Lean Lessons for Entrepreneurs – The "E-Myth"


I've been reading a well-known book about entrepreneurship and small business, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It.

What continually amazes me about the book is that, written in 1995, it describes many lean principles, without using that context or background. I'm not sure if that is accidental and the author developed this philosophy in parallel with Toyota or if he learned early lean or “re-engineering” type lessons.

One recurring theme is the idea of standard work and kaizen, although the author does not use those terms. The author emphasizes that, in creating a small business, you need to be creating a system and a method for doing things, not just a creating a product or service.

One section says:

“There needs to be a way we do something. There needs to be a set routine. Because without it, there would be nothing to improve upon. And without improvement, there would be no reason to be. We would be machines. There would be the tyranny of routine.”

That is exactly the mindset of standard work and kaizen. Without standardization, there can be no improvement over a baseline method. With kaizen brings fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment (not to mention a more successful business). Inspiring notions!

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. p.s. 3 pages later, the author did use the word “kaizen” in the context of listing practices like TQM, Re-engineering, etc. But he didn’t use the word “lean”.

  2. I read the E-Myth Revisited just last year and was amazed as well by the author’s description of Business Systems. Particularly with a franchise it is not necessarily the product but the replication of the Business System that can make the business successful. From a Lean and Six Sigma perspective the book calls on entrepreneurs and business owners to design their businesses efficiently from the start. Lean methods and Six Sigma methods are perfect tools for doing just that.


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