Recommended Reading is brought to you by The Lean Book Shop. For the learner, not the critic, Recommended Reading provides a concise summary of the key themes, concepts and learning points that will add the greatest value to your Lean journey. Featured books will include new and significant texts from the world of Lean thinking, as well as other hand-selected pieces that will drive the continuous improvement . . . of you.
This month’s recommended reading from The Lean Book Shop:
The Lean CEO by Jacob Stoller
The Value-Add of The Lean CEO
Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
It’s well-established in the Lean community that most new Lean initiatives rarely meet expectations, and the natural response is to ask why? Do so, and you’re likely to discover that one theme is cited above the rest:
“Company leaders lack the total commitment to, and understanding of, TPS, that are essential to its adoption, and are unwilling to be involved in its day-to-day implementation and application.“
“Corporate leaders either do not understand its value or do not have the patience and control to implement it.“
“Senior management is not committed to and/or doesn’t understand the real impact of Lean. “
When it comes to why Lean fails – ironically – the “experts” are quick to point the finger at one person: the chief executive.
And whether you argue that the CEO takes the lion’s share of the blame for Lean’s sub-par success rate, or you believe that the CEO has become a scapegoat for Lean’s woes, there is near-universal agreement on two points when it comes to executive involvement in Lean: 1.) the role of the chief executive is critical in the ultimate success or failure of any Lean initiative, and 2.) there is much room for improvement in the C-suite.
It is on these two points that The Lean CEO by Jacob Stoller adds a tremendous amount of value to the Lean literature. An in-depth, firsthand study into the Lean success stories of 28 chief executives, Stoller advances our vision of the Lean CEO from standard definition into high def. Capturing what is perhaps the most detailed and complete picture of the chief executive’s role in a successful Lean transformation, Stoller casts into sharp relief the current state of executive performance as a basis for improvement.
“The Key Three” Learning Points
- Clarity on the role of the Lean CEO. The Lean CEO was not the first to note that Lean success requires active and visible sponsorship from the top; however, special note should be made of the extent of the involvement of the 28 Lean CEOs in the book. Take the example of Art Byrne who personally conducted Lean training and led the first kaizen session after each of Wiremold’s 21 acquisitions, on the very first day. Over the first 13 chapters, the Lean CEOs are characterized by a remarkable level of direct involvement, personally driving both the physical and cultural transformations. The final chapter ties the many examples together into a clear and complete target condition for executive improvement.
- Out of Crisis Comes Opportunity. 28 successful Lean organizations – 29 if we include Toyota – and all featured a common starting point for their Lean turnaround: a “crisis”. It is no coincidence that economic volatility, poor productivity and unsatisfied customers provided the impetus for the Lean CEOs to seek a better way. Universally, Lean was the answer to a very dire need. And when faced with all of the resistance, the conflict and the uncertainty that comes with Lean, it was these basic needs that fueled the burning platform for change. Taiichi Ohno noted the key to progress in improvement is to let people “feel the need”. If you’re struggling to achieve Toyota-like success, consider the need that your Lean efforts are serving.
- What Lean is Really About. For everything the book covers, it should be noted what The Lean CEO does not. Stoller dedicates very little page space to technical discussion of the tools and techniques of Lean, and for good reason. Lean trainers and consultants would have us believe that Lean is a collection of tools, and that success requires knowing which tool to grab from our toolbox. However, with more than half of the book’s chapters dedicated to the required social and cultural transformation, Stoller reminds us that Lean is about people. Leaders, by definition, need people to follow. It is the ability of the Lean CEO to engage and guide the organization’s people that ultimately determines the success of the Lean initiative.
P.S. It’s Never Too Late to Give Thanks
It’s not too late to enter to win a FREE copy of The Toyota Way to Service Excellence signed by co-author Karyn Ross! Entries are being taken now through December 31st, 2016. Please see the post, Giving Thanks by Giving Back with Lean (+ Free Book Giveaway) for how to enter.