Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: Toyota Under Fire

 

“Toyota Under Fire” by Jeffrey Liker and Timothy Ogden is a highly recommended book for leaders, Lean-thinkers, and people interested in media criticism.

I initially thought it would solely be about the recall crisis which NASA has already vindicated the company.  The book also details the challenges faced by Toyota during the recession.  The authors provide candid information about how the company could have done better and show how they turned the crisis into an opportunity to become stronger.

The final chapter transforms Toyota’s story during the crisis into lessons other organizations can use to help them be prepared for a crisis.

The book helped understand the power of the Toyota Way and reaffirms why they are a company to be admired.  There are many great insights into the thinking of the people in the organization.  Some of my favorites were about how deeply respect for people is practiced, the examples of how important it is to be close to the problem to be able to improve it, the importance of culture, and how the five why’s were used to accept responsibility of the problem.

For those interested in media criticism, this book provides a lot of data that was distorted or omitted in the news during the recalls.  The examples of sensationalized reports with no follow-through once disproven will serve as a reminder to take what we consume from the news with a grain of salt.

One thing I found surprising in the book is that many cited sources were from bloggers and websites.  Since the traditional media seemed slanted against Toyota, these other sources appear more neutral.

Liker and Ogden’s book show how Toyota practices the Toyota Way.  It is not just about theory and philosophy but a demonstration of how it was recently done.  This was an excellent book.

Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher.

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Book Review: On The Mend

“On The Mend” by John Toussaint, Roger Gerard, and Emily Adams is highly recommended for any level of leader in a hospital.

The authors stress the importance of how leaders need to change themselves in a Lean transformation.  Insights to the thinking of leaders at ThedaCare will challenge a hospital’s current management approach and hopefully inspire experimentation of a new style.

Woven throughout the book is the continual discussion of the impacts of a shame and blame culture.  The authors discuss some of the root causes of shame and blame.  They explain some of the counter-measures they used to improve the culture.  There is a whole chapter on engaging doctors that is of value for any healthcare leader.

The book greatly shows how time reduction is not only a productivity metric, but how timeliness impacts the health and safety of the patient.  Other examples throughout the book demonstrate that Lean can make great improvements in a hospital.

I appreciate the credibility of the authors.  Many times, they state when things did not work well, how they were the problem in some cases, and how they would approach differently in the future.  I think it is important for these sort of books to be honest since a Lean journey is not easy.  “On The Mend” provides a realistic look at how this kind of thinking can make lasting transformation in hospitals.

More information about the book including videos, author interviews, and a free chapter available at L.E.I.

Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher.

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Book Review: Kaizen Event Fieldbook

Mark Hamel’s “Kaizen Event Fieldbook” is an excellent addition to the library of Lean literature.  Don’t let the title fool you though, there is more to this book than just the technical details behind a kaizen event.

The book definitely delivers on the myriad of details for progressing through the different phases of a kaizen event.  Instead of just explaining what to do, the author provides the reason why it is done.  The book’s emphasis on the thinking behind the actions is valuable for Lean leaders, facilitators, and consultants .  While there are a lot of similarities to how my organization conducts events, it is nice to see the differences recommended by the book.

There are many great tables and visuals throughout the book.  A few of my favorites are the decision tree for what should be a kaizen event, a table with nine symptoms of event malpractice, and a team behavioral audit for the facilitator.  There is also an exhaustive appendix with blank forms to use for kaizen events.

In addition to the technical details, the book has a lot of insight for transformational leadership.  I enjoyed the different short stories in the “gemba tales”.  I like to learn how others teach Lean concepts and the book has an excellent chapter where the author does just that.  I am glad the book also discusses the need for daily kaizen and what that looks like in relation to kaizen events.  Lastly, there is an outstanding section about the role of a kaizen promotion office and the core competencies of those who work in it.

The “Kaizen Event Fieldbook” is a book I open often and refer to.  I highly recommend it.

Mark Hamel writes a great blog at http://kaizenfieldbook.com/marksblog/ and can be found on twitter as @markrhamel.

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Book Review: Lean Hospitals

Mark Graban’s “Lean Hospitals” is a must-read for any hospital going through a Lean transformation.  I recommend it for all staff and not just leadership.

I am an internal consultant in a Lean hospital.  One of the biggest challenges is helping clinical staff understand how stuff from the automotive industry and manufacturing is relevant to their work.  Mark’s book provides descriptions and case examples that tie the Lean philosophy and tools directly to hospital work.

A strength of the book is the realistic way to approach Lean in a hospital.  There are many nuances for standardized work that are valuable.  Wastes are identified as things people in hospitals experience.  Mark points out common issues faced by hospitals if you are looking for a place to start.  I can not emphasize enough how many valuable tidbits are throughout this book.

Leaders will get a lot from this book.  Lean requires management to change in order to support front-line improvements.  Mark provides many concrete things leaders can do to make their journey successful. 

The continued focus of  patient needs and employee engagement drives all aspects of the book.  This brings purpose behind everything else that is explained.  This book will help drive valuable change for hospitals.

  • Get the first chapter for free here
  • See a video with the author here.
  • Follow Mark Graban on his blog andor twitter.

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Book Review: Flawless Consulting 2nd Edition

Peter Block’s “Flawless Consulting Second Edition” is an outstanding book and I recommend it for anybody who is ever asked for advice.  Consulting skills are not limited to people with a consultant title but anybody who helps others but has no authority over the outcome of their advice.  Leaders, project managers, church elders, event planners, and many others will find benefit in this book.

I bought this book because I am an internal consultant.  I had a coach challenge me to define my role as a consultant.  I was not able to do so in a way that satisfied me.  This book helped me tremendously to be purposeful in all of my consulting work.

Block defines the roles and needs for both consultant and client.  He provides the thinking behind the business of each phase in consulting.  The definition and encouragement of how to be authentic are very actionable.  The book also highlights the differences between external and internal consulting. 

Some stand out chapters cover: 

  • Contracting with a client (this is not just a formal & legal contract but a relationship contract)
  • Understanding, recognizing, and dealing with resistance
  • Obtaining data
  • Engagement thinking and tools

”Flawless Consulting” has many elements consistent with Lean thinking such as whole system engagement, being a learning organization instead of only focusing on teaching, and moving away from just engineering to include the social side of change. 

I really like the wide margins in the book to be able to write my notes and thoughts.  A good sign that I get something from a book is the amount of pencil marks inside of it.  Practically every other page has some notation from my pencil!

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Book Review: Kaizen Express

Kaizen Express: Fundamentals for Your Lean Journey Kaizen Express: Fundamentals for Your Lean Journey by Toshiko Narusawa
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kaizen Express from the Lean Enterprise Institute is an interesting book. The book focuses on the basic fundamentals of Lean and should be interesting to anybody wanting to reflect more on the principles.

I really like the book’s drawings and its focus on how to implement things like standardized work, visual management, jidoka, flow, and others. I want to emphasize a strength of this book is these concepts are not just defined like a glossary or a single paragraph but have a few pages dedicated to exploring the thinking and practicalities to operationalizing them.

Some lessons that stand out are the definition of three kinds of muda, the idea of islands, auto-eject devices, “A type pull” and “B type pull”, visual management, and zone control. The forms at the back of the book were interesting to see how similar or different to what my organization uses.

I do have some criticisms of the book. The biggest issue I have about this book is the lack of PDCA mentioned. While I learned TPS and TQC were developed separately by Toyota, PDCA is usually bundled into all Lean materials at this point. For a book about the basic fundamentals, this seems like a glaring omission to me.

I also need to discuss that this book is written in Japanese on the left side of the page and English on the right. I do not have major problems with this but found it to be slightly distracting – especially when some of the page layouts are in the middle of the page. It is quaint to see the Japanese writing but I do not see this as value added to me.

Overall, this book has a lot of gems in it and I would recommend it. I see this as a very handy quick reference book.

Conflict of interest disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review purposes.

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Book Review: The Birth Of Lean

 “The Birth Of Lean” published by the Lean Enterprise Institute is a terrific book.  This book is for people who want to gain a deeper insight into the thinking and struggles Toyota went through to develop what we call Lean. 

I have been on my Lean Journey for 1.5 years.  This book was perfect for someone at my stage of learning.  I do not think this is a good introduction to Lean but functions as a book to help get a deeper understanding of the topics.  If Lean was a college course, this would be a book for the level 300 classes. 

The most powerful aspect of this book was the first person narrative from TPS & TQC pioneers such as Taiichi Ohno, Masao Nemoto, and Eiji Toyoda.  I felt I was able to “get into their head” for a bit and understand their thinking and perspectives.

There are many gems in this book and different things that stood out to me.

  • SCOLDING – This surprised me to see how often the speakers talk about scolding workers and showing what went wrong and why.  I am not suggesting this becomes a new practice, but this really shows an approach Toyota took to creating a learning organization.  Many Lean transformations strive for the feel-good approach.
  • EXPERIMENTATION – Toyota just kept trying new things over and over again.  They stopped the line and kept at it. They did not wait for a workshop.  They practiced GAMBARE (just do it).
  • TWO PILLARS – I was surprised to read that Ohno’s Toyota Production System was created almost in parallel with Nemoto’s Total Quality Control.  The two systems complimented each other but were not made in conjunction.  Most Lean literature has merged these two systems and call it TPS but they were independent for quite a while.

If you want to think like the pioneers of Lean, this book will let you hear directly from them.  There are many nuggets inside the book that will be valuable for you.

Conflict of interest disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review purposes.

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Book Review: In Pursuit Of Elegance

In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing by Matthew E. May



rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved “In Pursuit Of Elegance” by Matthew E. May. This book will provide a basis for a whole new kind of thinking. I can not think of an audience that would not benefit from reading this book because it can apply to business, art, home-life, and many other ventures.

One thing I found brilliant about the book is that it doesn’t offer specific steps to follow. This is not a “go and do” kind of book. What is NOT in the book is what makes this powerful (and elegant). May provides many case examples with different perspectives of elegant thinking without telling the reader what do make of them. After reading chapters, I found myself applying the thinking to my own situations. Powerful stuff started popping in my head based on the principles I learned about in the book. This is a highly interactive book if you plan to daydream a little bit after you read it.

I am a big fan of his last book “The Elegant Solution” and noticed a lot of similar ideas and concepts from that book. What the author did was shake loose the Lean/Toyota anchor and make this new book more open and accessible for a wider audience. There is a lot of freedom from that decision that will make this a better book for non-Lean practitioners while still providing relevant thoughts for those who are on the Lean journey.

This book is difficult to explain the highlights because most of them came from my personal application once I understood the concepts explained. What great ideas will come to you while you read the book?

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Book Review: Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean?

Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean? Building the bridge from job satisfaction to corporate profit Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean? Building the bridge from job satisfaction to corporate profit by Jeff Hajek



rating: 5 of 5 stars
Jeff Hajek’s “Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean” is a must-read for front line workers in a organization that is going through a Lean transformation. It is a highly suggested book for managers, supervisors, and Human Resources in Lean enterprises. I also think the book has value for unsatisfied workers in any field.

The book has some great advice for helping people cope with Lean changes. It is laid out in a way that you don’t have to read it cover-to-cover but can turn right to the section that you are currently struggling with. I think the description of how people think and then decide to take action is fundamental for people to grasp in any organization (Lean or not). Recognizing how your interpretations bring emotions which can fuel your decision to act is something I have had mentors teach me in the past but I have experienced many people who do not understand this or practice it. This part of the book will really help anybody looking for more job satisfaction.

The value for managers and supervisors is to really understand what your staff may be thinking. There are things in this book I never considered before that affects staff-satisfaction such as how it feels to people with seniority that end up on an even playing field as newcomers due to standard work. While the changes make sense, it can be difficult to consider all of the personal reactions for your staff. This book helps you reflect on what people are going through and more importantly provides advice that you can use while coaching.

Hajek’s chapter on the basics of Lean is outstanding. The concepts are explained in a very relatable way such as a lemonade stand used to describe wastes or linking Lean tools to common things we use like Netflix as example of Kanban.

The “Hard Truths About Lean” chapter is a good “tough love” discussion. I am an overly positive person (the cup is half-full and I know where the pitcher is to refill it) so this chapter really helped me recognize the difficulties faced in Lean transformations. While I knew them already, this book served as a reminder of what it is like in the beginning. I may work with people farther down the path but Lean is still only in beginning stages some parts. This chapter is helpful when you work throughout your enterprise and people are at different stages.

I highly recommend this book.

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Book Review: Managing To Learn

Managing to Learn Managing to Learn by Shook



rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Managing to Learn” is an excellent book for managers and coaches of A3 authors/advocates. John Shook is a true sensei with 11 years of Toyota history and real world experience in helping organizations with Lean transformations. I have been learning a lot from his incredible blog posts recently as well.

My organization is about 5 months into our A3 launch so I have been researching a lot for best practices and ideas. I initially thought this book was going to be a “how to” guide for the author of the A3.  You can probably understand how to write an A3 from this book but it is not as explicit as Sobek/Smalley’s bookI believe managers and coaches should read both books.

Where this book truly shines is getting into the head of the A3 mentor.  A lot of Lean books are written from an academic standpoint but this book feels more like a day in the life of someone actually doing the work.  The pressure the manager feels organizationally to get things completed in contrast to allowing the A3 author time to learn is a true struggle I have seen in Lean transformations.  The book has a part where the manager is dealing with multiple A3 authors all at different stages in their learning.  I know these are true mental challenges for coaches so it is nice to relate to a character going through the same things.

Coaches can learn a lot from this book to help the A3 author’s growth and deep understanding.

Some great things I learned from the book is how to encourage more than one counter-measure, using respect through conflict, helping the author make valid decisions and transition from author to advocate, pull-based authority, using 5 whys after implementing in the check/act cycle, and how to help the A3 writer become a coach themselves.

I think this book would be interesting to Project Managers as well.  The last few chapters offer some great insight on how to deal with iterative changes and dealing with cultural resistance.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Book Review: The Elegant Solution

The Elegant Solution: Toyota's Formula for Mastering Innovation The Elegant Solution: Toyota’s Formula for Mastering Innovation by Matthew E. May
  rating: 5 of 5 stars View all my reviews.

My review

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”.  This quote from Antoine de Saint Exupery is included in “The Elegant Solution” and perfectly sums up the premise.

 

I would hate to classify this as just a lean book because I think it can have value for non-lean organizations since innovation is needed everywhere.  For the people who have practiced Lean, this book is of value because it taps into something important – CREATIVITY.

 

I enjoyed the constant theme for innovation through the balance between science and art.

 

I appreciate the structure of the book for chapters starting out with Problem, Cause, and Solution and then ending with Hansei (reflection).  Modeling Toyota thinking within the pages is impactful.

 

A major learning I have from the book is identifying problems two ways: 1) What is broken (and keeping you up at night)? and 2) What is blocking perfection?  Matthew E. May delves into the thought process behind these two approaches and the second type of problem is a way I never considered before. 

 

The book discusses many obstacles to creating innovation.  It is easy to just say “change is hard” but the book calls out specific biases and challenges.  Knowing specifically what makes change difficult allows you to create counter-measures.

 

The chapter about intangible value added service/products is a fresh way to look at your organization’s deliverables. 

 

I have never seen stretch goals defined as well as the book and really learned a lot about Dynamic Tension.  Gaining a deep understanding of the problem by going to the site where the work is done AND verifying through data is explained in actionable detail.

 

I highly recommend this book to anybody.  For organizations beginning their Lean Journey, this should be one of the first books to read before you dive into the technical details of tools because it will inspire you to keep your heart in innovation.

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Book Review: Understanding A3 Thinking

A Critical Component of Toyota's PDCA Management System Understanding A3 Thinking: A Critical Component of Toyota’s PDCA Management System by Durward K. Sobek II.



rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is outstanding. I initially thought it would be a quick read since the page count is short, but I found myself slowly savoring it. This book is like a good wine where you appreciate the textures and nuances if you take it slow.

I suggest this book to all Lean practitioners, most project managers, people who use data to understand problems and show improvements, people who like to draw, and anybody else that enjoys the thought process behind problem solving.

This is a great next book for fans of THE BACK OF THE NAPKIN. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24203…

The authors offer profound insights to A3 thinking and structure. They also paint a deeper understanding of the thinking at Toyota. I particularly liked the explanation of nemawashi and how the A3 author must return to those where their concerns were not addressed to explain why.

I found the thinking behind data to be fascinating. It is nice to see how much or how little is used. The authors even give a nice overview of Tufte’s graph theories while providing an easy template to choose the best graph to match your communication goal.

For project managers, the A3 project status template is worth exploring. I have used dashboards in the past but this structure paints a better picture while ensuring the organization’s objectives are still being met (projects can chug along way past this simple goal and this report keeps it grounded).

Last but not least, my organization is in the infancy of launching A3 to our mix of Improvement Workshops and Value Stream work. This book offers practical suggestions for starting A3 at your enterprise.

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Book Review: The Back Of The Napkin

I just finished a fantastic and highly recommended book: The Back Of The Napkin by Dan Roam.  Project Managers and Change Leaders will get a lot from this book.  I see this book as a catalyst to make the workplace more visual and remove waste through clear communication.  See my full review on goodreads.

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