The LEAN Journey- Taking Us Beyond Toolkits to Truly Produce Results

The following book review by Jeffrey K. Liker, author of The Toyota Way, writing about The Lean Manager: A Novel of Lean Transformation (2009, Freddy Balle and Michael Balle) addresses the core issue and challenge for any leader who desires to effectively implement LEAN management. In our experience in the Henry Ford Production System, its all about leader-driven culture. The structures we create and the support we provide to sustain worker-involved change is critical to its success./ RZ

"As we are progressing on the 'lean journey,' companies are maturing from process-improvement toolkits to lean value-stream management, to employee engagement in problem solving, to aligned culture focused by self-aware leadership on the right business problems. The companies I teach are begging for guidance on leadership. They have had enough discussion of tools. They understand that path is a dead end. It is the right time for this discussion, but how do you have the discussion?"

"A business novel that illustrates the struggles of real people to change and learn and adapt to an unforgiving business environment is priceless. Once again I am excited and have hopes that this book will enlighten readers about what it really means to live a business transformation that puts customers first and does this through developing people. People who do the work have to improve the work.

There are tools, but they are not tools for 'improving the process.' They are tools for making problems visible and for helping people think about how to solve those problems. Whether it is a kanban or standardized work or 5S, these are tools to set a standard and make the deviation from the standard visible to the work group. Then the work group must develop problem-solving skills to identify the root cause and solve the real problem.

Any solution is an experiment that is 'right half the time.' If the tools do not change the way people who do the work think about their own processes, the tools are a failure. If leaders do not understand how to use the tools to unleash the creativity and motivation of people, they are not leaders-they are just administering a bureaucratic process."