"Real Lean," Volumes 1 and 2


I've had the opportunity to read Bob Emiliani's two collections of essays on “Real Lean” and I'm long overdue on posting about them. I'm especially late considering since Volume Three is coming out in June. These books are particularly recommended for those who already have a basic Lean education and some experience (or struggles) with implementing Lean.

Real Lean: Understanding the Lean Management System (Volume One)

In this book, Emiliani introduces the “Real Lean” concept, by which he means the real approach that focuses on both pillars of the Toyota Way:

  1. Continuous Improvement
  2. Respect for People

As Emiliani points out, far too many only focus on the first part — the tools, improvement, and methods, without focusing on people. When people are implementing Lean with just a short-term focus — focusing only on numbers or (even worse) slashing headcount, he calls this “Fake Lean.” It's pretty similar to my “Lean vs LAME” construct.

Here is Bob's page about the book, with the list of essays and reader reviews.

Real Lean: Critical Issues and Opportunities in Lean Management (Volume Two)

This second volume covers more issues for those who are deep into their Lean journey. For example, chapter 6 is called “We're Beyond That.” This is pretty common when a company is a few years into their Lean journey. A company has had success or maybe the executives are bored (or have moved on) and it's time to move “beyond Lean” (if I only had a dollar for each article or webinar that promised what's next “beyond Lean.”). Bob emphasizes that Real Lean is a constant mindset and a constant way of managing a business.

Here's Bob's page on Volume Two.

Check out the “Emiliani” link below for discussion about his earlier books and his podcast episodes that we did together.

I'm going to spend some time re-reading some of these essays over the weekend and I might comment more on the ones that were most useful to me in my current Lean efforts. Definitely recommended reading.


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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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