Luckily, there is no shortage of literature on Lean Manufacturing over the last several decades. I have been fortunate to read many books from a great many authors on a number of aspects on Lean. A good book can be a great place for some to learn about Lean and how to implement the concepts in their company. The following is a list of books I recommend on learning Lean in no particular order.
The Machine That Changed the World (1990) by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones, Daniel Roos
The book that started it all! The Machine That Changed The World is an excellent read to understand the foundations and history of Lean in the automotive industry. Womack, Jones and Roos thoroughly document the whole of the Toyota Production System, pinpoint the advantages of Lean manufacturing over the prevailing mass-production system used in the western world at the time, and correctly predicted the rise of Lean manufacturing principles, not just in automobile manufacturing, but in any value-creating endeavor.
Lean Thinking (1996) by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones
Lean Thinking is a follow on from The Machine That Changed The World, written by Daniel Jones & James Womack. It is a more practical book in that it explains the ‘how to’ of lean manufacturing. It does not necessarily delve deeply into the step by step actions required to implement a specific lean tool. Rather it sets out the guiding principles that should govern any lean implementation.
Learning to See (1998) by Mike Rother and John Shook
Learning to See is a spiral bound workbook that is perfect for Lean practitioners. It takes the reader step-by-step through the process of creating a value stream map. It does this by way of a worked example in the book. Each section is clearly laid out and contains clear diagrams and informative sidebars.
Creating Continuous Flow (2001) by Mike Rother and Rick Harris
This book is produced in the same format as Learning to See. The focus of this book though is on creating flow throughout a process. This is a natural progression from Learning to See. In a lean transformation, a value stream map is used to identify opportunities for improvement. Once a process has been identified as a constraint, this workbook can be used to improve the flow at a process level.
The Toyota Way (2003) by Jeffrey Liker
Outlining the 14 principles of the Toyota Production System, this is a must read for anyone interested in lean manufacturing. Prior to the publication of the Toyota Way, the vast majority of the Lean literature focused on describing the tangible, technical aspects of the Toyota Production System. Without understanding the accompanying business philosophies and management principles, most organizations that attempted to mimic Toyota failed to generate the same – if any – level of results.
The Toyota WayFieldbook (2005) by Jeffrey Liker and David Meier
Following on from the previous recommendation, this fieldbook takes the 14 principles of the Toyota Production System and provides a hands-on implementation guide. There are case studies, tips to help and traps to avoid as well as reflection questions in each section.
Getting theRight Things Done (2006) by Pascal Dennis
Written by Pascal Dennis this “leader’s guide to planning and execution” gives a clear walkthrough the process of strategy deployment. The book is designed to provide readers with a framework for understanding the key components of strategy deployment: agreeing on the company's “True North,” working within the PDCA cycle, getting consensus through “catchball,” the deployment leader concept and A3 thinking. It links action to theory and reminds us that lean tools - like value-stream maps, kaizen events, and 5S - are only the means to an end, not ends in themselves. Highly recommended if you need to clarify, align and focus on your major initiatives.
Creating a Lean Culture (2005) by David Mann
David Mann’s superb work on how to sustain lean conversions. Learn about the four key principles of lean management: leader standard work, visual controls, daily accountability process and discipline. This book may not contain all of the tools or knowledge you need to sustain Lean conversions, but the practical examples and methods for engaging team leaders, supervisors and managers in the daily maintenance of a Lean operating system through an expanded definition of standard / standardized work, makes this highly accessible book required reading for anyone attempting a serious Lean deployment.
The LeanTurnaround (2012) by Art Byrne
Very few people on the planet can claim the level of real-world Lean success that Art Byrne can. Perhaps, no other book provides such a deep dive into the strategic nature of Lean or the role of senior leaders in driving change. Certainly, none that can back up the theory and discussion with such dramatic and concrete results as Mr. Byrne and his time spent as CEO of Wiremold. This book is a must-read for any executive looking to create and sustain a successful Lean organization.
Gemba Kaizen (1997) by Masaaki Imai
With the publication of his book Kaizen in 1986, Masaaki Imai brought the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement to light. In the sequel, Gemba Kaizen, Mr. Imai enlightens the world to another core Lean concept: the gemba. By combining a focus on incremental, small improvements with a thorough understanding of “the real place”, the book has contributed significantly to the mindset of the present-day Lean thinker. As a bonus, the text includes several case studies from real-world application of the gemba kaizen approach.
Toyota Kata (2009) by Mike Rother
This may not be the best book with which to start your Lean journey, but it is certainly the direction you should head in which to finish. Only those who have struggled to find Lean success will fully appreciate the power of the kata methodology. Of all the texts on Lean and continuous improvement, Toyota Kata achieves what no other book before it has fully accomplished: translating Lean into a set of simple, practical routines, organized around improvement and coaching, that can be readily and effectively practiced at all levels of an organization. Rother cuts down many long-standing fallacies about the practice of Lean, such as the misunderstanding of common Lean “tools” and the misconception of waste elimination. In doing so, Mr. Rother places the focus right where it should be: on the development every person in the organization through a habit of problem solving and the achievement of continuous improvement.
Real LeanVolume 1 (2007) by Bob Emiliani
Now here's a book for managers! Bob Emiliani provides an analysis into lean management and the role managers play in developing a Lean culture. He explains the purposes, advantages, myths, and misinformation surrounding Lean management - the application of Lean principles to those management and leadership positions. Real Lean is a practical guide to Lean management, complete with interesting and informative linkages to historical events and long-forgotten perspectives in Lean.
Have you read any of these? What would you recommend to others? What is your favorite Lean book?