Want to know the best Lean books for beginners? Before you read any further, I want you to answer a very simple question: what is Lean to you? Go ahead and take a minute. Jot down your thoughts if it helps.
Did you struggle to answer the question clearly and concisely?
The Struggle to Learn
The single, most important concept for you to develop as a new Lean learner is a clear mental model that answers the question, what is Lean? Unfortunately, this is an area in which our current methods of Lean education are failing . . . badly.
If you are like most most people, your initial exposure to Lean thinking probably came in the form of a death-by-Power-Point, classroom-based “training”. Consequently, your mental model for what Lean is probably resembles a toolbox. To be practiced individually, you likely relate gaining proficiency in Lean to learning how to pick-and-choose the right “tools” to meet the needs of your specific situations.
I hate to break it to you, but this thinking could not be further from reality.
The Lean toolbox mental model fails in two very important ways:
- In Lean, there are no tools. Lean is a comprehensive system of managing and operating an organization that originated from the Toyota Production System. What we think of as “tools” are actually interdependent components of the Toyota Production System that work together – and only together, as a system – to achieve success. Taken individually, or employed for the wrong application, and they will often produce more harm than good.
- In the Lean system, people are paramount. In the most successful Lean environments, the majority of the time and effort is not spent on the technical details of the system – the “tools” with Japanese names that have falsely become the hallmark of Lean. Achieving Lean success requires a system in which the focus is on engaging everyone, everyday and at every level to solve problems and eliminate waste in pursuit of the organization’s goals.
Unfortunately, the current Lean literature does not do much to help change this view. The library of Lean books are full of consultants attempting to sell mechanistic approaches to doing Lean, rather than teaching would-be learners how think and learn and grow to become Lean. At best, these texts are misleading; at worst, they can completely sabotage your Lean efforts. But the good news is that TheKaiZone is here to help!
We’ve taken the efforts of scouring through the annals of Lean to bring you only the best, most trusted sources for beginning your Lean learning journey.
The Best Lean Books for Beginners: the Basics
Everyone has to start somewhere. These are the best Lean books for beginners looking to get a strong foundation on which to build their Lean understanding.
Best Books for Guided Lean Practice
Structured workbooks and action plans to guide your Lean learning and practice.
Best Reference Books for Lean Systems & Techniques
Think Lean textbooks. Not necessarily to be read cover-to-cover, these are the best Lean books for beginners in the form of complete, technical references on the tools, techniques, and vocabulary of Lean systems.
Best Books for Leading a Lean Transformation
The best Lean books for Leading the Lean transformation.
Best Books to Understand the History & Evolution of Lean
To become an expert Lean thinker, it helps to understand the genesis of Lean from it’s origin as the Toyota Production System. These are the best Lean books for beginners to learn the history of Lean. (and for some great references on the precursors of Lean, please see this post from Michel Baudin).
More at The Lean Book Shop
Looking for more? The Lean Book Shop at TheKaiZone.com features a selection of the best Lean books ever written on nearly any topic within the Lean universe. Can’t find what you are looking for? Simply leave a comment below or contact us. We’d be happy to help!