Top positive review
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Still a compelling place to start learning about Lean.
on January 26, 2018
I am reading this having already read Gene Kim's "The Phoenix Project." As you might expect, I am in IT - so why read this? In short, I think the novel does a fantastic job of introducing the down-sides of "Taylorist" management approaches, even in manufacturing, which is what Taylorism was developed for in the first place. By presenting the material in the form of a novel with a clear narrative path, it presents the basic ideas and some of their most important implications in an easily-digested and enjoyable way. You can then go on and read some of the excellent nonfiction literature on Lean that is targeted at your type of business and start with a intuition about where things can go, making that literature easier to digest and understand. (As an example, I read Reinertson's excellent "Principles of Product Development Flow" before reading this. I understood in an "I can apply these ideas" way about 30% of the work, and kinda-sorta got the rest. AFTER reading this book and seeing a bigger picture, much more of his theory makes sense to me in a way that I can actually use it now.)
The book has a few dings against it - mostly simply that it is dated. The deteriorating relationship with his stay-at-home wife is realistic for the time in which the book was written - but it smacks of 1986 now. (This from a guy who got married in 1986...) While it is a bit of a distraction, it does help the book make the point that improving things at work in the right way can and does improve people's outside-of-work lives in very real ways. You will not get that empathetic viewpoint from the nonfiction literature on the subject, so the inclusion is still a strength - it is just that the content has not aged all that well.
On the positive side, it swings into other ideas too. The discussion of how traditional accounting rules and consequential financial controls can create a set of counterproductive incentives is telling, and presages by a couple of decades the work being done now in the Beyond Budgeting movement. So it is a great jumping-off point for that too.
Both this book and "The Phoenix Project" are pretty easy reads. If you gun through both over a weekend or two you will be able to see how the principles of Lean developed in manufacturing can be applied to other kinds of work.