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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Book Review: Anatomy of a Lean Leader

Are you looking for a Lean leadership model for your organization? In Anatomy of aLean Leader Jerry Bussell draws from his rich lifetime of learning and wealth of stories from the gemba to weave together important lessons from exemplary lean leaders.

In his book, Bussell identifies ten characteristics that he claims are essential for a leader to possess in order to successfully implement a “lean” culture within an organization, or an organization that consistently improves its operations and eliminates wasteful activities from its value streams. He illustrates those traits with stories about modern CEOs as well as past U.S. presidents, Abraham Lincoln.

Those ten essential characteristics are:

  1. Purpose: “finding both the emotional and market definition of the group’s highest purpose, putting it in human terms, and turning everyone to face in that direction”
  2. Respect: “knowing that our words and actions have a profound effect on others; striving toward positive outcomes for people”
  3. Probity: “transparently honest… holding to the highest principles and ideals… integrity… telling the truth”
  4. Influence: “guiding people to finding the right answers on their own, so that the right path becomes their natural inclination”
  5. Continuous Learner: “always looking for new approaches”
  6. Persistence: “keeping coming at a problem with energy and intelligence, working toward a better outcome”
  7. Holistic Thinker: “keeping the entire system in mind”
  8. Problem Solver: no definition offered
  9. Results Driven: “focusing on the process instead of the outcomes”
  10. Courageous: “embracing change that is substantive instead of incremental… being willing to stand up to those who are risk adverse, and it is always inclusive.”

A chapter is devoted to each one of these characteristics. Each of these is presented in concept and backed by examples taken from both our 16th President and noted lean practitioners who have embraced and implemented lean thinking within their organizations as CEOs or C-Suite executives. They share their insights, experiences, stories and lessons of these characteristics. Jerry even shares his own moments of truth, tough choices, and lessons learned.

Each chapter concludes with 5 questions to allow the reader to reflect on their own leadership characteristics and how they may apply them. Bussell invites the reader to follow him down a similar fulfilling lean journey in leadership.

Jerry hopes that if there is one thing that readers take away from his book, it is that purpose – the single compelling vision of what the organization is trying to achieve – is the key. Every other character trait is in support of the unifying sense of being purposeful.

My only complaint of this book is the small font which makes the book deceiving longer and hard to read.  Unfortunately, there are no pictures or graphics to accompany the writing within the book. While not necessary it would have been a plus.

If you are looking for a model for leadership in creating operational excellence then follow Jerry’s practical guide to leading a lean organization. The wealth of knowledge distilled from so many great leaders in one place is invaluable to all leaders from the front line to the corner office. Leadership is a journey in learning and this book will guide you along a proven path of excellence.

Anatomyof a Lean Leader written by Jerry Bussell has been selected as a recipient of an internationally recognized award from The Shingo Prize for OperationalExcellence, part of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business. Bussell will receive the award at the 25th Annual Shingo Prize International Conference occurring May 6-10 in Provo, Utah.

Disclosure: The publisher sent me a copy of this book for my review.

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