tricks: Brining TPS to a Complex Equipment Manufacturer"), and Richard Zarbo ("Bringing Ford's Ideas Alive at Henry Fort Health System Labs Through PDCA Leadership").

FYI, as Liker and Franz explain, in Japanese, the word "sensei literally means `teacher,' but it implies much more. It implies the respect granted to a master of his craft by the apprentice [deshi] who is struggling to learn that craft." As for PDCA, it refers to "plan/do/check/ adjust, a mantra that W. Edwards Deming taught to the Japanese. Again as Liker and Franz explain, "When an organization embraces PDCA, it starts to grow to become a learning organization. Projects go beyond one-offs and become a continuous stream of learning opportunities on the road to excellence." My own opinion is that continuous learning is interdependent with continuous improvement and both are essential to reaching the ultimate objective: "to link strategy and operational performance to achieve and then sustain superior performance." That is why Liker and Franz stress, "For Toyota, PDCA is more than a way to get results from process improvement. It is a way of developing people."

No brief commentary such as this can possibly do full justice to the wealth of information, insights, and recommendations that Jeffrey Liker and James Franz provide. However, I do hope that I have given at least some indication of the scope and depth of their brilliant coverage of that material.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Lean Book Ever Written, November 4, 2011
I'm 'into' Lean Manufacturing, so for me this book was like Tom Clancy or Dan Brown. I couldn't put it down. For someone who doesn't find rapid change-over or manufacturing theories and philosophies quite so rivetting, this book might not be as 'fun' as a novel, but you'll still learn a great deal.

More importantly, this book is probably the best in terms of showing lean for what it really is - a business philosophy. Lean can be applied to anything, but it's not about specific tools and techniques so much as specific approaches to problem-solving and a commitment to improving continiously.

The Toyota Way shows how Lean evolved and in doing shows how one can evolve the principals of the underlying philosophies into their environment. Other lean books tend to focus more on the specific manufacturing toolsets. The truth is that if you adopt a lean culture, you'll stumble on the right toolsets over time even if you don't do so intentionally. If on the other hand you view lean as a set of tools to copy - as most American companies view it - you might get a few unsustainable short-term gains but you'll get little else. This is probably the best book at showcasing and selling lean as a culture and a philosophy. And it's awfully well written!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Value is the Case Studies, January 7, 2012
Section 1: The Journey to Continuous Improvement (p1-96) - Mostly a rehash of the authors earlier work and a little tedious. But press on!

Section 2: Case Studies (p97-342) - A very good series of warts and all case studies from US, Japan and Australia, written by a group of contributors. While not all in a factory production environment, they do tend to be in similar areas (ship repair: high volume valve overhaul shop, health care: path lab, nuclear: fuel can manufacture, resource industry: mining site). Many comments contrast mechanistic 6 sigma with the organic lean approach the authors take.

Section 3: Making your Vision a Reality (p343-432) - useful practical application material, useful for companies planning a lean transition and for budding consultants.

The authors do have certain views as consultants that not all readers will agree with but the book has value for anyone aiming for continuous improvement or planning a major cultural or organisational change.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceeding My Expectations!, May 8, 2011
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I pre-ordered this book and have been eagerly awaiting it for quite a while. Started reading it a couple of days ago, and am happy to say that so far, it has exceeded my expectations. Excellent explanation of role of PDCA in creating an organization that is learning, improving, and learning together over and over again. Excellent mix of theory and case studies so far. I believe that this book will be a great read for anyone at any place along their lean journey. Can't wait to read more!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Toyota Way to Continuous Improvement, June 7, 2011
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book by Liker and Franz. What a great job they did sharing the concept of PDCA and lean as removing waste in a continuous way, striving for excellence but always continuing the journey. The case studies demonstrated not only what was done well but what wasn't. It showed us that even the "sensei" need to continuously learn from their mistakes and improve. I whole-heartedly recommend this book to those who would like a method of moving their organization toward excellence.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Should've Came First, May 1, 2013
This should be the very first "Lean" book anyone should read. Too many organizations think Lean Tools are the causes of Toyota's success. That is exactly backwards as this book points out. All those wonderful Tools are the effects of a more mature and refined way of thinking. PDCA forms a that mindset. That is the true "transformation" so many are seeking.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lean only in Name: A Philosophical Journey and Practical Guide, February 17, 2013
As suggested in my title, the value in Liker and Franz's The Toyota Way to Continuous Improvement: Linking Strategy and Operational Excellence to Achieve Superior Performance centers on lean yet is far from lean in terms of value. It took me a year to read this book - a year well-spent. The reason it took me so long to read Liker and Franz's work is because to get the most from this book, one ideally, in my view, experiences and experiments with Liker and Franz and their colleagues' views and approaches toward lean, challenge the assumptions, and reflect and develop a personalized framework in the process of review. This book was read, discussed, executed, challenged, and reflected upon - my copy is well worn and marked and what follows is some solid detail that you may find useful in your purchasing decision.

Lean shares the Center: Liker and Franz's work is just as much about engagement and change leadership than it is about lean from a scientific, technical operations management perspective. From the moment of introduction and framing (Section 1), to the case studies (Section 2), and closing arguments on implementing and sustaining lean within organizations (Section 3), there is considerable discussion on ways to design change interventions that elicit and maintain engagement. Lean just so happens to be the change intervention of focus; however, the principles discussed can apply beyond lean interventions to generalized change management approaches that effectively engage the workforce and address barriers to change.

Balance of Leader-Practitioner Experience: Liker, as many know, is both practitioner and academic and his work reflects his identity along with a group of active practitioner contributors that have unique, and in some respect, similar experiences and paradigms. That element makes this work both interesting and valuable: You understand that in the science, there is room for art in the area of developing and sustaining a culture in which lean can make a measurable and sustained impact. Liker and Franz capture the spirit of lean in a generous way, yielding to practitioner leadership experiences that allow you as the practitioner, learner, and leader to frame and reflect on approaches you may want to employ -- an action learning approach, so to speak.

Good News, Shortcomings, and Reflections: The contributing writers' experiences, and philosophical and technical views of lean takes the reader on a comprehensive journey beyond any superficial and limited coverage of lean tools and processes. You get the latter; however, the contributing writers and principal authors provide their accounts in which you are able to grasp the contingent factors and environmental challenges faced during specific lean interventions; in short, it places lean in a context in very different operating environments, providing a view of the organization's goal and end-game for lean interventions.

The shortcomings share space with the good news stories, providing honest and forthright reflections. As an example (and for me personally a good news story with value), is Dr. Richard Zarbo's account which started intense and didn't let go. From sharing his personal vision, navigating the change challenges within his organization, to sharing detailed technical discussion that served to underlie his organization's personal quest for excellence -- he didn't let up. I will admit this here - I borrow from Dr. Zarbo - in a legal and honest way within my leadership and consulting experiences - and that's what the case study sharing accounts are about: Learning and experimentation with lean.

Sharing space (and what can be viewed falling short of the ideal) is Frank's account of his experience with a mining company in Perth, Australia. Important in Frank's account was his approach to unfreezing the organization and suspending belief of the group of professionals he worked with and making an attempt to re-freeze the organization and capture the learning that had taken place. His efforts fell short in sustaining lean according to his own admission, which I will leave to you to read why; however, it did not fall short in the value it provides for the practitioner and organizational leader considering employing or currently employing lean within their organizations.

And these are just two stories - there is plenty more in which to glean valuable lessons.

Liker and Franz close their value-packed work with further focused discussion on the Plan-Do-Check-Adjust (PDCA) cycle and sustaining lean as a change implementation strategic approach. Here, the range of topics includes accessing and retaining the right mix of leadership and technical skills, balancing the utility of the tools with a philosophical approach, to remaining aware and recognizing the role of strategy and culture.

Now for some critical insight: This book is essentially centered on action plans (stories and approaches) that support strategy and do not provide a clear linkage of how lean interventions directly support the firm's strategy - at least in a clearly defined, explicit way. We do get insight into some executive views and how some leaders, managers, and consultants view the utility of lean efforts (from short term gain to long-term performance excellence); however, the bridge from strategy planning to how lean enabled the organization from a overarching strategic perspective never really comes full circle within the case studies or within the introduction and closing arguments.

In sum, Liker and Franz can be a casual read. I don't recommend such as approach. Or, one can take the approach that lends itself to behavioral change and serious consideration of the value of lean - experiment, apply, learn, and reflect on the readings as it is being read. In the end, I think one may find, as I did, an individual lean approach that integrates his views and approaches yet is unique and consistent with their organizational aims and goals - its unique set of circumstances - that provides value in its journey to achieving lean excellence.

A valuable read --- read it more than once, mark it up, and more importantly, challenge and reflect on the views through experience.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mandatory for Lean experts, October 9, 2011
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I have read all books by Jeff Liker and most of them more than once. His "The Toyota Way", "Toyota Culture" and "Toyota Talent" are classics for anyone interested in Lean (Toyota Business System). They give a good and detailed view in the way Lean works for Toyota.

Many Lean Masters/Practitioners are working in a less ideal situation and are struggling to get Lean implemented or to sustain/improve Lean in an organization. As with 5S, sustaining is the hardest part of being Lean.

"The Toyota Way for Continuous Improvement" brings the understanding that the PDCA cycle is the necessary part in a CI process. As a consultant I notice that the CA part of this cycle is often forgotten and the operation mostly falls back to its old levels.

Most companies that start with their Lean adventure, start with the ideal of getting Lean but actually look for a nice head count reduction. After a first start the operations always falls back to a basic level of Lean with every now and then an eruption of some Lean activities. Which is preferably linked with the next headcount reduction?

This book gives good guidelines on what to do when such a fallback has taken place. The 8 cases Liker/Franz describe, give a good view on how to improve these operations. What I have learned from this wide variation of companies, is that it takes about 6 to 8 years to really implement Lean in companies that already understand some things about it. What I also recognized is the general feeling in such divers companies, is what I call "we are different" feeling within such companies. Often they have a Lean façade (as Jeff Liker calls it so strikingly). I've heard this "different-saying" from Banks, Hospitals, Government organizations, and so on. The cases in this book show that the Lean tools can work everywhere, whenever there is waste.

Reading this book often brought a recognizing feeling of stages companies are in, who mention themselves as being Lean. No empowerment, 5S only on a basic level, only limited visual management, CI as a saving tool. This book can help every Lean Master/Practitioner to bring the company they are working for to the next level of Lean in a never ending journey.
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