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Monday, June 22, 2020

Book Review: Practicing Lean

I finally read Practicing Lean, edited by Mark Graban. Rather, I should say I listened to the audible book which was recently released. The idea behind this book came from Mark who espouses continuous improvement is never something one masters, but rather is a lifelong practice. As Mark points out, people talk about lean thinking, doing lean, implementing lean etc., but all of these phrases miss the point. Lean thinking does not contain any action; doing lean does not contain any thinking, implementing lean could mean that there is end in sight. Practicing lean means that it is something that is done to improve oneself. There is no end and there is both action and thinking.

This is a collection of informal memoirs about lean leadership and transformation in a wide variety of organizations and industries. The stories vary from 5S gone wrong to how people have become better leaders using lean methodologies. A common theme throughout most of the stories is respecting people over simply implementing tools. The individual authors highlight their deep reflection, learning and growth through the years.

The sixteen authors are:
Mark Graban, Author of the books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, blogger at LeanBlog.org
Nick Ruhmann, Director of Operational Excellence for Aon National Flood Services, Inc.
Michael Lombard, Chief Executive Officer of Cornerstone Critical Care Specialty Hospital of Southwest Louisiana
Paul Akers, President of FastCap, author of 2-Second Lean and Lean Health
Jamie Parker, 15 years’ experience in operations management / leadership in retail, service, and manufacturing
Harry Kenworthy, Expert in Lean government after a long career in manufacturing
Bob Rush, Lean Manufacturing Group Leader for Tesla Motors
Samuel Selay, Continuous Improvement Manager for the Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton
David Haigh, David works at Johnson & Johnson Canada, the largest consumer healthcare company in Canada
Joe Swartz, Administrative Director, Business Transformation, Franciscan Alliance, co-author of Healthcare Kaizen
Cameron Stark, Physician and Lean improvement leader in Scotland
Harvey Leach, Principal Consultant with The Consultancy Company based near Oxford, England
Andy Sheppard, Author, The Incredible Transformation of Gregory Todd: a Novel about Leadership and Managing Change
Mike Leigh, President and Founder of OpX Solutions, LLC and former Lean leader at General Electric
Jamie Flinchbaugh, Lean advisor, speaker, and author, who has advised over 300 companies on their Lean journey
Lesa Nichols, Founder, Lesa Nichols Consulting and former Toyota leader

You won’t connect to every story but there are plenty of personal experiences that you’ll relate to from your own journey. Part of the appeal of this book is that there is something for everyone within these 16 contributors. As the author pulls you in it feels very conversational.

Practicing Lean isn’t a technical book focused on tools or how to implement lean but rather a reflection of lessons learned in implementation. Common themes include: learn by doing, respect for people, experimentation and pdca, trusted mentor, and continuous learning to name a few. This book shows there isn’t an ideal lean journey but the path can be more clear learning for others’ experiences and applying the knowledge to your own journey. 

I personally found this book inspirational. It made me reflect on some of my mis-steps and learning over my more than 20 years of practicing lean. I strongly recommend it to anyone who is, well, practicing lean in their organizations.

All the proceeds from this book go to the non-profit Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation. Be sure to check out the website and read the heart-wrenching story of Louise Batz and the family who is trying to help others to never have to deal with preventable medical errors.

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