Good Reads: The Lean Strategy!

This book is timely and Important!  And as Jim Womack describes it –  it goes well beyond teaching the widely embraced Lean tools as it reveals the complete – and revolutionary – lean strategy.

Many of you know Dan Jones as the co-author of our ‘Lean bible’ – “Lean Thinking” – which he, Jim Womack and Dan Roos authored in 1996.  It was the seminal go-to book that actually drove Lean viral over 20 years ago.  In setting the stage for this book review, I shamelessly paraphrase Dan’s letter to me that provided a heads-up on this just-published book.  It has the feel of an awaited ‘missing piece’ that will enable organizations of all stripes to assemble and improve their own Lean strategy.  Incidentally, we are crossing our fingers that Dan will be a prime Keynote at the 2018 CME Canadian LEAN Conference in June next year.

This book has earned acclamations from John Shook, Jeffrey Liker, Cliff Ransom, and Toyota graduate Tracy Richardson – and from Art Byrne.  Art is the retired CEO of The Wiremold Company and a highly regarded global Mfg. leader.  His own  book, The Lean Turnaround, remains a top recommendation to every Consortium member.  Art’s words – like Art – are very direct:  “It is rare that we get a book co-authored by four of the best lean thinkers – but that’s exactly what you get with The Lean Strategy.  Easy to read, with great examples, this is a serious business book for senior executives.”

The four co-authors of The Lean Strategy are no strangers to Lean practitioners or to leaders at all levels who are transforming their companies.   The works of John Shook, Michael Balle, and Orest Fiume are all central to every lean library and are united with the experience of Jacques Chaize, CEO of a leading French/Danish water control company that’s now a model of lean practice.  Their promise to you is not timid.   They promise you a resource that supports “Using Lean to Create Competitive Advantage, Unleash Innovation, and Deliver Sustainable Growth.” What’s not to like?

Dan explains:  Over the years, many of us are coming to the conclusion that “If we continue to see Lean through traditional management thinking – we will only get traditional results.”  And, we’ve all seen, and been part of, an initially promising consultant-led Lean initiative, often done for an arm’s-length leader/executive, that failed to deliver sustainable results. We’ve also found that introducing the building blocks of a lean management system alone does not change the fundamental assumptions of most leaders, managers, and employees.”

To make real progress, we need to challenge this fundamental thinking by:  1)  Revealing a path/process for the leaders  2) Making clear the business case for lean improvements  3)  And, creating a genuine feeling of ownership felt by all employees toward their own work and for solving tomorrow’s problems as well.  He believes that The Lean Strategy addresses these questions uniquely – and deeply – for the first time.

Over the last four years Dr. Michael Balle (author of the acclaimed The Lean Manager, plus four other books) and Dan have worked with a unique team of CEOs and CFOs who have all gone through consultant-led programs.  Their team concluded that while they had actively led the transformations – this time their work would be guided by a Sensei.  Rounding out their team was Jacques Chaize, the CEO of Danfoss Water Controls (also past President of the Toulouse Business School in Burgundy France) and Orest Fiume, former CFO and Director of The Wiremold Company and cofounder of the Lean Accounting movement.

This unique team was able to distill the strategic path and include with it the personal changes in thinking & behavior they went through. In so doing, they came to the conclusion “that Lean is a very different kind of strategy that uses a different decision-making logic to:  Help leaders find the underlying problems;  Define the improvement directions; and engage everyone in learning how to solve tomorrow’s problems.”

The Lean Strategy describes these changes in detail through real cases, and from the perspective of real business leaders. Dan believes in this ground breaking publication and is sincere in expressing his hope that the book “Will be given to the leaders in your organizations – to inspire them, and show them, how to actively led their lean journey.”  The team hopes the book will encourage open discussions on how Operations Management is taught in business schools that would consider broadening its scope to include the human relations considerations which is a core attribute of Lean’s success in achieving remarkable results through people.  In Dan’s word’s – “We hope this will take us further down the path to creating the people-centric management system that our time desperately needs.”

Chapter Thumbnails & a Closing Thought

To get  a better feel for the practicality and flow of this book, the titles and taglines for each chapter are shown below.

  1. Make Things Better. Create more value by… Creating and delivering more value
  2. Think Differently. Lean is a completely different set of assumptions about moving from reflection to action
  3. Lead from the Ground Up. Learn by doing, and by developing people-centric solutions
  4. Framing for Learning. Use a lean tools and methods for increasing understanding, teamwork, and improvement
  5. Organize for Learning. Leaders can create the ability for step-by-step change throughout the organization
  6. A New Formula for Growth. A Lean strategy compounds value dynamically over time
  7. Reusable Learning for Continuously Growing Value. Learn to learn by starting at the right point and following a clear improvement direction
  8. Accelerate the cap gains. Gains can be accelerated by reinvesting learning from operations into product improvement, and then vice versa
  9. From Kaizen to Innovation. Solve current problems better with new solutions by managing learning curves through continuous, repeated kaizen
  10. Change Your Mind. Create meaningful work by looking at the relationship between people and their work, and their work and customers’ usage

The Lean Strategy is available at Amazon ( or, in Canada, at  It 1s good to keep in mind, that all the leadership one can muster, may still not be enough to compete in our high-velocity networked world without the right visionthe right strategy to achieve the business outcomes needed; and the right people who are well led & managed to enable an enterprise’s culture to be adaptable and sustainable.

And a last thought from Frank Zappa – “So many books, so little time.”  This is one book ATJ recommends you make time for.