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Implementing lean without help: Tips and recommended readings

The following comment/question was submitted:

"We would like to go lean and would prefer to make the change without outside help. Can you recommend some books on the subject? There are so many to choose from."

In response, my first bit of advise would be to stop before you find your organization in deep trouble. It is not my intent to be harsh but making the transition to lean processes is a very intricate and difficult task. If you do not have an internal "lean champion" who has a great deal of knowledge and hands-on experience in lean processes and transitions you really have no choice but to bring in a lean specialist. Otherwise it can be devastating.

I do not want to discourage you because going lean is a great idea. However, you will need a lean champion and change agent with vast knowledge and multiple experiences in implementing lean. Regardless of who you bring in make sure they are in fact a lean champion. I cannot stress this enough.

As far as readings, you are correct. There are several books written about lean methods. The reason there are so many books is the growing demand for knowledge in lean processes and methodology. The market is being flooded; but that does not mean there are an abundance of "knowledgeable" authors on the subject. Several only research enough to be able to regurgitate phrases and definitions (often in error). Many available published books are misleading and/or inadequate. I have accumulated quite an extensive library on the topic. However, more than half of those books are of no use unless I need a coaster for my coffee. As far as recommending readings to someone with interest in lean strategies I would suggest the following items for an introduction to accurate information:

Recommended Readings:

Begin by purchasing all of Deming's work. It is not lean, per say, but it does introduce a philosophy that prepares you to accept the lean philosophy. Just as we must learn to recognize numbers before we attempt calculus, we must prepare to think in a specific way prior to attempting to understand lean methodology.

Also research Ohno and Shingo. Any information you find related to their contribution to lean and the Toyota Production System is highly valuable.

Following the Deming material I recommend you read the following books:

Joiner, Brian.L. (1994). Fourth Generation Management. The New Business Consciousness
Davis, D & Standard, C. (1999). Running Today's Factory: a Proven Strategy for Lean Manufacturing
Ohno, Taiichi. (1988). Toyota Production System: Beyond large-scale production

From there I would suggest that you begin reading everything James P. Womack has written on the subject. Finally, research change management. Managing Transitions by William Bridges is definitely worth reading. The transition to lean will require an understanding of change management. Again, this is merely a starting point. In your pursuit to understanding lean methodologies you may want to visit the Lean Enterprise Institute online and look through their extensive lean library.

Beginning your research with Deming and progressing through these readings up through Womack will prepare you to accept the lean philosophy and will result in at least a working knowledge. Once you have gotten through these readings you will not be a "lean champion" but will be knowledgeable enough to begin critically reading other works on lean. You will be capable of understanding and working directly with a lean champion. There are other valuable books on the subject; but those I listed above are a great intro and should keep you busy for some time. Once you have read through these materials you will also understand why I advise against attempting the transition without outside help. If you would like some assistance in preparing to go "lean" please contact us. This is not something you should try alone. 


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