Book Notes: Lean Thinking - James Womack and Daniel Jones

Book Notes: Lean Thinking - James Womack and Daniel Jones
Lean Thinking shows the story of how American, European, and Japanese firms applied a simple set of principles called 'lean thinking' to survive the recession and grow.


Title: Lean Thinking
Author: James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones
Themes: Leadership, Management, Business, Agile, Software, Lean, Scrum
Year: 1996
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISBN: 0684810352, 9780684810355
Pages: 350

Lean Thinking is one of the first books written in America where the Term ´Lean´ was used.

This book follows a previous highly successful book by Womack entitled The Machine That Changed the World

Both books address the revolution in manufacturing represented by the Toyota Production System of the Toyota Corporation of Japan. 

This type of manufacturing system is called a “lean system” and is contrasted throughout the book with the traditional “mass production” system of manufacturing epitomized by batch-and-queue methods.

Lean Thinking was launched in the fall of 1996, just in time for the recession of 1997. 

It told the story of how American, European, and Japanese firms applied a simple set of principles called 'lean thinking' to survive the recession of 1991 and grow steadily in sales and profits through 1996.

Book Notes: Lean Thinking - James Womack and Daniel Jones

After a decade of downsizing and reengineering, most companies in North America, Europe, and Japan are still stuck, searching for a formula for sustainable growth and success. 

The problem, as Womack and Jones explain in Lean Thinking, is that managers have lost sight of value for the customer and how to create it. 

By focusing on their existing organizations and outdated definitions of value, managers create waste, and the economies of advanced countries continue to stagnate. 

What's needed instead is lean thinking to help managers clearly specify a value, line up all the value-creating activities for a specific product along a value stream, and to make value flow smoothly at the pull of the customer in pursuit of perfection. 

As Lean Thinking clearly demonstrates, these simple ideas can breathe new life into any company in any industry, routinely doubling both productivity and sales while stabilizing employment. 

But most managers will need guidance on how to make the lean leap in their firm. 

Even those readers who believe they have embraced lean thinking will discover that another dramatic leap is possible by creating a lean enterprise for each of their product families that tightly links all value-creating activities from concept to product launch, from order to delivery, and from raw materials into the arms of the consumer. 

This new concept takes the best features of the American, German, and Japanese industrial traditions and recombines them in a way that can be applied to every economic activity, from long-distance travel to construction to health care.

Lean Thinking provides a way to specify a value, line up value-creating actions in the best sequence, conduct these activities without interruption whenever someone requests them, and perform them more and more effectively. 

The authors define value as capacity provided at the right time at an appropriate price, as determined by the customer.

In short, lean thinking is lean because it provides a way to do more and more with less and less human effort, less equipment, less time, and less space—while coming closer and closer to providing customers with exactly what they want. 

Lean thinking also provides a way to make work more satisfying by providing immediate feedback on efforts to create value. And, in striking contrast with the recent craze for process reengineering, it provides a way to create new work rather than simply destroying jobs in the name of efficiency. 

According to Womack and Jones, there are five principles of Lean:

1. Value
2. Value Stream
3. Flow
4. Pull
5. Perfection

As a result of transforming a batch-and-wait factory into a Lean factory, productivity will double, and lead times, as well as inventories, will be reduced by 90%.

Lean Thinking is one of the classics in American Lean Literature. This book contains many examples of implementing different Lean tools.

Chapters of the Book:

Introduction: Lean Thinking versus Muda
1. Value
2. The Value Stream
3. Flow
4. Pull
5. Perfection

6. The Simple Case
7. A Harder Case
8. The Acid Test
9. Lean Thinking versus German Technik
10. Mighty Toyota; Tiny Showa
11. An Action Plan

12. A Channel for the Stream; a Valley for the Channel
13. Dreaming About Perfection

14. The Steady Advance of Lean Thinking
Afterword: The Lean Network
Appendix: Individuals and Organizations Who Helped

James P. Womack is Principal Research Scientist in the Japan Programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the Transitions Group, a consulting firm based in the USA. 

Daniel T. Jones is a Professor at the Cardiff Business School and has acted as consultant to a wide and international range of companies operating in Europe.

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