- Paperback: 459 pages
- Publisher: Lean Enterprises Inst Inc; 1 edition (July 29, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1934109258
- ISBN-13: 978-1934109250
- Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #434,415 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Lean Manager: A Novel of Lean Transformation 1st Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
The format of a business novel has been popular for several years with some done well and others not so well. In general, I am not especially fond of the novel format due to poor story lines, poor dialogue, extra noise in the story line, and poor pace that drags the story along or slaps together the ending. If done well, I love the novel format.
In the case of The Lean Manager, it is hands down the best business novel on lean transformation that has been written yet and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Michael and Freddy did an outstanding job on all accounts providing a strong story with outstanding dialogue and many, many powerful insights into the lean transformation.
I started highlighting and taking notes of many of the best points which ended up being too numerous to list but I will share just a couple with you. I will not reveal all the golden nuggets found in the book so you can explore it on your own.
"People are natural problem solvers. Once we understand the problem, our mind will follow seamlessly to adopting a solution."
"When a solution is forced onto us where we do not see a problem, chance are we will fight tooth and nail against it, no matter how clever the new approach."
"There are very few operational experiments which cannot be reversed quickly, and hence, a bias to action is perfectly reasonable in routine process."
"Requires radical transformation of managerial behavior."
1. Problems have to be solved one at a time.
2. Managers need to remain close to people as they conduct experiments.
3. Managers have to be maniacs about check.
4. Drawing the right conclusions from the experiment is often really tough.
"Improve Management Practices"
"Only way to be more competitive is to improve management practices continually."
"Managing by problem solving"
"Develop people by kaizen so that they know more."
The major themes in The Lean Manager include: Kaizen Spirit, Go and See, Teamwork, Mutual Trust, and Clear Direction. Each theme is strongly woven into the story line with added company politics, disappointments and frustrations as the fictional plant manager, Andy Ward, struggles to save his plant from pending closure.
Although The Lean Manger is an excellent book, there are a few points that I did not like. For starters, it uses the crisis of plant closure to create a sense of urgency and drama to the lean transformation. Why does it take always take crisis to drive the motivation for a lean transformation?
Second, I absolutely love the character Phil Jenkinson, CEO in this story. Where are all the Phil Jenkinson's in this world!!!! I have never meet a super CEO like this that is a master coach, long term thinker, lean knowledgeable, shop floor comfortable, hands on leader yet keeps his ego in check and lets his people learn by doing. He is as close to perfect as a CEO can get for a lean transformation. This makes a great story and provides an outstanding example however this character is far from the norm.
In addition, there was just one mention of using six sigma in this story during a dialogue between Amy Woods (consultant) and Andy Ward (plant manager) which is less than positive. The story portrays the six sigma approach as "one guy working in a corner and looking for brilliant solutions". In my experience, this is not a true application of six sigma. Those few paragraphs could have been eliminated to remove the negative swipe at six sigma and the lean transformation message would still remain powerful.
One important point to remember while reading this story is not to turn it into a roadmap in a lean transformation. It would be easy to pick up many points in the book and turn it into a roadmap which would not guarantee success. Look at the problems you are facing in your company and determine your own path. Use the story as a discussion platform with other leaders in your company on what it takes in a lean transformation and how are we going to head there.
Despite my few critical points of this story, I highly recommend this book to all of us working on lean transformations. It captures the true essence of a lean transformation in all its accomplishments and struggles with eloquent emphasis that we cannot force a lean transformation and we cannot do this alone.
The Lean Manager stands out from this crowd.
While the critical role of leaders in the TPS has been covered in a technical sense, Michael and Freddy Ballé have captured the very human aspect of what really makes "lean manufacturing" different.
The book is written in the "business novel" genre and tells the story of a complacent factory manager, Andy, who convinces his new CEO to give him at least a chance to make the plant competitive rather than just closing it. The twist from the classic formula is that the CEO is not only Andy's nemesis, he is also his mentor.
Thus, the reader is brought through Andy's steep, and sometimes rocky, learning curve as he tries to apply the tools while struggling to discover the principles of leadership behind them. In the end, the reader has a much better perspective on what is actually meant by "making problems visible" and "engaging the workforce," and the critical relationship between the classic tools and the people who do the work every day.
I say "read this book first" because it goes beyond filling a gap left by other all of those other books. Instead, it sets out the framework for subsequent reading to fit into. Read this book first and you will have a different perspective for the other coverage you find elsewhere.
I attempted to re-read "Toyota Culture" after finishing "The Lean Manager" to pick up things I've lost or forgotten, but I find I can't commit myself to a second read. It is too 'text-written' to follow "The Lean Manager" -- too much like being back in school. That's not to say it isn't a great book, well worth the money and a required read for Lean, but it's just not as easy to read and be engulfed in as "The Lean Manager" or "The Gold Mine". I only have two regrets - 1) I don't have an autographed copy of the books and 2) the books are 'company-owned' so I couldn't highlight and note pages for future reference!
The book does a great job of discussing common challenges in the business world, such as IT systems, automation, and outsourcing, and how everything is interlinked. I enjoyed how the book focuses on developing knowledge and experience in the people doing the work through leadership--not just a core set of expert-types that have no deep understanding of the problems that are trying to be addressed.
Very enjoyable and valuable reading.