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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Book Review: Getting Home

I recently had some time to read a book I have been meaning to get to. Getting Home tells the wonderful story of a very special lean journey. Zack, a defense lawyer, and Liz, a schoolteacher, left their careers temporarily to rebuild homes for desperate survivors of Hurricane Katrina but wound up staying in New Orleans, where they reconstructed the entire process for rebuilding after disasters. After a chance meeting, they wound up partnering with Toyota to apply TPS to cut the time and cost of rebuilding.

When they first connected with their Toyota advisor, the simple question, “Are you ahead or behind?” prompted the response that drives all improvement, all scientific advancement, all innovation: “We don’t actually know.”

Being able to answer “Are you ahead or behind?” means you have to have a point of reference – what is supposed to happen, in what order, with what timing, with what result. If you don’t know those things, you can only get a general sense of “on track” or not.

Plus, they had to create a culture that developed people as problem solvers at SBP (St. Bernard Parish), the disaster relief nonprofit they founded, in order to sustain the improvements. Today, the organization is a global model for disaster recovery efficiency, and with the help of thousands of volunteers, has rebuilt homes for more than 1660 families in disaster-struck areas across the US.

This book drives home the idea Lean isn’t about specific tools. It isn’t that important whether this-or-that specific tool or approach is put into place, it is critical to understand what the tools you use are there to achieve. Each tool surfaced more detail, which in turn, challenged the next level.

Getting Home also details an innovative blueprint based on their experience for how private industry, relief agencies, volunteers, and all levels of government can work together to dramatically shrink the time between when disasters hit and victims get home in a prompt, efficient, and predictable way. And they offer advice we can all use on how to prepare for disasters.

For those familiar with Lean, I think you'll enjoy reading about the transformation, and you will get ideas on how you can better deploy these concepts at your work.

If you work at a nonprofit, this will inspire you to seek out a new way of managing and engaging with staff and volunteers, and will likely challenge your current way of thinking in a good way!

This is an inspiring read for anybody who is interested in finding innovative ways to make a real difference in the world.

Here is an in-depth review of Getting Home from GoLeanSixSigma.com.

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