Great Books You Didn’t Know Were About Lean

There are many books that are not at all about lean, but the lessons they contain are very helpful to a lean journey. Here’s one such example:

Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni

While the creativity and storytelling in most business novels is generally an insult to the word ‘novel,’ Patrick Lencioni’s work in Death by Meeting provides a very pleasant surprise. It is easy to read and you sense the emotions and issues that real people deal with every day. The heart of this book focuses on turning the dragging, lifeless and even painful experience of “the business meeting” into a dynamic essential element of the nervous system of any company.

The first premise of Death by Meeting is the conflict is not to be avoiding in meetings but encouraged. Different than personal conflict, idea and position conflict is what is needed to make tough decisions and take the company forward. The second major premise is that we can not have multipurpose meetings. We should have some meetings for information and others for decision making, each with a different style and cadence. Lencioni specifically suggests four types of meetings. The 5-minute Daily Check-in, the 45-90 minute Weekly Tactical, the 2-4 hour Monthly or Ad Hoc Strategy and the 1-2 day Quarterly Off-site Review.

Few if any proposed meeting structures come closer to what you would expect to see in a truly lean company. A lean company has (a) tremendous focus on the task at hand, (b) a disdain for waste such as that demonstrated when meetings lack purpose and structure and (c) a respect for the benefit of structure and standardization, such as proposed by the rhythm these meetings have. We highly suggest taking a look at this book, and then a more serious look at your own meeting structure.

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Jamie Flinchbaugh is a lean advisor, speaker, and author. In addition to co-founding the Lean Learning Center, he has helped build nearly 20 companies as either a co-founder, board member, advisor, or angel investor. These companies range from high-performance motorcycles to SaaS tools for continuous improvement. He has advised over 300 companies around the world in lean transformation, including Intel, Harley-Davidson, Crayola, BMW, and Amazon. Jamie co-authored the popular book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean, and continues to share his experiences as a Contributing Editor forIndustryWeek and as a blogger at He holds degrees from Lehigh University, University of Michigan, and MIT, and continues to teach and mentor on campus. Jamie is best known for helping to transform how we think about lean from a tools-centric model to one based on principles and behaviors. His passion for lean transformation comes from seeking to unlock the great potential that people possess to build inspiring organizations.

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  1. Mark Graban says

    I mention it alot but will piggy back on Jamie’s post —

    The book “Hardwiring Excellence” by Quint Studer is, on the surface, about managing hospitals. It’s really about managing people and organizations in a very TPS-friendly style (although he never says “lean”). Gemba and servant leadership are among the lean topics he covers without mentioning lean. Can’t recommend it enough to healthcare folks. Manufacturing people who want a “stretch” should check it out and see what you can adapt.

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