Lean Translation Expertise

8 Lean Management Books You Must Read

Translation is half language, half subject matter expertise. Our subject matter is Lean Management and business under the Lean Philosophy.

As you may have noticed, It's also a personal passion of mine. Here I've listed some of my favorite books on the Lean-topic, which I think are an essential read for anyone interested in learning about Lean.

8 Essential Books on Lean Management

​Some of these books are heavy duty educational while others are easier to read. The list is in no particular order and I'd recommend reading them all. So you might as well start from number 1:

1. The Machine That Changed the World: The Story of Lean Production-- Toyota's Secret Weapon in the Global Car Wars That is Now Revolutionizing World Industry

This cornerstone of Lean literature was published way back at the beginning of the 90s.

It's one of the first books that not only describes process models, but rather focuses on lean principles that have been proven in the automotive industry (Toyota in particular). Those principles are the foundation for efficient processes and are the key to understanding the Lean Philosophy. This book should be found in every Lean expert's personal library!

2. Learning to See: Value-Stream Mapping to Create Value and Eliminate Muda: Value Stream Mapping to Add Value and Eliminate Muda (Lean Enterprise Institute)

This is THE best book to learn the fundamentals of Value Stream Design. Full of practical advice, it tempts its readers to go out and analyze their first Value Streams themselves.

But bear in mind: A Value Stream is much more than just a tool to visualize the production processes. It‘s a method to analyze the entire material flow of a product throughout the entire company - INCLUDING all value adding and non-value adding activities!

With the help of thecorresponding information flow and the collection of facts and figures the value chain can be understood as a whole and eventually optimized in a holistic approach! But before getting started, there is one thing we need to do first: Learning to see!

3. Lean Thinking: Banish Waste And Create Wealth In Your Corporation

If you want to become Lean, you first have to think Lean.

This book is an eye-opener and a fundamental piece of Lean literature. I recommend it especially for those who are just getting familiar with the topic. 

The book shows in a very comprehensive way how much waste is surrounding us every day - and how much effort and money goes down the drain! It helps the reader see through the eyes of the customer if they would be wearing lean glasses. This enables the reader to observe and question his own processes with regards to the customer's needs.

At the end, you will be able to realize how much waste is hidden in your company and where you will find it.

4. The Toyota Product Development System

There are newer and arguably more rounded books about Lean Development, but I still like to recommend this classic one and here's why.  "The Toyota Product Development System" works with lean principles and tries to straighten up a few old paradigms. 

In reality, executing Toyota's system is a very complex undertaking that usually takes a culture change and years of hard work.

Let's not forget: Lean is not a fashion trend. To create a lean development system, the product development system must fuse together the people, processes and technology. Only this holistic approach will contribute to the overall success of a lean company.

This book goes even further and makes no stop at the company boundaries by explaining how the suppliers need to be part of this system. Overall, this is an exciting piece of literature for the first steps towards a lean enterprise.

5. Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results

Lean Experts like to look up to Toyota and follow their lead. But what makes Toyota so successful? Their tool box has been copied over and over again, but not always successfully.

Here's the reason why: It takes a lot more than just tools and methods to perform Lean transformation - it's about thinking patterns and behavior models.

Mike Rother describes a real culture of improvement (Improvement Kata) and how the behavior and guidance of the supervisors (Coaching Kata) will help developing the employees. Handing out predefined solutions will never establish a real culture of improvement.

Instead, the support and development of people is put in the foreground. Helping employees to find their own ideas and solutions, through a coaching process based on mutual trust and respect, is the basis for a sustainable improvement culture.

6. Lean Administration I: How to make business processes transparent


Lean Administration II: How to manage office and service processes

​These workbooks are great for all improvement experts who want to take the first step into the indirect and administrative areas. The toolbox in these books is extensive and covers many different areas and departments.

It takes a skilled optimization expert to adapt the tools to the addressed problem (and NOT the other way around!) A successful Lean kick-off
and sustainable implementation in the indirect areas demands an experienced Lean project manager.

This book doesn't emphasize the high level of social competence that is needed to perform Lean outside of production in highly non-transparent and people-driven processes.

These workbooks are rather great reference books for the most important Lean methods in the indirect and administrative areas! And that's simply the reason they are valuable to anyone starting the journey into the wide field of Lean Administration!

7. Practical Lean Accounting: A Proven System for Measuring and Managing
the Lean Enterprise

Taking a glance at the financials helps answer the question: "What does Lean do for me and my value streams?" As the title already states, this book describes a practical approach with lots of detailed real life examples.

Due to the numerous examples, the content is very comprehensive and it does not take a university degree in business economy to understand the brilliant idea behind Lean Accounting.

The most interesting part is the Value Stream Costing. It connects "Value Stream Thinking" with financial indicators and figures. Finally, we get financial indicators that really help to make the right decisions!

Just trying to implement the Lean Accounting approach without having performed any lean activities in the company is not helpful. Lean Accounting needs and supports Lean, because it can show in a simple and highly efficient way what Lean does to your financials.

Plus, it helps making the right decisions based on the right indicators.

8. The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses

This book focuses on the learning process within the optimization and change process by observing the behavior of successful startup companies.

The Lean way to entrepreneurship consists of a continuous learning process followed by continuous adaption of the product or the service to match the customer's needs. Several real life examples of startups are given to underline this conclusion. Admittedly, the book relies very much on examples from the IT sector.

Nevertheless, the recurring innovation and learning cycle is the constant element of success for any business. Successful (startup-) companies fully understand their customer's needs and constantly question their own actions in that regard.

 Unfortunately, the simply task of "reacting to change" and the permanent ability of "continuous learning" are often confused. Continuous learning will lead to the capability of quickly and consequently reacting to changing markets and customer's needs. Simply reacting will lead into the unknown.

About the Author Jonathan

​Jonathan Kocar, a native German speaker, found a passion in foreign languages as a young man living and travelling through the United States. The nuances of the English language inspired him to pay close attention to how language is used and formed, creating a foundation for his career. Building on this foundation, he worked on numerous international projects of varying intensity and duration. Each project was different, but always revolved around the scope of Lean Management. This has given Jonathan a deep understanding of the professional and technical aspects of the English language. Lean Management is the central theme in Jonathan Kocar's curriculum vitae and has shaped his career. He started his work life as a mechanical engineer in the automotive industry, and went on to work with renowned companies (Daimler, Staufen, SKF). Lean Management is an integral part of these types of companies. They not only bring the employee processes up to operational excellence, but also help customers achieve top performance. This is where Jonathan learned and internalized the Lean way of thinking.

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Leave a Comment:

Cesar Vasquez says March 25, 2018

The main reason why many Lean implementation efforts fail is the lack of a supporting Lean Management System. To close this gap, I highly recommend reading Creating a Lean Culture, a book by David Mann. CRC Press, 2015. ISBN: 978-1-4822-4323-9

    Jonathan says March 27, 2018

    Hallo Cesar!
    Thank you for your comment and your recommendation. The book already grabbed my intention when I read “Leader Standard Work” on the cover. A great topic where I’d like to get different views on.

    Overall, I agree with you. If there is no support, anything will fail. To fully support something, the benefit and the related effort needs to be understood. That’s why I usually recommend a so called Lighthouse approach in a designated pilot area. After the pilot, the results and efforts are clearly visible and tangible. Of course, mostly short-term benefits can be observed at this point of time. Still, the pilot creates a much better understanding of what’s possible and at what costs. Management can practice “go & see” instead of “hear & believe”.
    During this phase and especially afterwards, culture and leading change become extremely important. Which reminds me of another book that I would love to recommend to anyone doing projects: Leading Change by John P. Kotter is a true evergreen.

John Wang says March 28, 2018

Could you pls advise where to buy “lean administration I and II”?

Ajay says March 31, 2018

Thanks for sharing!

Jacob Austad says July 27, 2018

Hi Jonathan
Thanks for sharing your view on 8 essential books. However I think you run the risk of being too focused on tools instead of systems. In fact many Lean implementations forget to ask the vital first question: What problem are you trying to solve – and how do you know that’s the problem?
I understand your tribute to Lean – and it is good – but only if done correctly 🙂

May I recommend:
Taiichi Ohno: Workplace Management
Deming: Out of the Crisis
Deming: The System of Profound Knowledge
John Seddon: Freedom from Command and Control
James Sandfield: The Joy of Standards

Anything you can get hold of from Russel Ackoff

If you want to learn on Lean Accounting you should look for John Darlington


    Jonathan says July 28, 2018

    Thanks for your comment and especially for turning my head towards John Darlington. I will take a closer look on his publications.

    I agree with you that Lean is not about tools at all, but rather about a strict philosophy paired with system thinking. Yes, there are some books about tools in the list (i.e. Learning to See and Lean Administration). However, I can’t see how you are drawing the conclusion that tools take center stage in this list. Maybe it’s because you are missing a book about purpose or systems thinking itself?

    It’s true: There are too many “experts” out there who only think of a tool box when talking about Lean Management. Decades ago, Lean managers had to learn the hard way that simply applying tools only achieves a tiny fraction of the true potential. Nowadays, there is a trend of denunciating tools. This is definitely positive but brings me to a sad downside of this trend: I see legions of self-appointed Lean experts riding this wave without having understood anything about the Lean Philosophy and the purpose of Lean Management. They do not understand the wave they are riding, so all they do is philosophy, talk, philosophy, talk… They are blaming everything and everybody (especially the system they are caught in) for their lack of progress in their Lean Transformation. Everything they do is ‘groundwork’ but actually leads nowhere.

    I don’t which of the two extremes is worse: The tool fanatic or naïve wave rider?

Johnny Eke says July 28, 2018

Since I started my consulting career, lean is a leading principle of any operational improvement effort. Maybe the only issue that remained sustainable. Key success factors are transparency and visability. Brownpaper and vsa is the best to start and drive. Appreciate your approach, and stay in the US very often, let us share experience in logistics, operations, health care and food.
Johnny Eke, greets from South Bavaria.

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